1887
Volume 2012, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2218-7480
  • E-ISSN:
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Abstract

Many of our most religious contemporaries have tended to focus on the beyond and hereafter, as well as its moral prerequisites, while paying relatively little attention to the natural environment. Thus, the environment is not uncommonly identified with a “here-below” that has to be transcended, if not overcome and mastered. This has held especially true as religious faithful read in the perspective of “nature lovers” and “environmentalists” an exclusive focus on this earth as a natural paradise and an end in itself, one that in fact obstructs any access to God.

Similarly, believers like to emphasize the All-Powerfulness of God, thereby belittling the power of man in the cosmic drama. Thus, an overemphasis on the “hand of God” might lead to the unfortunate consequence of a lack of sense of cosmic responsibility. This was illustrated to my dismay by the reflections of a conservative Evangelical Christian who, upon my mentioning the gravity of the current environmental crisis, could only respond with the words “don't be concerned, God will take care of it.” This tendency is, it must be said, reinforced by the spectacle of feverish activism and utter lack of awareness of God’s power over the cosmos that characterizes the secularized mind of the majority, even when it is self-identified as religious.

As understandable as they may circumstantially be, these attitudes are based on the ignorance, or at least the neglect, of two fundamental religious principles. The first teaches that the roots of nature are to be found in God: the beauty and majesty of virgin nature reflect the Divine Qualities, and must therefore be approached as sacred. The second lies in the responsibility with which mankind is entrusted by its Creator to care over nature. Mankind’s God-given privilege of “dominion” over nature is not a license to plunder it, no more than the parents’ God-given authority over their children can legitimize any abuse. Thus, a radical restoration of religious environmental consciousness would presuppose both a sense of the divine presence in the world, and an understanding of mankind’s metaphysical function in the cosmos. Short of an awareness of the anthropo-cosmic unity of God, mankind and nature, a measure of environmental consciousness is indeed possible --as we can observe interestingly in secular Northern Europe, but it misses the point of nature as a symbol and a presence, and condemns itself to remain superficially utilitarian, sentimental or moralistic.

Traditional religions have taught their faithful to be aware of both transcendence and immanence, both the Divine Beyond and the Divine Presence, both Divine power and human freedom and responsibility. Today’s believers need to realize more fully that the here-below proceeds from, and reflects, the Beyond, and that Divine Power does not abolish mankind’s capacities and duties, but in fact enhances them.

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2012-10-01
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  • Article Type: Editorial
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