Saving the earth

From Mr Taylor

I was interested to read your article ‘Faith and Power’ in last month’s issue, about Christian Ecology Link and its recent report arguing against nuclear power. I am a member of a number of conservation and Green groups, and I sometimes wonder if I am the only person in the country to read both New Directions and Resurgence. I would make the following points:

1) I agree that there is no specific Christian view on ecology, but it is a matter of real concern and importance for mankind. This being so, Christians should be concerned with environmental matters and the natural world. This is also true for those of other faiths, and none. It is perhaps part of what C.S. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man, termed the Tao – matters of ultimate importance and significance (for our earthly life) that all mankind should recognize and accept, though many do not.

2) It is unsurprising that the three great monotheistic faiths arose in the desert; a more luxuriant clime produced Hinduism (which is only to say that desert peoples could more easily accept the revelation of the one God). But perhaps, living in a harsher environment, they were less concerned with working with nature, rather battling against it.

Early Christianity was largely an urban religion, while the country dwellers were the pagans; this also perhaps prejudiced the Church against the natural world. However, the wholly orthodox and Trinitarian Celtic monks knew that the natural world was a revelation of God, as have many Christian poets. Nevertheless the Church as a whole has tended to ignore the natural world, as has modern urban, industrialized life in general.

3) This has been a considerable weakness. First, on a practical and mundane level, it is only now that a few politicians and business leaders are starting to grasp that the environment is not just a private hobby for those who like that sort of thing. We are a part of the environment: it is our life support system. Our earthly selves are not something separate from the environment; if it goes down the plug-hole due to our mismanagement, so do we. Secondly, many of the stresses and neuroses of modern urban man are due, I am sure, to a lack of contact with the natural world, as we are forced to live such artificial lives by our crazy life style. The natural world is of immense value for the human spirit.

4) Thus the Green movement has much to teach the modern world. If Christian Ecology Link are trying to make the Church more environmentally conscious, that is surely a good thing, even though there is no specific Christian faith perspective. I have mixed with many people in the Green movement – most are very nice and agreeable people – but I am well aware of its deficiencies. The idea of sin and repentance is largely foreign to it. There is a tendency towards pantheism. Though it has a deep feeling for the creation, this can lead to the worship of ‘Nature,’ ‘Mother Earth’ or ‘The Goddess’.

Most Greens would say that they were ‘spiritual’ people (what a multitude of sins that word can hide); some are Buddhists, many are in practical terms pagans, though not many would openly declare themselves to be so. And a few are Christian – though the liberal, progressive type seems to predominate; I have never understood why. If paganism is the natural default religion of mankind, then perhaps there will always be a struggle between Christianity and paganism. Christians, of all people, should surely reclaim the creation from the pagans.

5) I mentioned Resurgence magazine, which claims to be the world’s leading Green periodical – it probably is. There is a naive idealism which is refreshing, though sometimes rather batty, but I agree with much of what it prints (if with reservations); for all its deficiencies it is a valuable counter-blast to much of what goes on in the modern world. The editor is an ex-Jain priest, now described as a Buddhist scholar. It is very ‘spiritual’, but rather anti-religion (except for Buddhism, Hinduism, native religions, and very liberal Christianity). It does not believe in Original Sin; it is rather a case of get rid of Bush, Blair, Big Business and a few dictatorships and all will be joy, peace, love and happiness. The Ecologist magazine is also a useful antidote to the general complacent apathy, and rather more practical, but again has to be read with discernment and some reservations.

6) The final section of last month’s ND article mentioned divorce, marriage and ecology. In June 2002 I attended a ‘Soil, Soul, Society’ conference in Hereford. Many leading Green speakers addressed the conference, as did the then Bishop of Hereford, an enthusiast for Green matters, but (I understand) no friend of Forward in Faith. He made a short speech, finishing with a resounding plea in support of marriage, pointing out that it would lead to fewer separate households and be good for the environment. It was listened to in a possibly stunned silence, and received polite applause. But he had in fact taken this part of his speech almost verbatim from an article entitled ‘Saving the Planet’ in the June 2002 issue of New Directions. In fact, his concluding words, ‘Tie the knot and save the planet,’ were the last line of that article. So perhaps you are more involved in the debate than you suppose.

David Taylor

9 Somerset Avenue, Exeter EX4 1LX