Religion and the Environment: The Link Between Survival and Salvation

I want our leadership to provide thoughtful analysis on cultural issues but too often we get the thin gruel of popular piety dressed up in Church-speak. Take this latest missive from Constantinople on the environment for example. Where to begin? There is no reflection about the falsification of data by global warming apologists, no awareness that the movement has been largely discredited. Then, adding to the ignorance, it launches into a moral screed using the same suspect science as justification.

In our efforts, then, to contain global warming, we are admitting just how prepared we are to sacrifice some of our greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we direct our focus away from what we want to what the world needs? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible on this planet for the sake of future generations? We must choose to care. Otherwise, we do not really care at all.

Do not really care? If we make any choices at all, the first one must be to think clearly. We must choose to make proper distinctions grounded in fact and experience. We must choose to put off popular pieties masquerading as moral imperatives that are manipulated by celebrities, politicians, activists and others for their own ends.

Moreso, we must choose to recognize the difference between hectoring and serious moral reflection. Will all due respect to Constantinople, it simply is not true that if we don’t accept the fraudulent science of the global warming lobby we are greedy, selfish, and ignorant people. There’s enough political correctness in the world already, thank you. We don’t need it in the Church.

I’ll leave the parsing of the piece for the commentators. Meanwhile, compare this missive with the speech given by Vaclev Claus, President of the Czech Republic, recently. Claus shows us what clear thinking looks like. Constantinople should take a page from his book.

His All Holiness was presented with the Hollister Award by the Temple of Understanding in New York on Tuesday, October 19, 2010. Others who received the award were Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Prof. Karen Armstrong.

CNN invited His All Holiness to contribute an opinion article for their online edition and it can be viewed on their website at:

Last October, the Ecumenical Patriarchate convened an international, interdisciplinary and interfaith symposium in New Orleans on the Mississippi River, the eighth in a series of high-level conferences exploring the impact of our lifestyle and consumption on our planet’s major bodies of water. Similar symposia have met in the Aegean and Black Seas, in the Adriatic and Baltic Seas, along the Danube and Amazon Rivers, and on the Arctic.

At first glance, it may appear strange for a religious institution concerned with “sacred” values to be so profoundly involved in “worldly” issues. After all, what does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul? It is commonly assumed that global climate change and the exploitation of our nature’s resources are matters that concern politicians, scientists and technocrats. At best, perhaps, they are the preoccupation of special interest groups or naturalists.

So the preoccupation of the Orthodox Christian Church and, in particular, her highest spiritual authority, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the environmental crisis will probably come as a surprise to many people. Yet, there are no two ways of looking at either the world or God. There can be no double vision or worldview: one religious and the other profane; one spiritual and the other secular. In our worldview and understanding, there can be no distinction between concern for human welfare and concern for ecological preservation.

Nature is a book, opened wide for all to read and to learn, to savor and celebrate. It tells a unique story; it unfolds a profound mystery; it relates an extraordinary harmony and balance, which are interdependent and complementary. The way we relate to nature as creation directly reflects the way we relate to God as Creator. The sensitivity with which we handle the natural environment clearly mirrors the sacredness that we reserve for the divine. We must treat nature with the same awe and wonder that we reserve for human beings. And we do not need this insight in order to believe in God or to prove His existence. We need it to breathe; we need it for us simply to be.

At stake is not just our ability to live in a sustainable way, but our very survival. Scientists estimate that those most hurt by global warming in years to come will be those who can least afford it. Therefore, the ecological problem of pollution is invariably connected to the social problem of poverty; and so all ecological activity is ultimately measured and properly judged by its impact upon people, and especially its effect upon the poor.

In our efforts, then, to contain global warming, we are admitting just how prepared we are to sacrifice some of our greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we direct our focus away from what we want to what the world needs? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible on this planet for the sake of future generations? We must choose to care. Otherwise, we do not really care at all.

We are all in this together. Indeed, the natural environment unites us in ways that transcend doctrinal differences. We may differ in our conception of the planet’s origin, whether biblical or scientific. But we all agree on the necessity to protect its natural resources, which are neither limitless nor negotiable.

It is not too late to respond – as a people and as a planet. We could steer the earth toward our children’s future. Yet we can no longer afford to wait; we can no longer afford not to act. People of faith must assume leadership in this effort; citizens of the world must clearly express their opinion; and political leaders must act accordingly. Deadlines can no longer be postponed; indecision and inaction are not options.

