“The natural world is the life-giving nourishment of our physical, emotional, aesthetic, moral, and religious existence. The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.”
We live in a sacramental universe, a universe that is an expression of the divine, an outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The inward and spiritual grace at the heart of creation is revealed by its outward and physical manifestations. The ongoing, evolving creation reveals God as its Source. God’s beauty and love, power and energy are mediated through the natural world.
This understanding is missed by those whose primary form of news, analysis, and entertainment is commercial television and whose worldview is shaped by the commercial media. Today’s dominant commercial culture knows nothing of the sacramental value of life or the intrinsic value of God’s creation. Its view is purely utilitarian, based on turning plants, animals, land, and even water into commodities so that they can be bought and sold, reducing their value to the economic value of the bottom line. This ideology desacrilizes life and creates a framework that allows creation to be exploited for the sake of human beings. It also diminishes human life and hopes for the future.
In spite of our incredible cultural and technological accomplishments, we humans are still created beings, dependent on the God who created us and interdependent with the rest of creation: plants and trees, mountains and rivers, stars and swirling galaxies. What we do affects the whole web of life, and the condition of the whole affects us. Poisons released into the air and waters come to lodge in our tissues, as well as in the tissues of the other creatures with whom we share the earth. The loss of other species depletes the biological diversity from which medicines and food sources for human beings are developed, while also diminishing the whole. Climate change brings floods and super-hurricanes, changes disease patterns, destroys ecosystems, and threatens to submerge whole islands, including populated ones.
In the midst of these grave challenges, faith communities have a profound opportunity and responsibility to lend aid and to point in the direction of hope. We hope that the materials listed here will help inspire and motivate us all to do our small part in helping to preserve God's creation, for the sake of the people we love, for the sake of the whole, for the sake of future generations, for the sake of our souls.
What Individuals and Families Can Do
Simplicity is a traditional spiritual discipline, a means of grace that has been practiced by Christians and people of other faith traditions. It is a basic form of spiritual resistance to the commercial pressures to over-consume. By moving toward a sustainable lifestyle through the practice of simplicity we exercise our moral agency, develop our integrity, and contribute to a more hopeful future.
We can also move toward connection with the larger community, supporting local small businesses and farmers, and working on regional, national, and global initiatives that move us toward the needed transformation.
What Local Churches Can Do
Churches and other faith communities can offer creative, celebratory events that nourish the spirit, demonstrate alternatives to the consumer culture, and bring hope and joy. Such experiences are spiritually renewing and enable us to stay in the struggle for the long haul. Worship services and rituals can be held outside, or can incorporate story, symbol, and art to cultivate reverence for God’s creation.
Small groups can provide support for lifestyle change and action. Bible studies, prayer groups, book studies, workshops, educational forums can raise peoples’ consciousness about God in creation and our responsibility to the natural world. Local churches can institute programs that enable them to witness and model the emerging paradigm of Earth Community by eliminating toxic chemicals, becoming more energy efficient, creating a community garden, or landscaping with native plants. In these ways, churches demonstrate concern for God’s creation and model responsible stewardship.
Churches can work with interfaith and secular organizations to create sustainable communities and advocate for policies of justice, peace, and environmental healing.
Order Hope for the Earth: A Handbook for Christian Environmental Groupsby Sharon Delgado