Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brian McLaren: "Why I am Green"

There is a wonderful chapter in Brian McLaren's book A Generous Orthodoxy. The chapter, entitled "Why I am Green," gives an account of McLaren's own involvement, in a small way, in environmental stewardship and then looks at the trend of increasing interest on the part of Christians in protecting and preserving God's creation. A series of chapter subsections outline the movement away from selfish and destructive individualism and consumerism toward a new "green theology":

  • The standard, stagnant theology of creation/fall is giving way to a more vigorous theology of continual creation
  • The eschatology of abandonment is being succeeded by an engaging gospel of the kingdom [in other words, "the doctrine of last things or end times that expects the world to be destroyed" within a fixed period of time is giving way to "the present hope of 'the kingdom of God' that is so central in Jesus' message."]
  • Increased concern for the poor and oppressed leads to increased concern for all of creation
  • There is a succession in our understanding of ownership [McLaren asks: "Can we imagine other understandings of ownership that acknowledge, whatever land records say, that the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains? Can we imagine an economy based on stewardship rather than exclusive ownership?"]
  • There is a succession from local/national to global/local ["Creatures live more essentially in local watersheds than nations. Creatures live in ecological habitats, not just political states. Lines on maps between nations and states are, in a sense, human fictions, changing fashions, revealing some truths but obscuring others, facilitating justice in some ways but frustrating it in others"]
  • A new understanding of neighborliness is replacing an old sense of rugged (a.k.a. selfish) individualism
In this final subsection McLaren says the following, with which I heartily concur:

What exactly will we do differently in this emerging theological habitat, this new stage in the spiritual forest succession? That remains to be seen. But for starters, we will see differently and care differently and value differently. If those differences catch on widely among Christians, with Christianity being the largest religion in the world, there are bound to be good effects in our world.

Ultimately those effects will have to go beyond the important but limited conservation actions of individuals (recycling, reusing, abstaining, etc.). The effects of caring will have to change our systems - transportation systems that depend on fossil fuels and that divide and devastate our nonhuman neighbors` habitats, housing systems that maximize human impact through suburban sprawl, farming systems that rape rather than steward land, advertising systems that make us want more stuff that we don`t need and that will soon fill even more square miles with rotting, rusting trash.


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