April 19, 2014

Patriarch Bartholomew Coddles Environmental Extremists

– Taking care of the environment involves more than clean air, clean water, recycling and the other factors that we usually associate with responsible stewardship. It also involves ideas about the economy, human relationships, structuring communities, the meaning and value of work, the value of the unborn and aged and so forth. Every environmental program incorporates ideas about these factors even if they are not explicitly stated.

In order to think clearly about environmental care, we have to look past the surface and examine the ideas that make up any environmental program. We have to ask ourselves do the programs promote human flourishing or impede it? Are trees and animals valued at the expense of the human person? Is man a blight on the earth who should be restricted from meaningful work and prosperity, or is his role as steward of creation a blessing to it?

Below is an essay written for AOI by an anonymous author (I agreed to withhold the author’s name) that describes the ideas of presenters at Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent two-day Halki summit. I find the choice of speakers troubling. You may too. The speakers proceed from premises inimical to our Orthodox moral tradition — especially the precepts that protect human flourishing and freedom.

As always, comments are welcome.

By Anonymous

Sometimes Orthodox Christians develop a sense of inferiority when they compare themselves to the Roman Catholic Church. When we contrast the actions of the Holy See to those of the Ecumenical Patriarch before this week’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development it is easy to see why. The Papal delegation issued a statement putting the human race at the center of creation. The Patriarch of Constantinople however, hosted a conference praising environmentalist extremists and population control advocates.

Before Rio+20, the Vatican’s permanent observer mission to the UN issued a position paper reminding the global negotiators that, “Human beings, in fact, come first.” The papal delegation charged the world’s leaders to adopt “a way of life which respects the dignity of each human being” and promote “technologies which can help to improve its quality.” Mankind represents the crown of creation they argued, and the world’s leading economies should assure that technological progress continues to serve mankind’s well-being.

The Phanar took a different approach. It hosted a two-day conference on the island of Heybeliada, co-sponsored by Southern New Hampshire University. Its PR material referred to the “Halki Summit” as “a distinguished group of activists, scientists, journalists, business leaders, theologians, and academics” committed to inducing “healing environmental action” through “a fundamental change in values as manifested in ethics and spirituality.”

In his keynote address, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I said, while he had “witnessed the positive changes over the last decade,” he remained “deeply frustrated with the stubborn resistance and reluctant advancement of earth-friendly policies and practices.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, and other clergy alternately spoke with and heard from a panel of environmentalist polemicists such as Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Jane Goodall.

Bill McKibben author of the book, Maybe One, encouraged his readers to have, at most, one child In his book, McKibben implied our likeness to God is most reflected by our use of contraception. He wrote that mankind’s “ability to limit ourselves…makes us unique among the animals.” He went on to belittle the traditional concept of the Deity and man’s place in the created order:

And though it galls the apostles of technology, this idea of restraint comes in large measure from our religious heritage. Not the religious heritage of literalism and fundamentalism and pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. The scientists may have drowned the miracle-working sky gods with their five-century flood of data. Copernicus and Darwin did deprive us of our exalted place in the universe…

According to McKibben, “this older, deeper, more integral religious idea” – which he traces, appropriately, to Yama, the Hindu god of death – survived:

In this long tradition, meaning counts, more than ability or achievement or accumulation. Indeed, meaning counts more than life. From this perspective, Christ’s resurrection is almost unnecessary: it is his willingness to die, to impose the deepest limit on himself for the sake of others, that matters (emphases added).

It is telling that McKibben received one of two prizes from The Nation Institute, the institutional arm of Nation magazine, in 2010. The other went to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. Why was he elevated by the Phanar?

McKibben suffers for his beliefs – as misguided as they are. He spent days in jail for leading the demonstrations that single-handedly killed the Keystone XL Pipeline – which would have created between 20,000 and 250,000 jobs in the midst of a flatlining economy – a move the Halki Summit described as a “courageous act of ‘civil disobedience.’”

The activist discussed his courage with Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA scientist turned Chicken Little who once said global warming skeptics of “are guilty of crimes against humanity.” He suggested President Obama tax the price of gasoline to “$4/5 gallons again.”

Hansen exposed his view of mankind when he endorsed Time’s Up, by Keith Farnish, a blurb Farnish has written he never solicited. The book set a modest goal: “Getting rid of civilization.” “Industrial Civilization may have produced new and innovative ways of human disease,” Farnish wrote, “but at the expense of tens of millions of other animals each year.”

