Eco theology 101: Why BP shows us what climate change is about

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  • 1. Eco-theology 101
    Or, why BP shows us what climate change is about.
    Workshop presented at the Calvary Christian College Staff Retreat
    August 10, 2010
    Presenter: Mr. Richard Leo,
    MA(Hist), BA, Dip. Ed.
    Head of Humanities,
    Nambour Christian College
    Sessional Lecturer in
    Australian & World History,
    Christian Heritage College, Brisbane
    Many of the thoughts presented at this workshop were first published in the Christian Teachers Journal, November, 2009. A copy of this article with links not included in the original publication can be found here: http://livingvicariouslythrough.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-bp-shows-us-what-climate-change-is.html
    Any thoughts or comments that have not been referenced within this presentation will have been referenced previously at the above blog.
  • 2. Some framing thoughts….
  • 3. How long is the present?
  • 4. How long is the present?
    No single answer
    The present is socially constructed
    It can be reflected upon critically, renegotiated and changed
    Depends on the human purpose or the implicit frame that is invoked by particular activities and needs
    From R Slaughter 1999. Futures for the Third Millennium, Prospect Media, Sydney, p. 6
  • 5. How long is the present?
    Overlapping versions of the present:
    1-yr present
    10-yr present
    50-yr present
    100-yr present
    200-yr present
    Beyond the 200-yr present
    From R Slaughter 1999. Futures for the Third Millennium, Prospect Media, Sydney, p. 8 – 9.
  • 6. How long is the present?
    Slaughter argues that we
    ‘Cannot begin to comprehend the present without taking into account its long-term extensions and implications’
    From R Slaughter 1999. Futures for the Third Millennium, Prospect Media, Sydney, p. 11.
    To do so allows us to:
    Look back and develop a view of the ‘historical trajectory’ of the culture
    Seek to understand the present in depth
    Diagnose the difficulties we encounter in the standard world picture
    Assess which historical continuities and ‘heavy trends’ are likely to be sustained
    Evaluate further sources of change in the pipeline
    Outline major choices and alternatives
    Discern sources of inspiration and hope
  • 7. Some more framing thoughts….
    Where do ‘we’ sit in relation to the rest of Western History?
    1500 AD
    1750 AD
    1950AD
    500 AD
    Early
    Late
    Ancient World
    Postmodern World
    Medieval World
    Modern World
  • 8. What is happening?
    Thoughts adapted from B. McLaren, Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism and Emerging Disciple Forming Churches available at www.slideshare.net (accessed November 12, 2009)
  • 9. What is happening?
    Thoughts adapted from B. McLaren, Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism and Emerging Disciple Forming Churches available at www.slideshare.net (accessed November 12, 2009)
  • 10. Hurricane Mitch
    October 29 – November 3, 1998
    180 mph winds (290 kph)
    75-100 inches of rain (1900+mm)
    11,000 people died.
    12,300 were injured
    8,000 disappeared
    150 bridges damaged or destroyed
    Except......
    Thoughts adapted from B. McLaren, Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism and Emerging Disciple Forming Churches available at www.slideshare.net (accessed November 12, 2009)
  • 11. Choluteca River Bridge after Hurricane Mitch, Honduras, 1998
    Thoughts adapted from B. McLaren, Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism and Emerging Disciple Forming Churches available at www.slideshare.net (accessed November 12, 2009)
  • 12. Choluteca River Bridge after Hurricane Mitch, Honduras, 1998
    1750 AD
    1950AD
    1500 AD
    500 AD
    Early
    Late
    Postmodern World
    Ancient World
    Modern World
    Medieval World
    Thoughts adapted from B. McLaren, Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism and Emerging Disciple Forming Churches available at www.slideshare.net (accessed November 12, 2009)
  • 13. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    ‘ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny – that is by religion.’ – Lyn White Jnr, 1967
    The traditional Christendom / Western historical construct of human salvation-redemption, shaped through the medieval, enlightened and industrial worlds, has failed to provide a moral and ethical framework for the environment
  • 14. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    It has become necessary to revisit our sacred texts to help us to develop a more nuanced approach to dealing with environmental issues
    Thomas Berry, one of the great modern Catholic thinkers on faith and the environment, argued that religion was meant to provide an interpretative pattern, a way of making sense of ourselves and the cosmos.
  • 15. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    ?
    Thomas Berry: Christians have a moral construct for…
    ?
  • 16. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    Thomas Berry: Christians have ‘no morality to deal with…
  • 17. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    the ‘only solution is to shift Christian faith out of its sin-redemption myopia into a whole new ecological context’ – Paul Collins
  • 18. ‘A new sense of reality and value’?
