The Scoop: Alternative News & Views

The New Theology: Harper's Achilles Heel

John Tomlinson

15 September 2015 in Politics

Several years ago, I led a KAIROS delegation to MP Jeff Watson's office to lobby for a revised federal government climate change position.

Part of the dialogue that occurred had to do with whether the Essex MP would take personal responsibility if he and the federal Conservatives were wrong. Climate change, he said, was a disputed science.

KAIROS, the ecumenical social justice organization of Christian churches, had recently held its annual meeting at The University of Waterloo. The theme was the environmental crisis, with speakers from various denominations and locations, including the Arctic. It was clear that major changes were occurring threatening the existence of species and, especially, Northern habitat.

Shortly after our meeting with MP Watson, KAIROS funding was drastically reduced. Many projects which empowered social justice advocates in the global south had to be ended. Later, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace had its funding reduced, with drastic effects to advocacy groups facing almost insurmountable obstacles in their search for environmental and social justice.

This outcome, a denial of assistance to the very groups attempting to strengthen a fair, civil, society, might have come from a religious perspective. Some religious organizations do not agree with the KAIROS philosophy in dealing directly with issues.

Although this is not recognized by authors such as Paul Wells, it seems logical that the deeply religious Prime Minister operates from ideological and theological principles. Perhaps this view of the need for missions is also seen as a defense.

What has changed in the last few years is the development of a new theology in Christian churches. Although the current emphasis on Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si is the focal point for discussion, there has been a 'cosmic shift' in other Christian churches as well in relation to, and respect for, the place of nature in the Christian faith.

The step from stewardship to caring for the earth has taken place. Passion and love replace duty as the natural world is seen in relationship to divinity. Francis' encyclical, in particular, is part of a Catholic tradition of seeing the earth as a sacrament and recognizing a covenant between human beings and nature.

The Anglicans have revised their baptismal liturgy to include creation. Books have been published on greening the church; to make places of worship reflect the new reality of action. Transformative change is taking place in a profound way.

Some smaller congregations have led the way. The Unitarian Universalist Church in Olinda, On. was the first 'green church' in the area.

We are rediscovering Celtic tradition that spoke to a sense of the divine in the natural world. Latin Americans historically reconciled a Christian God with a mystical earth. The world has changed, and our perception of a new theology is presenting a challenge to those who do not see the need for this development in a political and spiritual sense.