He suggested that to facilitate the creation of a world with “no cities, no paved roads, no pylons, no offices or factories” that “[n]ot having children could be a very useful strategy.”

Other speakers also shared the priorities of the Green Left.

Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, called the Catholic Church “quite a major problem” in her quest to impose population control.

The clergy also heard from Pratrap Chatterjee, a political and economic radical who heads an organization known as “CorpWatch,” which describes itself as a project of the George Soros funded Tides Center.

Other distinguished experts included a public radio host and the former CEO of a yogurt company.

Why is the Ecumenical Patriarch shrouding an ideology that demeans the dignity of mankind? Why is he using his moral authority as chief shepherd of the New Rome to sanctify anti-life ideas?

One day we might see the Pope and the Patriarch meeting at a UN Climate Conference on opposing sides, one standing with Al Gore and Paul Ehrlich, the other waging a lonely campaign to uphold the value of human life.

Then, faithful Orthodox Christians will find themselves united with the See of Rome, if only until the close of the summit.

Comments

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    Shocking and disturbing! We have to ask ourselves, as the editorial points out:

    Why is the Ecumenical Patriarch shrouding an ideology that demeans the dignity of mankind? Why is he using his moral authority as chief shepherd of the New Rome to sanctify anti-life ideas?

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    M. Stankovich says:

    In reading the identical quote which shocks Mr. Banescu, my reaction was, the “chief shepherd of the New Rome,” who must confine himself to a set of buildings approximately three city blocks by four blocks in a city he refers to as “Constantinople,” is “squandering” his moral authority over whom? When have we ever derived moral authority from sources other than the Holy Scripture, Patristical Writings of the Holy Fathers, Canonical Writings, and Holy Tradition? Never. I also find it quite extraordinary to claim that the Orthodox, who sing “We have found the true Faith, worshiping the Undivided Trinity Who has saved us!” at each and every celebration of the Eucharist would experience “inferiority,” and in fact, shame on this author for comparing us with anyone! And let me be clear that I am not supporting the position of the “environmentalist polemicists,” and the “Green Left,” but I am objecting to the inference that the Ecumenical Patriarch is a moral authority or should be considered a moral authority beyond a humble commentator on Eternal Truth. When he is correct, he is a servant of the Truth, and when he is wrong, he stands alone.

    I am constitutionally incapable of grasping this issue in “global terms.” My fair city rests on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and I have a vested interest in the conservation and preservation of this natural beauty. I support the strict environmental laws, conservation measures, and the subtle reminders (e.g each city sewer drain bears a painted dolphin and a reminder that dumping returns to the ocean). I like that many city lights are amber at night so the sky is clearer and not flooded with light. I would rather that the nuclear power plant fifty miles to my north remain closed. I would like more pressure on Mexico not to pollute the water, and NAFTA to pressure Mexico to be much more strict with air pollution standards for transport vehicles. And I am delighted that one of the Antiochian parishes makes a tradition on Ephiphany to bless San Diego Harbor. Much more delight than reading this “shocking” lack of influence of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Mr. Stankovich

      I think you are correct in one point. The effort of the EP to establish himself as a ‘moral authority’ is precisely what the main problem is. Those that wish to govern us are constatnly moralizing about this and that (regardless from which part of the political spectrum). That is what ideology is all about. The EP is taking ascesis out of its Orthodox context and attempting to make ascesis a ‘thing in itself’ and worse DEMAND that everyone be FORCED to do it for simply earthly goals.

      But I think you can understand the difficulty that folks have with a moralizing EP who is joining forces with a crowd that is often violently anti-Chrisitian. Especially when you think that if he would actually use his position to preach the Gospel and invite repentance in a truly Chrisitan way, who much influence he would gain.