We are optimistic about turning the tide; quite simply because we are optimistic about humanity’s potential. Let us not simply respond in principle; let us respond in practice. Let us listen to one another; let us work together; let us offer the earth an opportunity to heal so that it will continue to nurture us. 


  1. George Michalopulos :

    Where to begin indeed? How about slashing in half the salaries of the “monk-bishops” who preside over the “metropolises” in the GOA? Why do celibate men with no families need a six-figure salary?

  2. I would really like to read a Christ-Centered sermon of the EP.
    He can rest assured that the secular institutions and environmental professionals are seeking solutions for environment quality. The “Green Creed” is studded throughout schools and colleges. His All Holiness job is to preach Christ, His Resurrection and His Second and Glorious Coming. If he continues on this path I would not be surprised if, a couple of years from now, we’ll hear from the EP that Salvation will come through some UFO saviors.

    • I think the EP needs new speech writers. Seriously. They appear to have no idea about their lack of grasp on reality, which is not only sad, but it is comical.

      And that’s the worst thing of all.

  3. Is this more about platform seeking? Along the lines of ‘they spell it correctly and get it out there, since there is an echo of a shred of a leg to stand on — so it is a good thing’. Like the Fidel visit. Lotsa cameras and people looking for their cause to gain visibility, here’s a fellow with a venerable title and so everyone gets a need filled. Not so much about the substance so long as it isn’t totally out there. Maybe that’s why you don’t see the sort of deep-clear beyond-the-surface subject intensive focus Fr. Hans expects.

    Give a fish to the hungry and it is easy for everyone to get that all’s well, people clap and smile and move on before thinking much about what happens in a few hours.

    Who claps after a teacher finishes and now a new person learns how to fish for themselves? No soundbite moment there. Hum.

  4. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his 10/19 essay Saving souls and the Planet Go Together presents a vision of “Green” Orthodoxy that is more problematc than prophetic. Not unlike former Vice President Al Gore, His All Holiness laments the effects of green-house gas emissions and lobbies for the cutting our carbon footprint while flying on a private jet and throwing lavish parties at places such as the Waldorf Astoria. The more the Patriarch’s words are read in the West the more it appears that his variety environmentalism is to be practiced only by those in the pews.

    Most disturbing however is the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s subordination of human freedom to the fashionable fundamentalism of the environmental movement. Orthodox Christians have not forgotten the 2004 visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Havana that saw His All Holiness praise Fidel Castro as an environmentalist while showing indifference to the regime’s laundry list of crimes and personally neglecting Cuba’s dissidents. How is it that the souls imprisoned by one of history’s great butchers are not worthy of pastoral concern?

    The transformation of the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle into the “Green Patriarch” is a tragedy. Orthodox Christians do not need a leader who constantly beats the paranoid drum of global warming at the expense human freedom and dignity. Orthodox Christians need a shepherd who is willing to follow the example of the second-century martyr Ignatius of Antioch who reminded those in power that “Christianity shows it greatness when it is hated by the world!”

  5. Strange that there is no mention of this award by 79th Street or on the GOA website.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Maybe they know that the neo-pagan character of the Temple of Understanding would be too hard to defend. Can you see Pat. Kyrill or Pope Benedict doing cocktails there?

      • Whoa! Father…. if you look at the Temple of Understanding Website and click on the Hollister Honorees… at the bottom of the webpage click on next. This takes you to the event website. Part of this October 19th event is an interfaith conference. Well…Well… just look who the keynote speaker is….. VAN JONES. The head of the GOA which had one of its churches destroyed by terrorists on 9/11 accepts an award from an organization that features 9/11 truther Van Jones in its feature conference.

        This is crazy….Maybe this is the reason why 79th Street did not want to draw too much attention to this…….

        • George Michalopulos :

          Van Jones is worse than being a mere Truther, he’s a self-described Communist. Sigh, I long for the days of drawing and quartering traitors.

        • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

          Just got an email for a friend. The couple building the Ground Zero Mosque were on the list of attendees at the event.

        • You’re right Andrew, Van Jones, the radical environmentalist and self-proclaimed communist, was the keynote speaker for this event.

          In an April 12, 2009 WorldNetDaily article titled “Will a “red” help blacks go green?” Aaron Klein reported that Van Jones himself stated in a 2005 interview his environmental activism was a means to fight for racial and class “justice,” and that he was a “rowdy black nationalist,” and a “communist.”

          I’ll work with anybody, I’ll fight anybody if it will push our issues forward,” he told the left-leaning East Bay Express in a 2005 interview. “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.”

