Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Sets Paradigm Shift: “Our Common Home”

It should have been obvious. I had read the entire encyclical, Laudato Si’, and had read the phrase “our common home” countless times. But it was after reading Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam’s book, The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2019) that I realized the immensity of Pope Francis’ paradigm shift.

 

We have so much more at stake than an “environmental problem.” This really is a crisis of “our common home.” And as such, everyone is involved; we cannot be indifferent.

 
An “environmental crisis” can be overlooked. After all, it is, environmental. It has to do with something outside of us, something external. Ok, so we are not merely complacent, but if we attend to doing a few things that are “environmentally friendly;” isn’t that enough? Isn’t that all we really can do?

 
After all, we are not scientists. We don’t understand carbon cycles and ozone layers. We’re not geologists that can think in terms of glaciation and warming, tides and volcanos; we don’t think in terms of millions of years, let alone four billion years. We don’t deal with water tables, fault lines, tectonic plate shifts and the disappearance of drinkable water. We’re not economists that can wrap our heads around investments and profits, local economies and global economies and why buying affordable shirts in the west may mean exploiting undeveloped countries; why having strawberries year round and coffee means some villages starve. We’re not politicians who differentiate between “aid” and loans, and why some loans to developing countries can’t be simply written off. We don’t think about those things. There’s nothing e can do about them anyway.

 
And the climate change is not happening in our own back yard. Yet.

 
Certainly, people are concerned; some, even alarmed. More so day by day. But there are still more who, in the terms of the Yale Study on The Six Faces of America (https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/about/projects/global-warmings-six-americas/ ) are “cautious’, “disengaged”, “doubtful” and “dismissive.” We can carry on with our normal routines.

 
However, in Kureethadam’s words “Pope Francis reminds us of what we are really sleepwalking into: a possible collapse of our common home.” (p. 21)

 
This crisis has to do with “the discourse (logos) centered around our very common home (oikos). It is an eco-logical crisis having to do with the fate of our very home.”

 
He goes on to say that “Earth is our home, and our only home. We are Earthlings, imago mundi, formed from the dust of the earth.” (p.21) If this common home called Earth collapses, there is no ark that will take all life forms on earth to populate another planet. In spite of what our movies tell us.

 
This is not just one of many challenges facing humanity; this is about the destiny of our home, the wellbeing of all living beings now and for generations to come. We cannot remain indifferent. We are involved. We are interconnected (a major theme of Pope Francis, as well as many environmentalists). And the challenges before us are more than scientific and political, and social and economic, and health-related and…

 
Now the picture of this paradigm shift becomes clear. Now it becomes understandable why the encyclical addresses the future of humanity but also the future of all living creatures. This is why a religious leader, such as a Pope, takes on the ethics of consumerism and the dangers of political decisions being made by non-elected businesspeople, without the input of indigenous people, women, others marginalized and those most direly affected by economic and political decisions. This is more than Bible and Heaven and God’s salvation.

 
Pope Francis uses very intimate language about our home, our sisters and our brothers, not exclusively the human family, but, in the language of Francis of Assisi, fire, water, moon and earth.

 
Think of your own family. You live in a neighborhood. There is an historical context to this neighborhood. Life is not just about today but is shaped by a lot of yesterdays, and hopefully the dreams for many tomorrows. Like it or not, there are forces affecting your family over which you have no control. Matters like race, gender, education, physical and mental health. And yet you assume some responsibility.

 
Your livelihood depends on your abilities to hold a job and complete your responsibilities. But you have little control over company mergers, office closures, or the price of your goods overseas. And you may have completed high school, but you had no control over the resources available to you, again because of race, gender, or economic class. Not all high schools are the same.

 
You do all you can to maintain a safe home, a comfortable home. You make the repairs required, as you can afford them. As you are physically able. But prices go up. Rivers rise; streets flood. The garden doesn’t produce like it used to. Seasons are different. Sunlight, rainfall and wind patterns are changing.

 
There may be elements in your soil, your water, your air which affect your health, even the health of your unborn children.

 
Looking after your home is so much more complicated than paying some energy bills mowing the lawn and putting food on the table.

