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Saturday, June 20, 2015

God, Christians and the Environment

Pope Francis' Encyclical on Climate Change (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/18/read-pope-franciss-full-document-on-climate-change/) has been embraced by some folks on the Left and has been criticized by some on the Right. Richard A. Viguerie has stated: "The encyclical, “Laudato Si, On The Care Of Our Common Home” lends the weight of the Papacy’s authority to the idea of man-made global warming at a time when not only is there more and more evidence that has come forth that global warming is a natural phenomenon, but that there is increasing concern that government “solutions” are keeping people in poverty.
To me this encyclical is most troubling because it comes at a time when Catholics, indeed Christians of all denominations, are facing persecution including torture and death (including crucifixions) in virtually every Muslim majority country and China, as well as a host of moral and spiritual challenges.
While the Pope fiddles with one controversial political issue that is not at the core of spiritual matters, our spiritual culture is burning." (http://www.conservativehq.com/node/20485)Jeb Bush, a Catholic, said, “I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope." He added, "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”
(Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/jeb-bush-knocks-pope-on-climate-change-push-119084.html#ixzz3dcp9RKQ7) Steve Milloy tweeted: "Have finished the Pope's climate encyclical. Highlights tweeted. Some words that come to mind: adolescent, insipid, primitive, embarrassing." (http://www.nytimes.com/live/updates-on-pope-francis-encyclical-on-climate-change/).

The TRUTH is that the folks on the Right don't have any problem injecting their religious views into secular, constitutional and economic issues when it suits their needs. However, when a major religious leaders offers some spiritual guidance on an issue that has been recognized by poets and religionists since the dawn of time as having spiritual significance (the natural environment), they jump on him like a chicken on a June Bug!

In the past, I have written about mass extinction events and what they can tell us about the nature of God. Although many "Christians" dismiss most of the scientific evidence for these events, it really is quite overwhelming. On their website, Endangered Species International has stated: "As unbelievable as it may sound, after having read through the five mass extinctions, the sixth mass extinction is in progress, now, with animals going extinct 100 to 1,000 times (possibly even 1,000 to 10,000 times) faster than at the normal background extinction rate, which is about 10 to 25 species per year. Many researchers claim that we are in the middle of a mass extinction event faster than the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs." (http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/overview.html). They go on to identify five human activities that are fueling this sixth mass extinction event: 1) "Habitat destruction including human-induced climate change," 2) "Invasive species," 3) "Pollution," 4) "Human Overpopulation," and 5) "Over-harvesting" (hunting, fishing and farming). (same source)

Personally, I believe that the Pope's encyclical is right on target. It is consistent with the statement in Genesis that God is the ultimate source/Creator of ALL life on this planet, and that ALL of it was very good. (Genesis 1) It is also consistent with the statement in that same book that says that mankind was expected to "tend and watch over" God's garden. (Genesis 2, NLT) David talked at length about how the natural world demonstrated God's greatness (Psalms), and Paul told the Romans that the natural world demonstrates God's "eternal power and divine nature." (Romans 1, NLT)

So what did the Pope say that was so controversial and upsetting about human environmental policy? Notice this excerpt from his encyclical:
"The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world's poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

Doesn't sound unreasonable, anti-God or anti-progress to me! What do you think?

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