Thursday, September 11, 2008


Forgive them, for they know not what they do

But what if we do indeed know what we do? A small number of ecologists, climate scientists, and elders of first peoples have known that we are crucifying the earth for a long time. And now, many more have witnessed "An Inconvenient Truth," and thus recognize that we are creating an accelerating greenhouse effect by burning up the earth's fossilized carbon sinks. But the vast majority of us are unwilling to take personal responsibility for this greatest of sins because of our habit of easy compliance with the structural sin of global industrial capitalism. This sin is condoned by the church itself, as the initial Protestant blessing of its children, seeing those who reaped the abundance of capitalism as a sign of God's favor, has morphed into the church's sanction of rampant greed in the late industrial and terminal holocene ages.

Unfettered corporate behavior, complicit with sovereign nations' pandering to their richest citizens' comfort over all other government responsibilities defines the deeply entrenched structural sin whereby we have thoroughly commoditized the earth. Though we protect ourselves by burying the guilt the moment it starts to grow in our hearts, deep down we know that our everyday actions trash the earth. But as my cousin says, that's somebody else's problem. Let the government take care of it.

We know not that we crucify something divine by poisoning the atmosphere? That would be pantheism, the whole terrible universe experienced as divine. But if God is the Ground of Being, the beloved earth is His raiments. For the pantheist, it is divine simply as it is. For the panentheist, it is divine because God made it, working from within, its holy source.

And does the traditional Christian, viewing the earth from God's perspective above and around her in the vastness of space, does she not also know what we do? God told us to be stewards, and the closer we look at our lives, the more we realize we defy him. We are not stewards, except in the limited ways we tithe to the earth at the margins of our economic lives. So in this sense, we do know what we do.

Forgive them... How can we be forgiven if we knowingly destroy creation? The earth cannot forgive; she can only heal though adaptation. And what would the Creator's forgiveness entail? Given that the earth is entering old age, there is probably insufficient time to recover the complexity of higher life, once extinct, during her remaining lifetime. Accepting such divine forgiveness would entail a faith of cosmic dimensions, trusting the everabundant Creator to recreate the unlikely conditions of life on earth in another universe, either with a new start or in some kind of "parallel play" in which theoretical physicists like to speculatively engage.

But do we really know what we are doing to the earth? I was at a discussion this spring of global challenges with a group of highly educated, spiritually grounded "elders" (our median age was in the 60's). One woman blurted, "We're not in crisis." Industrial urban life hides eco-justice and social justice effects from the consumer, for our resource and trade base is the whole world. Lacking systemic thinking and moral imagination, we are blind to the beginning wave of distant environmental refugees, the huge holes in the fabric of Gaia opening as we dredge the seas for protein, and slash and burn rainforests. And at home in our comfortable enclaves, we ignore the small, but numerous signs of the unraveling of Gaia's web.

Isn't our collective behavior the sign of an addiction so deeply entrenched that we cannot fathom it? The order of sin from within late industrial capitalism is so enormous that we in our complicity can scarcely imagine being forgiven. How can we contemplate the level of forgiveness required if we cannot even imagine the sin itself?

The scale of the Creators’ forgiveness is beyond our imagining, even when we realize we have been complicit in the murder of Creation. Facing up to this complicity can be a huge burden. Personally, I need to move beyond superego-driven, human judgment to allow divine compassion. It is not up to me to forgive. Yet as along as I am part of this culture, however aware and careful I am with my material choices, I simply cannot honestly accept Jesus' admonition, Go, and sin no more. Go where on this commoditized earth? To do so would be to accept self-annihilation, and to wish my own or my species’ death would be blasphemy, for we are integral to Creation. Once we accept ecological sin, we need to accept the infinite nature of God's forgiveness, even unto the end of the earth.

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