 
And what’s true for your home is true also for mine. And for those homes up the street and across town. Homes in the next town and the next province have similar issues. As do homes in another country and on another continent.

 
And what about the forty million currently displaced from homes because of war, famine, flooding, drought, and other disasters?

 
And then there are the creatures of the air and the sea; the forest and the prairie. What’s home to them? And how are the decisions we make affecting those homes?

 
What we are facing is more than an environmental crisis. There are threats to our common home. And as neighbors we are all involved. We all have a stake in and a responsibility for our common home.

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God’s Future: Not Coercion, But Conversion!

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis.

 
I want to look at the familiar story of Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10, from a rather unfamiliar point of interpretation. Moltmann says that God’s future is assured for us in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The future draws us into its fulfillment. The future is not only promised by God through Christ, but is fulfilled, accomplished. “The present of salvation…only has a future if this future is promised, initiated, and anticipated in that present… the present becomes the foundation of knowledge about that future. Our statements spoken out of our present into the divine future are possible on the basis of the divine word spoken into our present out of God’s future.” (emphasis his, p.45)

 
Moltmann’s fourth essay in this collection, “Hope and Development,” is well worth the reader’s time. Moltmann stresses his now familiar theme of the assurance of God’s future given in the crucified Christ. As such, it is not a future that may be extrapolated from reason, political design, or economic forecast. It is different. It is “other.” Moltmann (and Pope Francis in Laudato Si) is not confident in the political or economic leadership to take the risks, make the decisions required for effective climate interventions, because these sectors focus on the short-term gains and seek to maintain and extend the status quo. Moltmann, Pope Francis and Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, think that what is required is a moral conversion, a change of heart.

 
From this base, let us consider the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus.

 
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He worked within the law to collect the tax and was allowed by that law to make a tidy profit

 

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Jesus came to the city of Jericho. Jesus announced that salvation had come to this city. Now, Zacchaeus was a wee, little man and needed to climb a tree in order to see what all the commotion was about, to see this person, Jesus. It is from that vantage point, from the perspective from the tree, Zacchaeus could see Jesus.

 
And Jesus could see Zacchaeus. ”Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.”

 
Clinging to the tree, Zacchaeus encountered Jesus. When Zacchaeus climbed down from the tree, he could see Jesus, hear Jesus, break bread with Jesus, and then he knew that salvation had come to his house as well.

 
And Zacchaeus knew what had to be done. He would give half of what he owned to the poor. And everyone he had defrauded, he would repay four times over.
How different this story is from another one, the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

 
Another time, a lawyer asked Jesus, “What do I have to do to be saved?” Jesus responded with his own question, ”What does the law stipulate? What is required? What do you have to do?” “But I’ve done all that,” the lawyer responded. Now the lawyer wants to negotiate, to argue… “What is required? What do I have to do? What’s fair? Who is my neighbor?

 
Here is the story within the story. Jesus tells of someone who fell among robbers.

 

There are two others, a priest and a Levite, who did not get involved. It wasn’t that they were mean or inconsiderate; indeed, they were obedient to the law that required their ritual purity! To get their hands dirty in this case would defile them and eliminate them for a time from their ritual duties. They were legally correct, but hardly neighborly.

 
There was this other character, a Samaritan, someone neither expected nor obligated to get involved, who did get his hands dirty, gave of his resources, went out of his way, stayed longer than expected, and pledged to cover the victim’s expenses, no matter what it cost!

 
Who was a neighbor to the victim? Jesus had turned the question around. The lawyer asked, “who is my neighbor?” What is required of me? What must I do?” Jesus was asking “to whom are you a neighbor?” The question is no longer “what must I do?”, but “what is required?”

 
Confronted with this change, realizing that the neighbor is the one who shows mercy, the lawyer could not do it.

 
The lawyer had asked, “what does the law require?” Jesus had asked, “What does the heart require?”

 
What’s the import for the climate crisis now?

 
What does the law allow? Governments do what they have to do to appease the constituents. Businesses do what they have to do to appease the stockholders, to insure profits, control market-share, create new products for insatiable appetites. Sectors will argue about causality, responsibility. They will negotiate “carbon credits.” Multi-national meetings will be held, agreements will be signed. Targets will be set, but there is no consistent authority for supervision and enforcement. What must we do? What’s fair? What can we get away with? It appears we can not coerce change. Pass laws about access to pipelines, fish quotas, transporting and disposing of toxic waste, emission controls, worker safety, fair wages, indigenous rights…. But who will enforce them? And will those laws still be in place when the new government takes a term? What can be done about governments that are blind to corruption, organized crime, extinction of species, and human trafficking?