          “There is a green wave coming, with renewable energy, organic agriculture, cleaner production,” Jones said. “Our question is: Will the green wave lift all boats? That’s the moral challenge to the people who are the architects of this new, ecologically sound economy. Will we have eco-equity, or will we have eco-apartheid? Right now we have eco-apartheid.”

          Van Jones is a self-proclaimed radical communist activist who was appointed by Barack Obama to serve as the Obama administration’s “Green Czar”. Jones previously served on the board of an environmental activist group at which a founder of the Weather Underground terrorist organization is a top director.

          Jones was a founding organizer and leader[4] of the communist revolutionary organization, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM). The organization had its roots in a group protesting “U.S. Imperialism” during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The leftist blog Machete 48 identifies STORM’s influences as “third-worldist Marxism (and an often vulgar Maoism).

          STORM’s own literature describes it’s “Maoist orientation” which conducted “a group reading of Mao’s On Practice and On Contradiction.” The group studied Lenin’s theories of the state, revolution, the party, and “the political ideas of Mao Tse-tung.” STORM’s own history further states, “We also pushed at or went beyond the limits of the traditional Marxist canon, studying such topics as revolutionary feminism, the Palestinian liberation struggle, transgender liberation, methods of evaluation, self-care for cadre and revolutionary mass [community] organizing.”STORM was extensively involved in the community organizing movement.

      • Oh my, that Temple of Understanding site reeks of neo-pagan ideology and “non-judgmental” pseudo-spirituality. Why on earth would an Orthodox hierarch want to be associated with such worldly, Christ-less, and feel-good nonsense? Can you imagine any of the 12 Apostles or great saints or bishops of our faith coming within 200 miles of such a place, let alone accepting an award from that kind of an organization?

        • George Michalopulos :

          Chris, once when the Apostle John was in Ephesus (I believe) and he was rather aged, he was at the bath with his disciple (Onesimus I believe). When he saw the Christian heretic Cerinthus enter, he immediately ran out, yelling “Come Onesimus, let us flee this place, lest the roof cave in over our heads!”

  6. So who accepted this award on behalf of the EP? or is the EP in town and we missed it…..

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      I’m wondering the same thing.

      • You know.. the more you think about this whole Hollister Award event the more questions you ask. Last year at this time we were 100% Green Patriarch all day and all night. It was all about the riverboat cruise. We had Patriarchal video games and statements galore. The GOA internet department was working overtime to broadcast the Green Patriarch everywhere.

        Now one year later the Green Patriarch receives an award and there is silence. The GOA internet presence from its website to facebook have not one mention. Even Bishop Savas who basically equates the political left with Orthodoxy does not say a peep on his facebook page. The only thing we see is the mention on the Patriarchal website. We do not know who accepted this award or what they said. All we do know is the Temple of Understanding seems to be a creation of leftist extremists. Its a kook fringe kind of a place and kook fringe award.

        So what is going on. Are there a few people pushing the Green Patriarch in opposition to the GOA? Honestly, what is cooking? I would be very interested to know from those with connections what is going on with this Hollister Event.

        • George Michalopulos :

          Andrew, wouldn’t it be a good idea if someone was to call the press office at 79th St and ask these questions?

          Seriously, the picture you paint raises even more questions. Is it because we held the Riverboat Cruise up for ridicule (much deserved) that 79th St learned its lesson?

  7. cynthia curran :

    Well, unlike Meg Whitamn, the moderate Republican that was on a cruise with Van Jones, Obama has had a lot of assoicated with many socialits and Communists, Personality, I’m not a Democratic Socalists but the Democractic Party isn’t honest about Obama and others that are higly incluence by the Democratic-Socalists Party of America. I wished that more Dems would be honest like Bernie Sanders is that he is a socalists. Socalists can’t nationalzed the economy outright like they did 40 years ago and more. Personality, Van Jones isn’t the worst, Billy Ayers when he was youthful wanted to start a seperate black state in the South. Frank Marshall Davis was so radical-Obama’s childhood mentor introduced by his grandfather that he highly admired Stalin in the 1940’s and wrote poets praising him. Also, Obama’s mentor hated Harry Truman whose is still admired by Democratics and was against the Marshall plan-which was pushed by cold war liberals who communists hated.


  1. […] Patriarch’s statement was not without detractors, members of the Orthodox community who for one reason or another met the article with palpable scorn. Some comments are beneath notice […]

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