35550Ecological asceticism: a cultural revolution
- Nov 18, 2013
The author of this article, the reverend Metropolitan of Pergamon fr. John Zizioulas, calls for a new concept of quality of life in a finite Creation.
The ecological problem is, at root, a spiritual issue. Many people dealing with it tend to overlook its spiritual aspects. And yet both historically and from the practical point of view it is impossible to address it without reference to religion and ethics. The American historian Lynn White was right to attribute the causes of the problem to Christian theology, particularly of the Western Church, which exploited the verses of Genesis containing God's order to the first human beings to 'dominate the earth' in order to encourage them, as Descartes bluntly put it, to be 'masters and possessors of nature'. This attitude drew further support and inspiration from a theology that stressed the superiority of humans because of their 'rationality', which it regarded as 'God's image' in Man. Such a rationalistic approach detached human beings from the rest of creation and encouraged them to look down with contempt on whatever is not rational, not human.
Along with this, an understanding arose of the human person as a thinking individual whose happiness and prosperity acquired the status of the highest good in ethics. Sin became limited to whatever contradicts or prevents these. A Christian could, therefore, destroy nature with a clear and good conscience, as long as this contributed to the fulfilment of human happiness. Now, human beings are beginning to realize that such an attitude towards nature actually threatens human happiness, even human existence itself. In doing so, they are not departing from the principle of promoting human happiness. Indeed, they are deeply and almost exclusively motivated by it. The ecological crisis is thus still viewed and approached from the angle of human self-interest and not from those of love for the rest of God's creation or of a feeling of responsibility for the survival and welfare of whatever is not human on our planet.
George C. Thomas
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