Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Religion and environment: What gives?

Many religions and many religious organizations and communities value some kind of community service, whether that be supporting soup-kitchens, alms-giving, building homes, supporting disadvantaged families, &c. The existence of organizations like the Evangelical Climate Initiative and Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light demonstrates that believers in various faiths are beginning to recognize the connection between the natural environment and community service in a religious context. The growing list of books that focus on (or at least address) religious underpinnings of environmental action, such as Earth-Wise, God in the Wilderness, Care for Creation, This is My Father's World, A Greener Faith, and Last Child in the Woods, suggests that an increasing number of people are exploring these connections.
At the same time, the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics still declares that environmentalism is idolatry. Less than a year ago, evangelical leader Rich Cizik was censured for advocating that his religious community make battling climate change a priority. And, in my personal experience, I've encountered dozens of people who become furious at the suggestion that there is a religious mandate for improving environmental quality.
I call upon the reader to serve as a research assistant: Why does so much anger and opposition remain on this issue? Why do religious communities avoid adding environmental action to their portfolio of community service? Would your religious community be open to studying this issue? Why / why not?

Image Source: US National Gallery of Art

10 comments:

Pat Jenkins said...

erd i think many a church community promotes the idea of good stewardship. this would include the earth, or enviroment. but again i think the service to mankind himself must be the primary work of any body!!

E. R. Dunhill said...

PJ,
Thank you for commenting. Can you elaborate? Is this sort of stewardship something your own religious group engages in?

Jenn said...

The Roman Catholic Church actually includes within our teachings on social justice the component of stewardship of creation.

As a youth and young adult minister, it is a popular topic and a great way for our groups to reach out to others beyond our church's doors.

To see what I'm talking about, here's a link to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops page on Environmental Stewardship.

http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/ejp/

This doesn't even touch on the more detailed and specific resources that are geared towards youth (hardcopy books on my shelf and available elsewhere).

Pat Jenkins said...

stewardship ~ v. placing others before you without the sacfifice of ones own self created preservation!

Sue said...

stewardship -- a NOUN not a verb, means: "the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care *stewardship of our natural resources*" Merriam-Webster 2004.

Seems to me that the idea of stewardship of natural resources or the planet as a whole, is nothing more and nothing less than self-preservation, since without the resources over which one is steward, one cannot survive.

Sue said...

One of the core festivals of the Jewish year, is the New Year of the Trees or Tu B'Shevat. The key activity engaged in for hundreds of years on that day is tree planting. Among the 613 mitzvot (poorly translated into English as "commandments") are many which have to do with the preservation of natural resources. For example, "Not to destroy fruit trees (wantonly or in warfare) (Deut. 20:19-20)"

E. R. Dunhill said...

Jenn,
Thanks for the link. I can personally recommend three of the books referenced in this post: Earth-Wise, Care for Creation, and Last Child in the Woods. Care for Creation may be of particular interest to a Roman Catholic green ministry, though both its theology and practice may raise some eyebrows. I found it to be more informative than practical, though I plan to revisit it later, when I have more time to reflect on it. It's probably a better personal resource than one for group-use.
Also, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light (linked in this post) is a great source of existing traditional hymns, prayers, and liturgies from several denominations that could be of use.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Sue,
Thank you (and thank you in particular for the Deut. reference). I've seen mitzvot translated as "charge" on a few occassions, and one particularly cheeky professor of mine likened it to dharma.
Also, (to everyone) please feel free to say anything that's on your mind or in your community on this subject, and (if so moved) to debate each other on this. However, this post will be free of my own normal pedantic rhetoric; I simply want to hear people's thoughts on this.

Pat Jenkins said...

ah but sue, for the christian stewardship, as defined, becomes a verb!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

I've been updating ukcjay.blogspot.com again. Hope you can visit again!