    This re-enchantment with the earth as a living reality is the condition for our rescue of the earth from the impending destruction that we are imposing upon it. To effectively carry this out, we must now, in a sense, reinvent the human species within the community of life species. Our sense of reality and of value must consciously shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric norm of reference … Our challenge is to create a new language, even a new sense of what it is tis to be human. It is to transcend not only nation limitations, but even our species isolation, to enter the larger community of living species. This brings about a completely new sense of reality and value.
    Thomas Berry, quoted in R Slaughter, Futures for the Third Millennium: enabling the forward view, p. 67.
  • 19. To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Tradition Western thought as become inextricably linked to a series of irreversible changes towards continual improvement (Enlightenment – Industrial – Modern periods)
    Change from medieval Christianity which emphasised a world of decline from the perfect
    The notion of innocence lost in the Garden of Eden, never to be regained.
    Masaccio, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1426 – 7
    Reubens, Adam and Eve, 1597
  • 20. To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Environmental changes have now, according to Berry, forced humanity to feel
    beset by a sense of confusion and alienation ... Contemporary men have no spiritual vision adequate for these new magnitudes of existence ... To create such a skill, to teach such a discipline, are the primary tasks of contemporary spirituality.
    Into this vacuum has emerged the environmental movement as a spiritual rationale.
  • 21. Treat Yo Mama©2005 John Butler
    Don't call me hippy cause the way that I look,You know I got a recipe and you know I can cook,And I come forth with only good intent,You know I am Heaven-bound but I'm surely Hell-bentOn getting the job done like I know I should,Get the job done like my mama told me to,Only one thing can remember she said,You gotta earn all of your respect.And I don't care what race or what colour or what creedI say all that s... don't bother me,Only one thing that you should not forget,You gotta treat yo mama with respectAnd I don't care what fashion the styling of yo hair,I don't care about the car or the clothes you do wear.Only one thing that you should not forget,You gotta treat yo mama with respect.Treat yo mama with respect, Ya better treat yo mama with respect,Slap you upside-down yo head,Ya don't treat yo mama with respect
    I got a couple of friends up in a tree in North-Cliff,You know they're doing their part,You know they're doing their bit.Trying to save our Mother from all this greed, You know they know what she wants,You know they know what she needs.I got a couple sisters South Australia,Stopping the uranium from coming up,Oh yeah man you know they know what she needs,They're stopping all of that Government Corporate Greed!
  • 22. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    ‘Treat yo mama with respect’ = Mother Earth
    James Lovelock – Gaia Hypothesis
    The Gaia Hypothesis
    Dr. James Lovelock argues that the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and soil are a linked system with its own feedback or control mechanisms. This total, single system is ‘seeking’ the best physical and chemical conditions for life. Since the system appears to act as a whole, Lovelock calls it Gaia after the Greek name for the earth goddess. (The linguistic root, interestingly gives us geography as well). Because there are aspects of Lovelock’s ideas that have yet to be shown to be true or false, it is usually called the Gaia hypothesis.
    Final shot in the video clip to John Butler Trio’s ‘Treat Yo Mama’ – Gaia Hypothesis?
  • 23. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    ‘Treat yo mama with respect’ = Mother Earth
    James Lovelock – Gaia Hypothesis
    … every breath we take includes about a billion oxygen molecules that have been one time or another, In the lungs of every on of the 50 billion humans who have ever lived. The simple act of breathing links us in this curiously intimate way with every historical figure and the most obscure of our forebears in every epoch
    Charles Birch in quoted in R Slaughter, Futures for the Third Millennium: enabling the forward view, p. 5.
  • 24. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    In Australia, the modern political movement began in Tasmania through the damming of Lake Pedder in the 1970s and the attempt to dam the Gordon-below-Franklin in the 1980s.
    The world’s first Green political party emerged in the conflict over Lake Pedder and evidence given at the Burton Inquiry into its submergence indicates how the environment was now perceived as containing a spiritual essence:
    awe-inspiring, in the presence of something beyond [ourselves], some essential quality of tranquillity, the enormous dynamic of the place, the combination of grandeur and intimacy, the white-man’s dreamtime, a resting place, a healing place, a sanctuary, a holy grail feeling, a place of profound beauty, a brilliant rich-blue magnet, of very deep spiritual significance.