 
Who pays for new initiatives? The costs for redevelopment are too high for under-developed countries. Maybe loans can be arranged, concessions negotiated, tariffs set. As long as there can still be a profit in the short term. Not much thought is given to the long term; not enough action is taken now, if the costs can be borne by future generations.

 
If we want to address change in the natural ecology, we must also address change in the human ecology!

 
Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch for the Orthodox Church has stressed that climate interventions are not social, political, or economic problems alone. There is a moral dimension. This is a spiritual problem. Until humanity, especially in developed countries, is willing to make the sacrifice to significantly change its lifestyle, there will not be effective change.

(See https://www.patriarchate.org/patriarchaldocuments/-/asset_publisher/2lzbCNORLysD/content/sacrifice-the-missing-dimension-closing-remarks of-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-at-the-fourth-symposium-on-religion-science-and-theenvironment-on?inheritRedirect=false)
Zacchaeus recognized Jesus not as a new political ruler, not a successful businessman. Zacchaeus recognized this man Jesus came with power, but not like the usual powers. Zacchaeus saw Christ from the perspective of “the tree.” Zacchaeus saw what was necessary. He saw the need. He recognized an opportunity. Nothing was “required” of him. But he was willing to make the sacrifice. He would give – deeply – from his resources. He would pay back, with significant interest, what had been taken legally but not morally. Zacchaeus had a change of heart. He responded to conversion, not coercion.

 
Christ has come to the global village. The future has been promised, assured and initiated. There is an ethical response, a requirement of the heart, if not the law. Christ has come to bring wholeness, reconciliation, restoration, justice, and new life. But we can’t expect a new tomorrow while remembering yesterday and clinging to today. The response of conversion is the response of love. The response of conversion is the desire for the common good, not just my own good. The response of conversion comes from sharing the experience of the cross, entering into suffering, for the sake of redemption and the discovery of transformative power.

 
Christ has come to the global village. What will it look like when Christ comes to your house? How will you respond? Like Zacchaeus? We shall see.

So, What Does God’s Future Look Like? How Will We Get Out of This Climate Crisis?

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together in a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis.

 
Recent blogs in this series have considered what the future might be like. What will come of this climate crisis? There are secular voices that describe a resolution springing forth through advances in science and technology. Others are less hopeful, describing a bleak civilization living in a dangerous, colorless, environment. There are faithful voices that sing of deliverance from Christ who will come again in glory and restore creation to a state better than the beginning. Other Christian voices preach that this crisis is the result of humanity’s greed and negligence, and we are suffering God’s judgement for centuries of injustice and disobedience. Only the truly faithful will be snatched to their reward.

 
Moltmann argues that science and technology do not have the salvific strengths we require. Indeed, we have the technological capacities now. We have the economic capacities to make a difference now. But we do not have the political or business will. Moltmann argues, as do others, that those in power make decisions to sustain their status and power. And a future based on present circumstances will only continue those circumstances.

 
We need God. Not “God of the gaps.” But God who is faithful; God who has made promises; God who beckons us into a future already assured, through Christ, but yet to be fulfilled.

 
What does that future look like? It begins with God longing for creation. It begins with our current pain! God intends creation, with all its complexity and balance, diversity and interdependence, beauty and violence. God desires reconciliation, a restoration, a wholeness again. Not just for human souls but for trees and waters and creatures. The created orders live and by their existence praise God. But those created orders are suffering. And, therefore, God is suffering. The cries of creation in pain are the cries of God in pain.

 
And the cries of God’s people who bear the same spirit, exhibit the same love, and are touched by the same anguish. It’s our pain! Creation longs for restoration. God longs for restoration. We long for restoration!

 
God desires something new. Not the bleak dystopian image of blackened skies and blackened waters and the loss of tens of thousands of species. No, something more. Not the same as now. Not the same as before. But something arising from the beginning. Something other.

