We are facing a planetary crisis that is unparalleled in human history. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that we are at a tipping point. Species extinction is accelerating, global warming is melting the polar icecaps at a rate that exceeds all scientific predictions, and our air, water, and soil is rapidly becoming a toxic soup that is ending up in our own bodies. We have only a few years to reorient ourselves and avert a disaster from which there may be no return.
Decades of materialistic philosophy have served to void the cosmos of any sacred dimension resulting in an economic ideology that turns the natural world into a “resource” for human consumption. “What your people call natural resources, our people call kin”, a local indigenous chief told me at a recent workshop. The theological models we have employed in the church have lacked the power to counter that assumption that human beings alone are centers of meaning in an otherwise dead universe.
The good news is that there is an emerging groundswell of people who are awakening to a universe that is alive, purposeful, and unfolding in trajectory toward increased complexity, consciousness, and compassion. It is dawning on many of us that after 13.7 billion years, we are the presence of the evolutionary process that has become self-aware – and that while the beauty of the cosmos consists of its splendid diversity, there is no disconnection anywhere in the universe. We are concentrated amalgams of every organism, every biological process, and every cultural worldview that has preceded us. We are biologically and spiritually kin with all in the Kin-dom of God. To be an ecological Christian in the 21st is to center oneself in this kinship as spiritual practice.
A deep theology of radical interconnectedness can help Christians to address our ecological crisis. When science is stripped of its materialistic bias, this is the universe it is revealing. Either God or Spirit is intimately involved in an evolving and profoundly coherent cosmos, (in which everything is everywhere), or God will cease to be relevant in the 21st century. Mystics in every religious tradition have intuited what Isaiah realized in his famous vision – that “the whole earth is filled with the glory of God”. We need an ecological theology that helps us to recover the spirituality of awe implicit in Isaiah’s vision. Awakening to the sacred dimension of creation breaks the spell of consumerism and provides us with the inner resources and collective will to imagine and enact an alternative way of living upon the planet – one that is fit for our children’s children.