  • 25. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Compare the statements made by the Hydro-electric Commission (HEC) – working under the ‘modern-industrial’ framework:
    awe-inspiring, in the presence of something beyond [ourselves], some essential quality of tranquillity, the enormous dynamic of the place, the combination of grandeur and intimacy, the white-man’s dreamtime, a resting place, a healing place, a sanctuary, a holy grail feeling, a place of profound beauty, a brilliant rich-blue magnet, of very deep spiritual significance.
    the south-west [is]useless and unused and the first Lake Pedder as ‘modified, disappeared or enlarged’, conservationists articulated ‘intrusion, destruction, snuffed out, drowned, crucified, tortured, doomed, a national or environmental tragedy, drowned flowers, country that we have ravaged so terribly, short-sighted vandalistic progress’ and a ‘detestable crime’.
  • 26. Self Reflection: Where do you sit on the ‘Green’ spectrum? Why?
  • 27. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Lake Pedder and Gordon-below-Franklin campaigns marked a revision of attitudes towards nature and the acceptance of the role of steward and a departure from the role of conqueror
    The demise of the Democrats (election 2007) and the emergence of the Greens as Australia’s ‘third’ party with their call to defend Mother Earth for the good of mankind holds more democratic appeal.
  • 28. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Are we all pagans now?
    Screened Sunrise Extra, Channel 7, July 2010
  • 29. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’? Three general evangelical/reformed worldviews of Eco-theology
    A theology of Dominion
    Genesis 1: 26-28 was the proof text = domination
    A theology of Stewardship
    proof text in Genesis 2: 15 = problems in practice – overreliance on technology and regulation = business as usual
    ie Devices such as catalytic converters on big cars and scrubbers on coal-burning smokestacks are the answers, which many say only manage the problem rather than solve the problem)
    A theology of Inter-relationship
    rejects the notions of domination and goes beyond the approach of stewardship.
    Creation has value because of its relationship to God, rather than its utility for humanity.
    Michael Granberg-Michaelson, ‘Covenant and Creation’, http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2318
    A theocentric worldview rather than an anthropocentric worldview
  • 30. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Questions on the environment address our perspectives on kingdom theology or the ‘ultimate Christian hope’
    Tom Wright argues that:
    if the hope of a Christian remains a perspective focussed on ‘salvation’ or ‘heaven’, concepts that are primarily away from this world, then issues surrounding contemporary social concern, arguments for social justice, notions that focus on the here and now, essentially have no meaning.
    if the hope of being a new creation and the ‘new heavens and new earth’ have already come in the form of Jesus then our understanding of kingdom theology shape our response(s) to environmental concerns.
    For a Christian, our response hinges on our understanding of Genesis 1
  • 31. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    In Genesis 1 God describes his creation as ‘good’
    Not ‘perfect’
    ‘perfect’ = ultimate state of being; there is no further need to change or develop further.
    God’s creation is blessed and commanded to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’.
    There is inbuilt energy that God empowered his creation ‘in the beginning’
  • 32. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    In John’s account of Jesus’ first appearance on his resurrection:
    ‘Thinking he was the gardener’ (Jn 20:15)
    Jesus is resurrected, beginning the renewing of his creation, in the garden
    Jewish listeners would have understood the symbolism immediately
    We cannot live independently of God’s world and expect ‘Good’ results.
    Albert Einstein is attributed with: ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’
  • 33. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’?
    Care for the environment is intimately linked to our actions for social justice
    Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears .... This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.
    (Zechariah 7: 8 – 13 NIV)
  • 34. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’? Challenging practicalities
    Reforming ….
    The way we live (Sabbath principles, recycling, energy use, transport, IT, recreation)
    Our consumption (what we eat, wear, drive, air con, throw away etc.)
    The way we care for our environment (our land, our waterways, our air, our energy usage)
    Our mission (charities, partnerships, poverty, justice)
  • 35. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’? Challenging practicalities
    David Suzuki points to the cod crisis in the North Atlantic fisheries in the 1970s:
    When cod, forest, water, and soil flourish, so too will human beings.
    Not a wishy-washy hope that maybe it will come, it is a concept that is grounded in scientific concepts of sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity.
    Despite the obvious roots of the Gaia hypothesis in Suzuki’s writings, these words reflect beautifully the divine command to work with God in his creation as outlined in Genesis.
    In the midst of a Federal Election, ongoing Global Financial issues and when refugees are again knocking on our borders perhaps we would be wise to consider how God commands us to live in peace and harmony with his creation and not just one section of it.
  • 36. ‘To create a new ‘spiritual vision’? Challenging practicalities
    David Suzuki points to the cod crisis in the North Atlantic fisheries in the 1970s:
    When cod, forest, water, and soil flourish, so too will human beings.
    Professional
    Public
    Personal
    ?