 
But this restoration of creation requires a restoration of humanity. Whether we can rest the “blame” for this crisis on human depravity, greed, and self-indulgence, or not… humanity is out of touch with creation… with one another… and with God.

 
Harmony within nature requires harmony within humanity. They are not inseparable. Separation is how the problem began. Separation from wholeness, wellbeing, truth, creation… and God… is sin. Sin has been there from the beginning. God’s desire to restore and reconcile and redeem sin has been there… from the beginning.

 
So, will all the lost flowers and grains and animals of creation be restored in God’s future? Probably not. Will creation go on and on… but without humankind? Will humanity be eradicated like some devastating virus? Possibly. But probably not.

 
Holy writings have stories about an angry, jealous, fed-up God, so frustrated that God would destroy everything and start over. But the story says, God would not stay angry, jealous and fed-up, and God would never judge the world with absolute destruction again.

 

 

So what option is left? God might just go away and let the creation and humanity, puffing away its pollutant gases, asphyxiate itself. But no, instead God would come, and breathe upon his children and give them a new Spirit and raise a new life in the breath of God – as it was in the beginning!

 
But to do this, God will no longer – if ever was – be apart from creation, winding it up and going away for tens or thousands or millions of years, only to return and check on “how things are going”! God would no longer sit on a throne as judge over creation, judging and acquitting based on behavior righteously appropriate to the divine and the righteousness of a holy creation, but barely capable of the human.

 
No, God would become so closely entwined with creation that the thorns on the earth would become the thorns on the head of Christ. The scars on the mountains would become the scars on the back and shoulders and chest of the divine. The melting of the ice caps would become the tears of heaven.

 
Moltmann assures that the hope for humanity’s future is in the Christ of the cross.
But this Christ will turn competition into compassion… the divide between wealthy and poor will be bridged by justice…. the exploitation of the poor, disadvantaged, widowed, and slaves will become the wedding feast of a people freed!

 
Moltmann writes: “Ever since the exile, Judaism has had to talk and think under the conditions of the dispersion. But Christianity has to talk and to think under the conditions of mission.” (p.35) For centuries, Christianity has chosen to express itself through complex philosophical discourse and language. “The real problem, in my view, is not whether or how far, it is permissible to absorb philosophical elements into theology, but whether and how far eschatological faith can arrive at historical self-consciousness” (p. 35)

 
Will we prattle about what we believe… or will we live as we love?
We have this “riddle of disappointment.” (p. 36) We have this expectation – this promise of healing, deliverance and restoration – but why not now?

 
Could it be that “the Day of Judgement” is not coming? ( p. 36) “The end of the world can never come” (p.36) because the end of the world, in our own worldly thinking, is already stripped away! Christ is that end of the world, that eschatological event, already present! Two thousand years have passed since Jesus of Nazareth. But that is not the frustration of Christian hope at all!

 
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. The death of Christ is the death of humanity. The raising of Christ is the raising of humanity. The promise has been fulfilled. The new creation has begun. Yet there is this “unfulfilled eschatological remainder.” (p.38)

 
Do we focus on the gap? Or on the nearness? Christ has brought God near. Even God entering into our suffering. The glory of Easter then is not in the final climax… still to be enjoyed. The glory of Easter is the capacity, the willingness, the possibility, the reality of entering into suffering with and on behalf of the suffering! (p.39)

 
God is not far away. God is not way above. God in Christ has come alongside. God does not merely create the world; God enters into it. God fully takes the world into the divine self. This is the mystery of the incarnation. But the incarnation is not about only one being, Jesus of Nazareth; it is about creating and recreating, seeking and redeeming the cosmos. The mystery of the resurrection is that darkness, death, and destruction are not the end of the story. God has promised to make all things new. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will dance. The imprisoned will be set free. The lion will lie down with the lamb. There will be streams in the desert. That promise was accomplished at the open tomb. As Jesus said, “It is finished.”

