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The Debate That Should Be Taking Place

“Our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course and any of the 12 problems of non-sustainability that we have just summarized…are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years.”
Collapse Pulitzer Prize Winning author Jared DIamond

Quote from below:

“Only a limited number in our world society seem to be fully aware of this growing shadow. Even with the planet now visibly under threat, there is only marginal interest or reaction. Many are, however, at least beginning to have discomfiture. Yet, when these “many” turn on their air conditioners, drive their cars to the shopping mall, take a cruise to the Bahamas, it all seems to be a part of normal 21st century life. Material comforts for almost everyone with the means are considered a planetary entitlement. Homo economicus we have all become.”

This blog reflects the conclusions of the following three scholars associated with the California Institute for Integral Studies, San Francisco and the Forum on Religion and Ecology, New Haven, as reflected in their books. The interpretations and conclusions are my own.

Sean M., Kelly, Coming Home The Birth & Transformation of The Planetary Era
Brian Thomas Swinne, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe

From the late Middles Ages onward the radical transformation in science, the arts, philosophy and religion brought on a deepening and honing of the human intellect. The word “Enlightenment” is commonly used to describe this movement. There was by historic measure, in a relatively short period of time, a transformational change in human awareness, an expansion into a new spacial dimension. Now, except in certain areas, this transformation appears to have turned in on itself, most notably in the area of the misapplication of science. Only in isolated areas such as the arts is it continuing in a total societally constructive fashion. There is a danger here. Overall, many elements of the Enlightenment in their uncontrolled forward momentum have become a threat to the very survival of our species. They are holding us all back from the next transformation; now being defined as the need for a changed view of our place on the planet and in the cosmos.

Nature has its own time table. It generally operates on “slow,” that is in multiples of tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. We must keep in mind though that it can also operate on “fast.” Then, so-called “chaos” theory can come into play. An increasing number of essential parts of the system can suddenly break down. The future becomes impossible to predict. What is important for us to understand here is that there are indications nature has now switched over to “fast” and chaos may be just around the corner.

As a result, the planet may be facing a very large number of ecological tipping points leading most notably to devastating climate change, oceans engulfing massive land areas, and food and energy shortages. Nature may be about to show us that it can move from “slow” to “fast” to chaos. The problem is that our understanding of this is on “slow” and nature would appear to be on “fast.” We may not have as much time as did those early Europeans during the period of the Enlightenment.

This problem began long before the late Middles Ages and the Enlightenment here referenced. It began with the Babylonians, Akkadians, Egyptians and others who lived at the beginning of the bronze, iron and agricultural age; what many now call the beginning of the first axial age. It was an age that tore us away from thousands of years of attachment to nature. Unlike earlier Homo sapiens going back to the beginning of our species who had a reverence toward nature and the delicate balance that needed to be maintained, in the mind of that first axial civilization the earth was turned into an inanimate object to do with as humans wished. Remnants of this contrast were seen when Europeans first met the American Indian. Along the way this contrast was also seen the life of certain spiritual leaders and their followers such as the Buddha and Jesus and Gandhi and in isolated communities. But for the bulk of humanity, we all went from homo sapiens in tune with nature to homo economicus in opposition to nature.

Now, several thousand years later; we are finding that this axial understanding of nature and our relationship to it was built on pathological self-deception. As a result, we are experiencing a growing and ominous shadow forming over our lives. Our homo economicus mindset is coming back to haunt us.

Only a limited number in our world society seem to be fully aware of this growing shadow. Even with the planet now visibly under threat, there is only marginal interest or reaction. Many are, however, at least beginning to have discomfiture. Yet, when these “many” turn on their air conditioners, drive their cars to the shopping mall, take a cruise to the Bahamas, it all seems to be a part of normal 21st century life. Material comforts for almost everyone with the means are considered a planetary entitlement. Homo economicus we have all become.

But then, when they find themselves reading about the CO2 buildup, the world population growth, acidification of the oceans, threatening weather conditions, the threat of terrorist attacks and even atomic wars, they have an uneasy feeling that something in their world has gone terribly wrong.

One would expect to hear serious discussion of this during the presidential debates. But, it is only found in the margins of the dialogue. There seems to be no awareness of the radical societal transformation that is so desperately needed. Instead we only hear muted talk about our greatest immediate problem; coal, oil and gas. And these ecosphere and ocean killers more often than not in the political arena come out smelling sweet as ripe fruit; enabling greater and greater consumption. The issue of human species sustainability and the necessary institutional changes; religious, political, economic, social and other, remain absent from the conversation.

Nor are we hearing alarm from the leaders of the three religions of Abraham. They are offering little or no help. In fact, many of them like the catholic Pope with his ruling on contraception seem to be a major part of the problem. So those who are taking these matters seriously find themselves asking; what happened to the surge in awareness that brought on the great transformations in thought beginning two thousand years ago, a synthesis of the creative encounter between Greek, Jewish, Christian and Roman culture and thought? It opened the mind of the western world.

We find ourselves no longer sustained by the earlier vision. We only see virulent forms of religious fundamentalism being promulgated by radically doctrinaire religionists, all shouting from their sacred texts. We look back on centuries of horrible wars and human slaughter, much of it in the name of this god. We see pain and suffering; the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq and Syria. And now we are facing the possibility of something even worse, massive atomic destruction brought on by religious fanaticism.

And as for the dawn of a second axial age; we see religion as an impediment, remaining strangely silent as the ecocidal brutalization of the planet and the annihilation of millions of species, including our own, goes on. In addition, there is the same silence from the political/capitalistic power structures and their moneyed enforcers—cleverly positioned in the religious camp, who are intent on only one objective; material plentitude for the “haves” at the expense of diminishing planetary resources—and the “have-nots.”

So, many are left with an ambivalent feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. They say the idea of a loving redemptive God was a fiction. It was all a hoax designed to place us in bondage to one religious power structure or the other.

But there is a glimmer of hope for humanity here. Many are beginning to realize that we are not alone on this planet or in the universe. Many are beginning to understand that there is an implicate order and it is testing human comprehension. Also that it is participatory. In some mysterious way it is calling for our participation. Could this be the first sign of the beginning of the next axial age, one dominated by human awareness of a unitary “cosmic” purpose for each of us leading you and me in unity toward planetary ecological consonance?

 

Originally Published Here

Review & Commentary

  • Mike Sherer

    There is now movement in the climate denial camp. Unfortunately it is in a cynical direction. First we were told that climate change theory was a hoax. That has evolved into this response from politicians who face overwhelming evidence contradicting their “hoax” claims: “Well, we’re not scientists.” (Indeed, they are not.) It has been predicted that the third and final stage of climate change denial will take this form: “Okay, the scientists were correct. But now it’s too late. So just relax and keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

    When I was a seminary student a classmate took the Isaiah text, “Comfort you, my people” and misapplied it in a highly creative way. His sermon theme was “Is comfort our God?” That was 50 years ago. The answer to his question was “yes” then and it continues to be so today.