If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social and illegal. We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation. When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin?”
The way we respond to the natural environment is directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering. So the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves. When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God?
I haven’t found a new encyclical by His All-Holiness for this Earth Day; I hope there will be one, even a bit late. Still, what he has said before on the issue are always relevant. I dare say, considering how the world has changed since this time last year, more relevant than ever.
We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air – all of these are sins.”
We are treating our planet in an inhuman, godless manner precisely because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above. Our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbor on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that divine and human meet in the slightest detail contained in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust.
A Jenny-come-lately like me should not be the one to point out the obvious: we have no dominion over the earth and its creatures, folks. We were supposed to, but Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve fucked up. Stewardship is our gig now. We’re not the boss, we work for the boss. We get to live on the premises, but if we sponge off the business, there will be hell to pay. Quite literally.
Listen to the old man. He’s been called ‘the Green Patriarch’ derogatorily, but anyone who understands synergy should be able to understand interdependence as well.
Whenever we narrow religious life to our own concerns, then we overlook the prophetic calling of the Church to implore God and invoke the divine Spirit for the renewal of the whole polluted cosmos. For, the entire world is the space within which this transformation is enacted. When we are transformed by divine grace, then we discern the injustice in which we are participants; but then we will also labor to share the resources of our planet; then, we realize that eco-justice is paramount — not simply for a better life, but for our very survival.”
As Orthodox Christians, we use the Greek word kairos to describe a moment in time, often a brief moment in time, which has eternal significance. For the human race as a whole, there is now a kairos, a decisive time in our relationship with God’s creation. We will either act in time to protect life on earth from the worst consequences of human folly, or we will fail to act. May God grant us the wisdom to act in time. Amen.