 
Now there is an ethical consequence… “The ethical consequence is: because, and in so far as, the coming God already antedates his future, giving it in advance (emphasis his) in history, men and women can and should anticipate this future in knowledge and in deed.” (p. 47) They will participate in the eschatological, liberating history of God. Anticipation is the hope of those, who, through the Spirit of Christ, have become poor, who with the poor hope for the new, liberating future of God. Anticipation is not content with the present, but does not take the place of consummation either. It is the ‘now already’ in the midst of the ‘not yet.’” (p.47)

 
So, what does this mean? Christians will identify with creation and all its creatures. The pain of the planet in peril is our pain. Christians will have a relationship with creation that does not seek to manipulate nature as a problem to be fixed, or a resource to be exploited. Christians will seek the care and well-being of all species. So Christians will fully enter into the suffering of our world, in order to accompany it, and will apply all their resources to benefit this world, healing its suffering, restore its brokenness and reconcile the balances and well-being intended from the beginning. Christians will approach God’s future from the aspect of Christ crucified, in order to apply their lives to the praise of Christ glorified. There is hope.

 
What does this hope look like? More to follow.

 

 

The Best Laid Plans….

Continuing reflections jumping from Jurgen Moltmann’s The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis) 2007.

 
What do you hope for? Or fear? What do you plan for? How far ahead? How much control do you have over your future… especially in light of an ecological crisis?

 
Are you familiar with the term Eschatology? Moltmann likes to speak of the eschatological surprise! (p.42) This is God’s “leap” into a hole in our expectations. It’s a new thing God brings, a surprise. It is because God is free. God can- and does – do a new thing. But it’s not a frightening thing, because it is rooted in the remembrance of Jesus Christ, crucified and raised, and therefore a certain hope.

 
How will we ever get out of this ecological crisis? Consider this as the beginning of an answer:
“The only people who have any interest in prolonging this rule of the present over the future are those who possess and dominate the present. The have-nots, the suffering and the guilty, however, ask for a different (emphasis his) future; they ask for change and liberation.” (p.43)

 
It’s been observed that if a solution to the ecological crisis rested with science or politics, we would have one. We have the technology to make changes now. We have the economics to make changes now. But those changes are not coming. It has been observed by Pope Francis, and many others, that the problem is neither a problem of science nor of politics. This is an ethical problem, a spiritual problem.

 
Some would say science is valueless. Science only explores what is and what can be done; there is no moral accountability. Science is but a tool.

 
Not all would agree that science is so neutral. A hammer may be neutral. A gun may be neutral. A nuclear weapon or biological weapon is not neutral. Certainly, the lethality of a weapon, including a hammer, rests in the motivation, decision-making, and action of the person or persons who hold the weapon. Nevertheless, the very existence of such a weapon raises the risk of intentional or accidental harm. The line of reasoning, the capability, the continuation of a line of research and development continues on a particular trajectory until forces behind the research and development say, “Enough.”

 
Some would say that politics – and its related commitments to a particular economic order – will only serve to insure those who have power remain in power. So, the wealthy and influential seek to remain so. There is more investment in maintaining status quo and furthering the anticipation of continued exploration, development, and commercialization. This is economic growth. The assumption is that growth is limitless. However, Earth is finite. There are limits to natural resources in the ground; clean, accessible water; disposal of cumulative waste. But anticipation, based on experience, shapes what we know, and influences what we choose to do.

 
But the anticipation of the poor, the displaced, the vulnerable, those without voice and influence, is hardly that of the boardroom and the legislature.

 
Moltmann writes, “man’s (sic) faith, for its part, then becomes anticipation, that is, tense expectation, and the historical anticipation of fulfilment according to the forces and potentialities of history.” (p.47)

 
But computer forecasts and election history do not determine salvation history. The outcome, “the day and the hour no one knows” (Mark 13:32 quoted on p. 43) Are God’s ways only hidden? The future is not always dark to the light of Easter faith. God is a God of promise. The promise is given in the present, from God’s future, already assured and fulfilled. And the remembrance of God’s fulfilling acts in the past anticipates that this promising and faithful God will do what has been assured.

 
Moltmann writes, “The Easter faith has therefore a correspondingly proleptic structure: it already lives from the future that has already been given in anticipatory form, and already realizes its potentialities in history to the extent in which it is no longer confined to the pattern of this world.” (P. 47)

 
Secular society seems to promise that the future, as experienced in the past, will overcome present challenges and crises. The past drives the future – human will, human achievement, art, social prosperity will continue to expand and triumph, grow and develop. The movement is forever forward, from past through present into the future.

