Our Reader writes...

Dear Friends,

The recent news items concerning environmental devastation are frightening but not unexpected. It is the rapidity of the decline which has suddenly made people take notice. We have known about global warming, melting ice caps, loss of species, the dangers of deforestation, of monoculture of crops for thirty or forty years at least - I was teaching about them from the 1980’s.  Now, to add to all this, we learn of the ubiquity of plastic in the sea, collapse of pollinating insect populations and threats to our water supply…. and we are surprised!!


We have all, of course, been “doing our bit” by recycling our waste or travelling by train and perhaps by thinking before we buy food from the other side of the world, but now we discover that this is not enough.  A far more radical and universal approach is needed if we are to save the planet and ourselves. Our young people are, understandably, taking action to try to secure a future for themselves by demonstrating, while others are wringing their hands and accepting that we are doomed. There is still a posse who deny there is anything wrong.


What is, or should be, our attitude from a Christian standpoint?  Some maintain that it is Judeo –Christian anthropocentricism, in which Western humankind has taken to extremes the Genesis charge of domination over the earth that has caused the problem.  Others would say that it is a product of the fallen nature of human beings which results in selfishness.  Still others would suggest that it is our thirst for power and progress and economic growth.  Is there another point of view? 


We mostly think of Jesus’ relationships with humans. However, in his teachings about the natural world, we could think negatively of him cursing a fruitless fig tree or sending demons into a herd of pigs, or more positively, we might think of him being ‘with the wild beasts’ in the wilderness, communing with nature in the hills around Galilee, and wonder how he stilled the storm with his voice and walked on water.  Jesus chose to spend his last moments on earth in a garden and it was in a garden that he made his first risen appearance. He himself is referred to as

the Lamb of God.  Jesus and nature are intimately intertwined.


In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we find the picture of the ‘Cosmic Christ’: All things were created by him and through him and in him all things hold together.  As fully human and fully divine Jesus is the perfecter and unifier of the cosmos.  That means that Christ is physicallyactive in the world, but not just the human part of it. He’s also reordering the chaos and redeeming all of it. This, by the way, is not a new idea, but stretches back to the early Church Fathers.


If we really think about this then our attitude to the environment should change: we stand together with bees, frogs and worms and with trees and mosses and algae as fellow sufferers in an imperfect and chaotic world.  Our part in the Stewardship of the Environment has to be more than contributing to the brown bin collection!   Paul writes that Christians should ‘not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ It is a profoundly Christian perspective to be prepared to give up some of our privileges for the sake of others, modelling Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us.  We, who live in the West, and have built our lifestyle on the profligate use of resources, have a particular responsibility to assist those elsewhere whose existence is threatened by climate change. How we do this will be a personal response: what can we sacrifice for the sake of the planet? A local response: what can we say to others to change their attitudes?  A national response: how do we vote? And an international response: what charities do we support?  What is the response of St Michael’s Church to be?


With blessings for the future