Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Religion and the Environment

Pope BenedictI noticed two interesting stories about religion and the environment yesterday. The Vatican has listed seven new mortal sins, including polluting the environment, causing poverty, and accumulating excessive wealth. I'm a practicing Christian and my environmentalism and personal ethics come directly from my faith, so I'm delighted with this new list. I'm also very surprised to see the Pope (particularly this Pope) so in tune with my own thinking. I know a lot of people might find this news story totally irrelevant, but I found it very welcome.

The other story that attracted my attention was about the Southern Baptist Church in the USA. Church leaders have announced that man-made climate change is real and their members have a duty to prevent it. I'm not knowledgeable about American politics, but I know the Southern Baptist Church has a great influence on the Republican party in particular, and a knock-on effect on the Democrats as well since they cannot ignore what the Southern Baptists say and do. Another major influence on Republican politics is the energy industry, and green commentators have blamed this influence for President Bush's infuriating inaction on climate change. Now that the Southern Baptist Church has taken this position, it will be very interesting to see what effect it has on Republican policy.

Photograph by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency.

24 comments:

Wulf said...

Both good bits of news - thanks for highlighting them.

Joyce said...

Actually, I'm a Baptist, and many American Evangelicals have strong environmantal concerns as stewards of Creation. Have you read the "Evangelical Climate Initiative"? A lot of Christian leaders in the U.S. have signed off on it. (If I was more tech savvy I would give you the link here, but I'm still learning, so just google it.)
By the way, I'm so enjoying your posts, and "meeting" UK bloggers with similar interests. Wish we could meet up for coffee sometime!

ilex said...

On behalf of all Americans, I apologize for George W. Bush!

Republican policy *shouldn't* matter for much longer- they will be in the minority once Barack is president and we can finally get back to having the adults in charge.

I say *shouldn't* because no group can snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory quite like the Democratic Party.

The Church says accumulating wealth is a sin, huh? Does this mean the Pope will shortly be liquidating the holdings of the Vatican?!?

zzrmags said...

Hi I've just found your blog and I think it's wonderful :-) I've subscribed to the email updates and will one day work out how to actually link it to my LiveJournal account. I'm trying to do my bit too, small as it may seem, but hey it's actually quite fun. And so rewarding! Next on the list is my own veggie patch for fresh, organic veggies and herbs. So a big hello from a 30yr old Australian female new fan.

Jane said...

Hi, that's very interesting Mel, I'm a lapsed catholic and as agnostic as it's possible to be and for those reasons I think that human kind must clean up it's own mess. It's interesting to see that many people come to enivromental thinking from different directions.

Gareth Rae said...

I'd heard the bit about the Roman Catholic church on the news last night but not the bit about the Southern Baptists. Good news on both fronts. It's just a shame that the church, instead of leading from the front, always seems to be bringing up the rear. Still better late than never. It'll be interesting to see how these pronouncemets work out in practice.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I just finished a large book entitled "This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment." It has pretty much every big text from the big Christian "sects" on how to interpret the Bible coorectly, or green, and that the Bible IS meant to be a green guide. These sections woke me up to realizing I can be Christian AND "liberal." Other parts of the book go into detail showoing how many specific religions have green teachings toward each other and the earth. One chapter, I think evangelical based, said we need all religions to get the one proper viewpoint toward climate change--this seemed enlightened and refreshing. I keep meaning to post about it on my blog. It's important--esp in the U.S.--that puritan practices play a key role in ecology, or, reseeing our puritan heritage to create change at the personal level of joe schmo.

Allie said...

I saw the pope news yesterday -- thought that was really interesting, but I hadn't heard about the Southern Baptists. It is nice to see environmental responsibility embraced as the right thing to do.

amy said...

"polluting the environment, causing poverty, and accumulating excessive wealth." what how can these be sins i so dont agree this is just living.
Polluing the environment everyone will do this at some point, (cars, smoking, washing machines, dustbin waste etc etc)therefore how can this be classed as as relgious sin, aswel as poverty i mean this is just bringing into account globalisation, poorer countries do need money and help from the richer countries,thats how richer countries like america and companies like mc donalds influence other cultures, but i dont see how this could be classed as a sin, maybe i have got the wrong end of the stick here, but who says the pope can rewrite what and what cannot be classed as a sin, surely this is just his opinion?
also why do we assume the pope knows what is best for us, just because he is the leader of the catholic church does that mean that everything he says is correct.
to be honest i think its a load of rubbish how many poeple and scientists have been complaining about climate change and the effects it will have on our environment? but now because the pope has spoken about sins "oh we must act"?????

