So I’m reading an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning about the Religious Left mounting an “aggressive” ad campaign on environmental issues and come across these lines:
The ads, funded by a left-leaning coalition, urge support for congressional legislation to curb greenhouse-gas emissions — by framing the issue as an urgent matter of Biblical morality.
“As our seas rise, crops wither and rivers run dry, God’s creation cries out for relief,” begins one ad, narrated by an evangelical megachurch pastor. Another opens with a reference to the Gospel of John, slams energy interests for fighting the bill, and concludes: “Please join the faithful in speaking out against the powerful.”
And I’m thinking, man, where have I heard talk like that? Was it … no, can’t be. Not the language used to describe the agenda of the upcoming symposium on the Mississippi River hosted by Patriarch Bartholomew, the Green Patriarch. That can’t be. I checked and found this:
Evening discussion: Can Religion Save the Planet?
To meet the ecological crisis threatening the planet, it is generally agreed that humankind must change its behaviour. Can religion as a moral force change hearts and minds and thus behaviour, as it did with the abolition of slavery and the American civil rights movement. Will citizens of the overconsuming part of the world voluntarily modify their way of life? Will technology and science save industrial civilisation? Will a cataclysm as the result of war, plague, or climate change so reduce population to make survival possible?
Fr. John Chryssavgis
Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker
Wow, almost sounds like the ad copy and the agenda were written by the same activist!
We know that Fr. Chryssavgis is environmental adviser to the patriarch, but who is Prof. Tucker? Turns out Prof. Tucker is co-founder and co-director, with John Grim, of the Forum on Religion and Ecology. They are organizers of a series of 10 conferences on World Religions and Ecology at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. Here’s what those on the Mississippi cruise can expect from her (I’ve highlighted the good parts):
Religion is more than simply a belief in a transcendent deity or a means to an afterlife. It is, rather, an orientation to the cosmos and our role in it. We understand religion in its broadest sense as a means whereby humans, recognizing the limitations of phenomenal reality, undertake specific practices to effect self-transformation and community cohesion within a cosmological context. Religion thus refers to those cosmological stories, symbol systems, ritual practices, ethical norms, historical processes, and institutional structures that transmit a view of the human as embedded in a world of meaning and responsibility, transformation and celebration. Religion connects humans with a divine or numinous presence, with the human community, and with the broader earth community. It links humans to the larger matrix of mystery in which life arises, unfolds, and flourishes.
In this light nature is a revelatory context for orienting humans to abiding religious questions regarding the cosmological origins of the universe, the meaning of the emergence of life, and the responsible role of humans in relation to life processes. Religion thus situates humans in relation to both the natural and human worlds with regard to meaning and responsibility. At the same time, religion becomes a means of experiencing a sustaining creative force in the natural and human worlds and beyond. For some traditions this is a creator deity; for others it is a numinous presence in nature; for others it is the source of flourishing life.
Not exactly the Philokalia, is it?
Prof. Tucker is also author of “Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase” (Master Hsuan Hua Memorial Lecture, Open Court, 2003). In the book, she “describes how world religions have begun to move from a focus on God-human and human-human relations to encompass human-earth relations. She argues that, in light of the environmental crisis, religion should move from isolated orthodoxy to interrelated dialogue and use its authority for liberation rather than oppression.” There’s a chapter titled, “Dogma: Orthodoxy versus Dialogue,” which promises to be a fun read.
Prof. Tucker, like most on the Religious Left, sees the redistribution of wealth as a means of solving our environmental problems. You’ll have to attend her lecture during the Mississippi symposium to find out exactly how this is all connected. She writes that ” … the unintended consequences of globalization in the loss of habitat, species, and cultures make it clear that new forms of equitable distribution of wealth and resources need to be implemented” and that “the common values that most of the world’s religions hold in relation to the natural world might be summarized as reverence, respect, restraint, redistribution, and responsibility.”
Here’s a suggestion. The next time that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America assembles several hundred faithful benefactors for a dinner at the Waldorf or Ritz-Carlton, have Prof. Tucker talk to these people about “wealth redistribution.” See if that flies.