 
Easter faith says something different. God acts from the future, pulling humanity, pulling creation, pulling evolution into the ultimate fulfillment. The fulfillment, the future, is Love (Teilhard de Chardin, and others).

 
Moltmann writes, “the ethical consequence is: because, and in so far as, the coming God already anticipates his future, giving it in advance (emphasis his) in history, men and women can and should anticipate this future in knowledge and in deed. They will then understand eschatology historically and will grasp history eschatologically. They will participate in the eschatological, liberating history of God. Anticipation is the hope of those, who, through the Spirit of Christ, have become poor, who with the poor hope for the new, liberating future of God. Anticipation is not content with the present, but does not take the place of consummation either. It is the ‘now already’ in the midst of the ‘not yet.’ (p. 47) .

 
God’s future – becoming realized – is free. God’s future transforms the patterns of this world. From greed to generosity. From fear to hope. From competition to cooperation. From constructed and enforced unity to diversity. From absence to abundance. From today to tomorrow.

 
God’s future, assured in the cross of Jesus Christ, is not about increased power, greater affluence, unlimited opportunity. The cross looks quite different. And so does the future.

 
More to come.

Views of the Future and Expectations of Individuals, Creation, God, and Culture.

Previously, seven different expectations for the future were described. This may not be a complete list. There may be variations on many themes. But let these serve to illustrate that each view of the future says something about the role of the individual, one’s place in creation, the nature of God, and the nature of society. Refer to the previous blog to review the position of each view of the future.

 
A. Spiritual people are mere visitors on this planet; our ultimate destiny is heaven. In this view the individual is not meant to be a caretaker of creation. Indeed, matters of the flesh, concerns for daily life, may be distractions that turn away the individual from one’s primary relationship to god. Life on earth is really only preparation, perhaps even a testing, before judgement and reward in heaven. God is not a part of creation. God is above creation. Spiritual people really ought not be concerned with science; much of science is unbiblical, a lie. And “politics has no business in the church.”

 
B. A corollary to A. Bring on Armageddon! This view takes the expectation of heaven one step further. The individual believes that in believing rightly and living rightly, one proves one’s righteousness and worthiness for the reward of heaven. Life on earth is so unfair, so corrupt, so ungodly, one seeks to avoid the sins of the flesh and one is in conflict with “others” who believe and act differently. Individuals and collectives of similar view are pure and need to separate from those who are “impure.” There is suspicion of people who are different. Isolationism and protectionism are expressed in bigotry. Indeed, as agents of a Righteous God, such individuals build protective “islands,” or walled states. If need be they are not afraid to fight, even to use nuclear weapons. They have no fear; they are righteous. God is righteous. God will punish. They will be rewarded.

 
C. This is a very different view. Humanity is at the top of creation or in the center of creation. Creation is wonderful, useful, intended to be for the purposes of humanity. God is benevolent and kind. But God is separate from creation, still “above.” Humanity, at least those in developed countries, with wealth, and power, have the gift of self-determination. This is a positive, optimistic view of humanity. Individuals can have the future they deserve, by determination and hard work. Class structure provides for the privilege of those in power. But those in power may at times be generous with mutually beneficial deals, welfare, social assistance, and benefits. But those in power are not responsible to bring about fundamental social change for the sake of the poor and marginalized. Society, that is, the majority make decisions that help to build culture, industry, and technology. There is no accountability to a higher standard, value, or “god.” Humanity has the capacity of destruction, granted. But reasonable people will find technological solutions to the earth’s problems, given enough time, and money.

 
D. This view sees God above creation and still judgemental, angry, destructive. This view does not have the confidence of being among the righteous. The destruction of the planet with all its suffering is deserved. Individuals are helpless. Society is basically corrupt. The end is near.

 
E. The viewpoint expressed in “E” is overwhelmed. The problem is too complex. Solutions are conflicted. It’s too late. It’s too expensive. There’s nothing a single person can do to make a difference. And even a particular society cannot accomplish anything worthwhile if the whole world does not cooperate… so why try?