N. & J. said...

I wrote about this on my blog as well and while I'm hopeful I'm also skeptical. I haven't seen many local churches attempting to go green and if the church isn't setting the example by action I don't see people acting.

N.

http://badhuman.wordpress.com

Yellow said...

I think that the fact that the Pope has chosen to speak out just means that the 'green' message will reach another group of people in words and a voice that they identify with. Not meaning to be flippant, but it's like getting a bunch of rock musicians organising a concert to raise awareness. Their fans will hear the message and, as they respect what the group sing, say and do, they may take the message to heart in a way that they wouldn't have done if they saw a stuffy old politician on TV discussing it.
Climate change isn't an opinion. It's a fact. The media are creating confusion when they give the same amount of air time to those who think it's baloney as they do to respected scientists. It makes viewers think that the matter is open to debate, like we can vote on whether or not we've caused pollution and changed the earth's habitat so much that it's suffering big style. I often shout at the telly. But I bet you could tell that already, huh!

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I am not religious and do not have a belief in a personal God. And until I began my own environmental blog, I just assumed that Christians didn't care about the environment. Boy was I wrong, and I have learned quite a bit from Christians who read my blog and quite obviously care deeply. Whether you believe in taking care of the earth because it's all there is (the agnostic/atheist view) or taking care of the earth because it was given to us by a Divine Creator, we all have reasons to care about the health of our world.

Anonymous said...

@ - I think you have the wrong end of the stick. note it was things like "_causing_ poverty" and "_excessive_ wealth" - essentially talking about selfishness. The same with pollution.

Of course being an atheist I don't go by what the pope says, or find it at all reassuring the level of influence that religion has in America or the world generally. But as others have said, it is good to see pressure coming from all directions on being more eco.

Neil

Moonwaves said...

While I can see that this announcement from the Catholic Church may sway some people towards caring more for the environment to be honest, the cynic in me doesn't think it's worth much more than a bit of publicity for the church. As an agnostic who was raised as a Catholic I am all too aware of the fact that (in Ireland at any rate) there are not that many people out there who take their religion seriously enough to really 'live' it. Obviously there are some people here who do but certainly the vast majority of people I know who still claim to be practising Catholics mean that they go to Mass and not much more. So, I don't think it will make much difference to many but am hopeful that even if it makes a difference to one person, that will have made it worthwhile.

This also seems a somewhat hypocritical stance from a church which has done a fair amount to contribute to the massive overpopulation of the planet (obviously there are a lot of other factors too).

gregra&gar said...

While he was at it, the pope might have mentioned the sin of careless reproduction or the sin of treating the earth as if it were raw material granted to mankind by some imaginary omnipotence to treat any damned way that comes to mind for profit. The gigantic quantity of people with this belief in reckless ownership is the core cause of the enormity of our ecoproblems and the direct result of the misguidance by western civilizations monotheistic leaders. And the bit about accumulated wealth makes the pope the worlds biggest hypocrite.

Joyce said...

Anonymous-The focus on selfishness is right on. In my tradition we are taught that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's self. So wastefulness, overconsumption, ignoring the needs of the poor, etc.,are all the opposite of love. And, I think it was Pastor Rob Bell who said something like "How we treat the Creation says something about what we think of the Creator." So it all fits.

What I have seen with my own eyes, though, are how poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand. On a trip to Honduras, there was trash everywhere because there is no systematic way to haul it off. And I saw poor families picking through trash heaps-and the free-gans wouldn't have touched this stuff with a ten-foot pole. At the orphanage we were building, we were trying to educate the wonderful staff about just going ahead and burning the rubbish, instead of leaving it around, because the flies were so thick both inside and out. It wasn't an environmnetally friendly way to handle it, but there really wasn't an alternative. Until there is more justice for these people, I don't know how the problem will be solved. This is why, as much as I love the natural world, people must be prioritized. Lift them, and then the environment can be lifted.

Anonymous said...

It's the Southern Baptist Convention not Southern Baptist Church.

caerleon said...

zzrmags: just add "mrimmerblog" to your LJ friends list..

earthquaker said...

Melanie -- I just found your site and like it very much. It looks like we have the same interests. I just this week wrote posts on my blog about these same two recent news stories! Check out earthquaker.org.

All the best,
Simon

esto es nuevo para mi said...

Thanks very much. I agree with you. I am a Catholic and environment issues are important to me. Recently I bought a book by Carl Honoré, which is related to the slow movement. I have realised that I am able to implement many good habits just by paying a little bit of attention on things.
Again Thanks from Barcelona.

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