The Christian Tradition

Gloria Schaab in ‘Beyond Dominion And Stewardship’ [ewl, 107-115] agrees with Lynn White Jr’s famous 1967 pronouncement [‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis’] that the Christian tradition has impacted the environment movement negatively, and she offers three traditional interpretations:

  1. divine dominion (based on Genesis 1 and 2)
  2. anthropocentrism (based on the doctrine of humans as the image of god/dess)
  3. other-worldliness (as promoted by mysticism and eschatology)

But she also counters his view with three alternative interpretations that impact the environment movement positively which she calls:

  1. the relational–god/dess (creator) and creation are intimately related in an ongoing, panentheist unity
  2. the sacramental–we know god/dess through revelation
  3. the incarnational–god/dess is the Word made flesh; the universe is god/dess’s body

Schabb relates these three alternative interpretations to three actions:

  1. the contemplative (from the sacramental)–‘to appreciate the beauty of creation and be awed by its mystery’
  2. the ascetic (from the relational)–‘to practice discipline in using Earth’s resources and to make ecologically and environmentally responsible choices’
  3. the prophetic (from the incarnational)–to convert society ‘from anthropocentricism’

She unites these three in Elizabeth A. Johnson’s vision of ‘a flourishing humanity on a thriving earth, in an evolving universe, all together filled with the glory of God’. It strikes me that contemplation, asceticism, and prophesy are thinking, doing, and speaking your truth. Perhaps all three are needed (along with right view, right intention, right effort, right concentration, and right awareness–the other spokes of the dharma wheel) for they are a continuum from the interior through action to the communal, all journeying towards the truth. A truer society depends on a truer self.

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