 
F. This is the perspective on the future of one who has a conscience, feels some compassion, and acknowledges some responsibility. God may suffer along with creation. God may intend redemption, but God is either silent or a poor source for new life. Individually one feels the same helplessness as above, but will not let go of a certain hope. Nevertheless, unless connected to a supportive like-minded, this person may fall into helplessness, apathy, or despair. There is some hope in “the human spirit,” the “heart of compassion,” a sense of selflessness. Hard work, collaboration, shared sacrifice might help. But there is less confidence in humanity’s capacity or will to make areal difference.

 

G. Consciousness will continue. This view says humanity will disappear. This is just the way of cosmic evolution.

 
So, what does Moltmann suggest about the future as planned by humanity or given by God?

 

The question suggests an answer….

Various Views of the Future

This blog space seeks to suggest to readers some directions, themes, and possibilities for theological reflection as people of faith, as people of faith seeking understanding, as people of faith seeking to move beyond understanding to action that is just, compassionate, and guided by the Spirit and example of Jesus Christ. These thoughts are not fixed; they are steppingstones to other thoughts and may be revisited and changed in light of other thoughts that follow.

 
As a beginning point, as a place from which to make the first steps, the book by noted theologian Jurgen Moltmann, The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis) 2007, is commended to readers for more in depth discussion.

 
This blog is part of a series of musings taking off from the pages of Moltmann’s Future of Creation. Originally written in 1977, these essays spoke to a time and context that have changed considerably and are changing ever more rapidly. Nevertheless, there is something inspired and timeless in Moltmann’s considerations.

 
Moltmann devotes two chapters to consideration of the future. The future is certainly on the minds of many today. For some, the future is dire; images are dystopian. For others, the future is a horizon of hope and possibility. For others, the future will be what it will be.

 
How do you see the future? Especially the future under God? Especially with respect to the future as an unfolding of this global environmental crisis?

 
A. Perhaps you have a belief that time on this planet is fleeting. One day the earth will be destroyed, and the faithful will be taken up into another realm, the kingdom of heaven. So, while on this earth it matters little what happens to the earth, its creatures and its waters.

 
B. A corollary to this belief is that, because the earth is temporary and the judgement of God will be meted out with reward for some and vengeance upon others, perhaps there is even an impatience with God’s coming, God’s future. Perhaps the end might even be hastened with a final great battle, destruction and supernatural rescue. Bring on Armageddon! This planet is disposable.

 
C. Perhaps you have a very different view. Perhaps, in the spirit of an understanding of the human presence as described in Genesis, humankind is the peak of creation, the center of creation. Humankind is similar to other creatures, but at the same time different, made in the image and likeness of God. Creation in all its beauty and bounty is available for the use and pleasure of humankind. To have dominion over creation means to have the capacity of choice and will and the power to accomplish what that will desires. In this view, the history of humankind is marked by the triumphs of understanding, arts and sciences. Humankind has risen above the threats of darkness, illness, death. The virtues of humankind create cooperative societies governed by the rule of law. The technologies of humankind have given comfortable lives with enormous opportunities and will continue to do so. From this view, climate change is merely the natural cycle of things. Perhaps humankind has contributed to some suffering with polluted air and waters; perhaps mining and clear cutting have scared some places; perhaps there is a shortage of some fish, a loss of some topsoil, some rising tides and floodwaters with accompanying storms… but consider the good humanity has provided and believe that the technology that has given us this much will be able to resolve current problems and provide the required scientific solutions!

 
D. Perhaps you are less optimistic about human capacities, perhaps you even think that the environmental crisis is God’s judgement upon humanity, God’s ire for greed, injustice and hubris.

 
E. Perhaps this is all too overwhelming, and if one spends too much time with disturbing images one only gets confused about what is truth and what is fake news. Better to just take one day at a time. The problems of the world are not here where you live. And they are not happening now in your lifetime. So, live for the moment and let the future take care of itself.

 
F. Or, perhaps, you are indeed disturbed by the images of millions of displaced people; by the stories of uprooted lives, broken dreams, starvation and conflict; concerned about accounts of lost species of animals and plants; and your own experiences that the places once considered beautiful and sacred are becoming messy, overcrowded, commercial and “developed.”

