Quiet Flows the Mississippi into the Matrix of Mystery

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?

Possible Participants:
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.


  1. Chris Banescu :

    I urge everyone to go to this page:
    Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River under the patronage of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
    18th – 25th October 2009

    And try to find the words “Jesus”, “Christ”, or “Gospel” in any of the activities planned. Notice also the one-sided manner in which these symposiums reflect the biased and subjective views of AlGore and virtually all radical-environmentalist groups. These groups, BTW, only criticize America and western democracies for their “sins” against mother nature, but say nothing of the massive pollution and destruction of nature that goes on in all communist countries and other totalitarian regimes; not to mention the killing and torture of human beings who are part of that very same nature these neo-pagan worshipers glorify.

    Interestingly enough, polar bears, whales, monkeys, and trees are to be protected at all costs, but the lives and liberties of innocent men, women, and children don’t deserve the same protections it seems.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Chris, John, et al: Besides discerning the fact that the words, “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “Gospel” are nowhere to be found in the prospectus for the symposium, I would like to pose a question to all the OCA-haters on this website. I’m not talking about those already within the GOA, but those who belong to more (how shall I say it?), “rigorous” and “traditionalist” subsets of Orthodoxy in America: how eager are you now to subjugate yourselves to an eparchy that is and always will be, beholden to the worldly, politically left-wing attuned Phanar? Especially one which is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the WCC?

    Because of our fallen nature, one of the unpleasant facts of life is that you often have to “pick your poison.” Unlike our beloved president, we don’t have the option of voting “present.”

  3. Cynthia Curran :

    I think the problem with many christians is that they only see the natural creation as the only product of God. Why not the various Byzantine Churches or Gothic Catholic Churches, or Bridges, or sewer systems or other things we built. After all, God gives us the ability to create these things since he is responsible for us having a brain in the first place. So, why don’t we view man-made objects are just apart of God as nature is.

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Cynthia, the environmentalist left has little regard for human creativity. They are instead neo-Malthusian, seeing mankind as a blight on the earth, and only by controlling the decisions and actions of people can the pristine Eden be restored. It is a materialistic ideology, laden with religious language to be sure, but really seeks the control and reorganization of economic and social structures — with the environmentalists making the decisions of course.

    Thus, your insight is a good one. You are asking why don’t they take into account human creativity? Doesn’t the re-fashioning of the material creation count — especially when things of beauty and utility are created? Their answer, ultimately, is no.

    Further, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is making an alliance with a political ideology that, when pressed, is quite hostile to the moral precepts of traditional Christianity unless it can throw the entire package into that bucket that levels all religions as essentially equal — and thus equally irrelevant.

    Is this why Constantinople is silent on almost every other moral issue facing Western civilization?

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Fr, you are definately onto something. I remember about 12 years ago, I was on a family vacation in England. While outside Bath Abbey, I noticed a makeshift kiosk asking people to sign a petition outlawing hunting. (This was right Before Blair and New Labour won.)

    Anyway, I thought: “OK, I’ll bite.” Anyway, I ambled over there and asked them why they were against hunting. I couldn’t get a straight answer except something along the line of “it’s inhumane.” So I tried a different tack. I asked, “do animals hunt?” That threw them for a loop. So then I went in for the kill: “Well, aren’t humans animals?” This totally discombobulated the person. I went on: “Since we’re all products of evolution and there is no God, then why can’t human beings hunt? Aren’t we part of nature?”

    The poor guy (I think he was a guy) said, was “well, maybe we’re the wrong part of nature.” I kid you not. He said it with a sneer. For the first time I think I looked into the face of a true misanthrope, a human who hated humans. It was a diabolical look on his face. I shooked my head and walked away.

    I should have said, well, “if we’re so bad, why don’t you just go on a shooting spree, kill as many people as possible and then turn the gun on yourself?”

    What’s my point? Why in God’s holy name would we want to ally ourselves with this demonic fringe?

  6. George Michalopulos :

    John, I just re-read your editorial. The last line excited a neuron, towit: it’s just possible that the Phanar/GOA-HQ is no longer beholden to the Greek-American elite bigwigs that that normally populate the finer venues of NYC like the Waldorf. They know how Tucker’s and her ilk’s talk about redistribution would go over so there may be two tacks here: the normal, big, fat Greek shindig to see and be seen with the hierarchy and keep peasants in the pews sedated and a separate tack with the NGO/Left/pantheist crowd where the action really is. I’m just saying… Anybody think I’m on to something? I could be all wet.

  7. Forgive me for repeating a rant I have made elsewhere, but my concern is not just the content of the a highly debatable political position, but what it may indicate about their actual focus and priorities. It is my understanding that, at a minimum, a Christian knows that the glory of God and the salvation and transformation of the human person are of ultimate and eternal importance. It is out of this basic context that the Christian (especially a Christian leader) views the other issues of life.

    From this perspective, it would seem evident that the REAL cause of global destruction is not a particular economic system or cultural phenomenon, nor is the REAL solution a series of “green” behaviors. (At the risk of repetition, even the most radically “green” person might cleanse the world and still lose his soul.) Rather, the REAL cause of environmental distress is . . . sin. (In fact, it is hard to imagine any theological insight into life that does not recognize that the “root cause” of almost every social crisis – whatever its form “du jour” – is ultimately sin.) This is not to diminish to value of particular policies or political solutions, but it is to recognize their limits. Scripture, however, makes the diagnosis particularly clear in this case:

    “For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits —we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:20-23)

    This, it seems to me, should be immediately apparent to a Christian, let alone a Christian leader. Moreover, if one understands that the real cause of the “corruption” of the earth lies in sin and the real solution depends on conversion and theosis, then one must also recognize the surpassing importance of the pastoral call in fostering conversion and theosis.

    When our leadership makes the political crisis “du jour” the basis of a rare visit, it calls into question the character of their priorities and the value they give to their pastoral mission.

    Christ calls all of us – but especially His leadership (who, like all genuine leaders, must lead by example) – to give up everything else for the “pearl” of the kingdom of God, and yet promises that when we do this we will gain everything else besides. Wouldn’t this apply – for the Christian – to “green” agenda as well?

    Thus, if our leadership were to give wholehearted focus solely to the spiritual formation of those in their charge, fostering in them the acquisition of the spirit, then, as St. Seraphim said, thousands will be saved. If St. Maximos and St. Paul are correct, then the cosmos, too, will be transfigured. Presumably this includes the earth.

  8. Greek in Memphis :

    I can hardly wait for his visit now after reading the dossier for the symposium. Ugh … very disappointing.

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