Monday, March 09, 2009

Christian attitudes to Nature

(see also Christians: a spotter's guide)

The Gnostics believed that the world was created by the demiurge and that matter was a trap for our souls which yearn to return to the Divine source.  Grade: E.  Fail.

In contrast to the this, the Orthodox Church believed that nature was good (one of the reasons why they opposed Gnosticism), and actually continued the Jewish custom of aligning its festivals to coincide with the seasons in the Mediterranean.  For example, the date of Easter is the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the Spring Equinox.  They also have nature-related festivals like the blessing of the waters at Epiphany; they love trees; saints like St Seraphim of Sarov who liked to hang out with bears; and their patriarch recently declared polluting the environment to be a sin.  On the downside, the Russian Orthodox Church is currently suppressing a Pagan religion, and seems rather too uncritical of the current government in Russia, which has a very poor environmental record.  They also don't understand that Pagans regard the Divine as immanent in Nature.   Grade: B.  Pass

The Roman Catholic Church tends to view "creation" as being fallen and damaged because of the Fall; but on the plus side they have St Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals and the environment; author of Brother Sun, Sister Moon).  On the down side,  they disapproved of Teilhard de Chardin, biologist and theologian, and the last Pope excommunicated Matthew Fox who came up with creation spirituality.  Grade: C. Pass.  Could try harder.

Unitarians, UUs and Liberal Quakers, many of whom are pantheists, are often environmental activists.  No talk of dominion or even stewardship here.  Many regard the Divine as immanent in Nature (not too much talk about "creation" and the "Creator" here either). Many embrace process theologyGrade: A.  Distinction.

Protestant attitudes vary from the downright Gnostic all the way to "we are stewards of the world" (which still implies that it somehow belongs to us).  Grade: D.  Fail.

Dominionists, as the name implies, believe that we have dominion over "creation" (and the Rapture's coming soon anyway)  so we can exploit and destroy the environment if we want. They're also deeply misogynistic and homophobic.  Grade: F.  Monumental Fail.

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