The last two posts addressed the problem of “nature deficit disorder” and how participation in outdoor education and nature activities can facilitate an interest and appreciation for God’s creation. A next step from that appreciation is to develop a stewards contemplation for action often called being an “ecologist”. Here is where our faith can provide the meaning and impetus for understanding the mystery of creation and why we have a role in it.
An infinite attraction
Fighting to preserve an ecosystem is hard. Cold, rain, little pay, isolation….Nevertheless, most of the ecologists continue to be attached to the beauty they find in preserving nature. Many of us seem to be attached to this “life” and in somehow have the intuition that there is a deep meaning in the things we do, a meaning that is not just provided by the utility of things or by nature as a provider of goods and services. There is something else, an attraction for beauty and order that we are not able to explain but to admire and wonder…
In our last post (Nature Deficit Disorder and Stewardship: Crisis in Creation), the problem of nature deficit and exercise deficit disorders and their relationship to a lack of a stewardship ethic was discussed concluding with the notion that faith based outdoor education can be viewed as a solution. Given that, what is that outdoor educational perspective that can make it a solution?
On a recent night hike in the mountains with students from a local Catholic school, I witnessed a very important conversation. The student in front of me to his friend said, “So, what if Freddy Krueger is out here?” His friends response was crucial to our times, “That is not real and this is, God is real and that tree that you are about to walk into is real.” Besides making me laugh, this conversation is a poignant statement of a culture mired in a two dimensional world disconnected from
authentic relationship and starved of the concept of stewardship.
The country of Peru is beautiful both in the people and landscapes that adorn the horizon. The Peruvian people have a faith to move mountains; despite their clear lacking of most material goods, they had an inspiring hope and trust in Divine Providence. On two occasions, I was literally swept toward the alter in a crowd of Peruvians reaching toward God in prayer. I hope that I will have such devotion in prayer and such an unfailing trust in God’s presence in my life. The landscapes of Peru were also nothing short of heavenly. At Machu Picchu, we literally sat for hours and stared at the mountains in silence, captivated by their beauty. Up in the harshest conditions of the Andes, the mountains pierced the sky with a combined gentleness and power but still provided a home for the people and alpacas alike. God did some good work there.
In the last post (Catechesis on Creation) an outline was provided for a series of articles on the need for addressing what should be our faith response to the various environmental crises. Any such discussion must begin with looking at our human role as stewards and what keeps us from meeting that responsibility. Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to express the state of disconnection between all of us but especially youth from nature and creation. It is an alienation and detachment from nature that leads to a reduced appreciation of the environment with additional human costs such as diminished use of senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional problems. It can also lead to the lack of a stewardship ethic and lifestyle for many.
This fall, I embarked on a four day, fifty-mile pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico. I signed up in hopes of resolving some spiritual turmoil and refreshing my ever-worried mind, hoping to hear some divine message of comfort somewhere along the way. Throughout the deeply moving experience, inspired the whole way by our Pilgrimage motto, “Be Not Afraid,” I learned about myself and others through poignant encounters and long periods of introspection and prayer.
The media uproar about Francis liberating the Church from creationism and sanctioning evolution has already passed and gone, but the idea has stuck. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the Church has always taught what Francis said… even Time and the Washington Post got it right, with good articles.
What is interesting to me though, is the fact that Francis is able to get the message out. As distorted as the media narrative may be about Francis revolutionizing Church teaching, the point is that now most people care about what the Pope says. Continue reading
A CRISIS IN CREATION
The current debates over environmental issues too often provide little in the way of a faith perspective for understanding and acting to address those issues. CREATIO is initiating with this introductory article a “Crisis in Creation” series to present a Catholic ethic for viewing nature.
CREATIO associates are a wide range of professionals from climatologists, theologians, clergy, outdoor educators, naturalists, biologists, farmers, physiologists and psychologists that reflect a diverse range of information pertaining to creation. We all have a common denominator in that, as Christians we seek the truth about environmental issues and practical actions to care for God’s creation. Most recently we delivered a symposium at the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro on “Jesus and Nature”. As a follow up to that conference it was concluded that there was a need for an information dissemination vehicle to provide regular articles on a faith based ethic for the environment. Continue reading
Tom Shakespeare has an interesting article on the BBC, where as the atheist that he is, he proposes a critique of “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) and humanism. For Tom, the informal beliefs and creeds of SBNR are even more impossible to embrace than those of organized religion. Humanism (no organized religion nor belief in anything) is even more empty. Since Tom’s self acknowledged scientism (“But I don’t want to be required to have faith in a supreme being or miracles or reincarnation, or any entity for which there is no scientific evidence”) does not permit him to believe in God, he proposes being religious but not spiritual. Religion offers community and connection, something deeply missed in modern life. Tom would like to have the benefits of religion but not really believe what unites everyone there in the first place.
While intellectually honest, this proposal does seem quite disingenuous at a deeper existential level. At the end of the day, can you truly build deep relationships with people who actually congregate there because of their belief in God? Continue reading
It is important remember in this day, what Pope Francis took in 2013 on the occasion of World Environment Day to slam the influence of money and profit in the “human ecology” making the connection between the issues of the environment and poverty.