      Part of the problem, too, is the globalization of the environmental agenda. This is a case where your approach is quite right. It is far wiser to think small and allow an expansion to the more general. My father was constant in his approach to ecology, an approach he used to develop and administer his public health practice over 30 years. He spoke incessantly that ecology was the inter-relationship between organisms in the local environment–each one affecting the other but human beings were at the top. There are potential and real global consequences to the local ecosystems being in or out of proper balance, but we can only seek to inhance the health within our immediate sphere of influence: our own local eco-systems (we each participate in many interlocked ones). The point my father made is that our actions always have an effect on the eco-systems of which we are an immediate part (as you also note). His approach was not the GAIA approach that posits the earth as one giant organisim, it was that we live in our home and we ought to take care of it (using the roots of the word ecology) for it is divine in origin and permeated with the divine. (He never could get the person of Jesus Christ but he did make the distinction between the material world and the divine that it partook of)

      The problem with the regulation approach that you praise is that such regulation done without love of the people as people with our concerns first is always destructive to the environment as a whole. We are after all, the micorcosom and the God created stewards of His creation. We are certainly commnded to dress and keep the earth, but a big part of that command is looking after each other first and ordering our own lives in a manner that allows for God’s Holy Spirit to do His work.

      I personally think it is impossible to actually take care of our earthly home outside of an Orthodox understanding of God, man and creation. It certainly cannot be done within a philosophy that is wholly at odds with Christianity like Marxism or any sort of philisophical/religious materialism (a driving ideological force in much of the global environmental movement). We must also realize, as those in the global envirnonmental movement do not, that our hope is not in ourselves but is eschatological. We will only get a new earth when Jesus returns. Any other hope particiaptes to some degree in the heresy of chiliasm – that we can have heaven on earth without God (the fundamental proposition of Marxism)

      The EP is constantly falsifying the Orthodox understanding and at the same time attempting to link it to a modern, anti-Chrisitian ideology and faith. In my mind he is selling his birthright (or rebirth right) for a bowl of swill and wanting us to eat it with him. Add to that the utter hyposcricy of it all and the shameful power grab both in the world and within the Church and it is no wonder folks get a triffle upset.

      As an aside and not meant to be abrasive or challenging just an explanation: the natural male-female order that God created is the central part of our ability to dress and keep the earth and make us and the rest of creation fruitful. When homosexuality is looked upon as somehow ontologically normal, that is in direct opposition to what allows us to do what God commands: be fruitful and multiply. The modern psychological approach that the disorder of homosexuality is somehow ontologically fixed and within norms is not something that is fruitful in the life of the Church and, in fact goes against the Biblical understanding of the hierachical synergy of God to man to woman and back again. Neither is it fruitful in the life of the Church to condemn anyone for any sin. We are called to be compassionate to one another. In our current fallen state it is repentance (in both word and deed; mind and heart) within the sacramental communion of the Church (rather than ascesis for ascesis sake) that leads to healing of the earth

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      M. Stankovich says:

      I would clarify that my comment was not intended to disparage the Patriarch Bartholomew personally. I know nothing in regard to his motivations or how he might view himself in the context of the Orthodox ethos. My objection was to this author casting the Ecumenical Patriarch as a “moral authority” in order, as I see it, to potentiate the intended disparagement.

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    Andrew says:

    Lets also remember also that the EP praised the environmental policies of Fidel Castro during his trip to Cuba.

    Who cares that the guy is one of the great butchers of the 20th Century…..he is “Green”?

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I’m conservative and popes have also visited Fidel Castro but unlike the Patriarch they have also visited Ronald Reagan and George W Bush. The Patriarch visits only leftwing leaders unlike Popes John Paul and Benedict.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Ioannes (John) Zonaras (Greek: Ἰωάννης Ζωναρᾶς; fl. 12th century) was a Byzantine chronicler and theologian, who lived at Constantinople.

    Under Emperor Alexios I Komnenos he held the offices of head justice and private secretary (protasēkrētis) to the emperor, but after Alexios’ death, he retired to the monastery of St Glykeria, where he spent the rest of his life in writing books.

    His most important work, Extracts of History (Greek: Ἐπιτομὴ Ἱστοριῶν, Latin: Epitome Historiarum), in eighteen books, extends from the creation of the world to the death of Alexius (1118). The earlier part is largely drawn from Josephus; for Roman history he chiefly followed Cassius Dio up to the early third century. Contemporary scholars are particularly interested in his account of the third and fourth centuries, which depend upon sources, now lost, whose nature is fiercely debated. Central to this debate is the work of Bruno Bleckmann, whose arguments tend to be supported by continental scholars but rejected in part by English-speaking scholars.[1] An English translation of these important sections has recently been published: Thomas Banchich and Eugene Lane, The History of Zonaras from Alexander Severus to the Death of Theodosius the Great (Routledge 2009). The chief original part of Zonaras’ history is the section on the reign of Alexios Komnenos, whom he criticizes for the favour shown to members of his family, to whom Alexios entrusted vast estates and significant state offices. His history was continued by Nicetas Acominatus.