 
Perhaps you feel so deeply connected to the earth that the pain of creation is your pain; the suffering of fellow humanity is the suffering of your own family. While you may not experience storms and rising tides and smoky skies yourself, you feel a sense of guilt that your lifestyle choices have contributed to devastation, even without intending it. And yet you also realize that you have grown accustomed to large comfortable homes, easy transportation, inexpensive clothing, electronics and other consumables, inexpensive food, no longer limited to seasons but available year round. It would be hard to voluntarily cut back; and you resent being “taxed.”

 
So, your future is complicated. You share remorse with the marginalized. You understand how the poor end up bearing the consequences of industrial waste, pollution and global warming. You want there to be change but you don’t want that change to cost too much. You want to speak out, but you don’t want to be seen as “different,” “radical,” “a bleeding heart.”

 
You are humble enough, responsible enough, to ask for forgiveness. But you wonder if God will indeed forgive, if God has given up. And you have no idea what restitution or reconciliation might look like.

 
You want to have hope. But its’s hard not to be discouraged.

 
G. Or maybe you believe that humanity has gone the way of the dinosauers. Humanity is bringing about its own extinction. The next evolutionary stage does not include humanity at all. Gaia, Earth, will heal herself without humankind. Artificial Intelligence will continue as the universe continues to evolve into Consciousness, a strange blend of flesh and machine.

 
So, here are seven very different understandings of the future. What does each say about the nature of humanity, humanity’s place in the universe, God, and social culture?

 
To be continued.

Baptism as a Political Reality/Environmental Activity

Are you baptized? If so, are you “living wet” in the power and promise of this sacrament? I’m asking whether your baptism has become a way of life, a spirit-filled orientation to the needs and opportunities in the world… or is baptism merely an event in your past?

 

As part of the baptismal rite, the person to be baptized, or the parents and sponsors on this person’s behalf, are asked to renounce the forces that defy God – to renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God – to renounce the ways of sin that draw us away from God. Part of your baptism is a threefold N0 to the powers in the world that are not consistent with the Spirit’s person, work and purpose.

 
But No is not enough. There is also the opportunity to say YES! Yes to life with God’s people. Yes to the commitment to the Word and to the eucharistic sacrament. Yes to the proclamation of Good News spoken and lived out in our choices and deeds. Yes to serving God’s people- all people – in the example of Jesus. Yes to working for peace and justice in all the earth.

 
Do you see the implications for environmental reformation?

 
We say No to the forces or consumerism, greed, and inequity. No to the systemic sins that enables some to be rich and live luxuriously, while others live in poverty and despair. No to attitudes and behaviors that dominate, oppress, and exploit people, creatures, and the earth’s seas, lands and skies. No to the lies that some will live and some must die and the people who decide such things have a right to do so, maintaining power over and claiming a right to a lifestyle that cannot be sustained globally. No to the lie that humankind can manipulate creation in a human image – an image belonging to only a few humans – and that, if it is true the world is in trouble, humans, with science, technology and the right political will can fix it.

 
At the same time, at the font of blessing, we say Yes to living among God’s people, people splashed with water and promise by God. Yes to justice and peace in all the earth – that is, Yes, to the land, sky and water also splashed with God’s blessing and purpose. Yes to service – we do not dominate, exploit or oppress; we lift up and bear the burdens and seek healing in place of brokenness.

 
Your baptism is a call to environmental stewardship and justice. It is a political act, as well as spiritual rite.

 
After Jesus was baptized, he spent time in the wilderness. Then after prayer and reflection, temptation and submission to God, Jesus returned to civilization announcing that the time was fulfilled- the kingdom of heaven had come near. Repent. Change. Turn around. Begin anew. Die… and be reborn. In this life – not the next.

 
We who are baptized are living in the wilderness. The globe is suffering.

 
But the time is fulfilled. The kingdom has come near. What will be our call to repentance – to sacrifice – to death and rebirth. What is our ecology of hope? Of justice?

 
What does renewal look like?

 
I suspect, given the story of Jesus, many in positions of wealth and power will rise up in indignation and seek to throw us out with Jesus.

 
Will we choose to sit beside the seats of power? Or will we choose to sit at the foot of the cross?