    Various ecclesiastical works have been attributed to Zonaras — commentaries on the Fathers and the poems of Gregory of Nazianzus; lives of Saints; and a treatise on the Apostolical Canons — and there is no reason to doubt their genuineness. The lexicon, however, which has been handed down under his name (ed. J. A. H. Tittmann 1808) is probably the work of a certain Antonius Monachus (Stein’s Herodotus, ii. 479 f.).

    The first ecclesiastical denunciation of the game of chess on the part of the Eastern Church was voiced by Zonaras. It was during his retirement as a monk to the monastery of Mt. Athos that he wrote his commentary on the canons of the Eastern Church. The early list of rules known as the Apostolic Canons required both clergy and laity to give up the use of dice (Canon 50). Zonaras wanted chess to also be included for clergy and laity to give up. Zonaras, commenting on Canon 50, wrote, “Because there are some of the Bishops and clergy who depart from virture and play chess (zatikron) or dice or drink to excess, the Rule commands that such shall cease to do so or be excluded; and if a Bishop or elder or deacon or subdeacon or reader or singer do not cease so to do, he shall be cast out: and if laymen be given to chess-playing and drunkenness, they shall be excluded.”
    Another writer in his times that wrote about the abuses of the Byzantine monarchy and a great historian. Also, works on the church as well.

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    macedonianreader says:

    What motive would His High Holiness, the EP+ have to only speak with “liberal” leaders?

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Birds of a feather.

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      That’s a good question macedonianreader. We know his economic ideas fit the European socialist model for the most part, and he was feted by the Center for American Progress, a Progressive think tank in Washington, DC. His ideas on life in the womb are decidedly liberal as well as he revealed in his book, and his refusal to reprove politicians like Paul Sarbanes and Olympia Snowe. It might be that he really believes it.

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    Cyranorox says:

    I will stand with the Patriarch on these matters.

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    David Moen says:

    M. Stankovich,
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I couldn’t agree with you more and appreciate your emphasis on scale.

    The only thing I come away with from reading this article is that the author is full of fear and has a need to project his anxieties onto leaders in order to find his own equilibrium in these matters that he somehow finds personally threatening.

    Mr. Bauman, may I ask, who are we to judge that Patriarch Bartholomew is a leftist hypocrite after a power grab? Have you spoken with him? Have you ever seen interviews with the EP? Do you find a power hungry authoritarian ever coming from his spirit? I have only ever seen him humble and meek in heart. There is only one spirit I see alive in this leader, who is one of many in our Church, and that is the Holy Spirit.

    Where he is misguided it is up to the Lord’s conviction and direction not our judgments to change. Be glad it is not your cross to bear to try to lead on the global stage in our world today that faces huge problems that none of our ancestors has ever had to cope with before. If he is leading then let him lead and if he is not then pray for him, but for the Lords’ sake, do not judge him or the cross he has been asked to carry.

    And if our Ecumenical Patriarch was not embracing these “Environmental extremists” what Christian would? Or should we also condemn Christ who embraced sinners, “of whom I am chief”? Never.

    I for one, am thankful that the EP has created, at the very least, an opportunity to speak to my environmentalist friends about the importance of our faith in Christ concerning real world matters. He is a bridge-builder by his very office in his attempt to live out the Good News and I stand with him in his struggle to do so.

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    Nicholas Colloff says:

    I should pause on your admiration for the Holy Father until you read his next encyclical on the environment!

    However, in the meantime, it may be that the Patriarch is so concerned with environmental degradation and what it reveals of a civilization with a sad inability to practice a disciplined modesty with regard to a gifted yet finite world that he feels he ought to share platforms with people whose genuine concern for the natural order may not be wholly balanced with orthodox tradition (either Catholic or Orthodox) and all of whose policy prescriptions might not be valid.

    I hope he does so with more charity than displayed here.

    Likewise a greater ability to separate theological difference from ideological freight might be called for. After all there is nothing theologically wrong with asking for petrol prices to rise per se or to enjoy the support of George Soros or indeed to imagine that steps might be taken to slow the rate of population growth. In this latter category, the most effective way is to educate girls and allow them to make informed choices most notably about delaying one’s marriage age. I cannot find anything anti-human about that or is there?

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