Monday, July 20, 2015

5 Steps to an Ecological Conversion

Laudato Si'
“'The external deserts in the world are growing,
because the internal deserts have become so vast'.
For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.
It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians,
with the excuse of realism and pragmatism,
tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment.
Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.
So what they all need is an 'ecological conversion',
whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident
in their relationship with the world around them.
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue;
it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience."
LS, n. 217)
Is Pope Francis stretching the sometimes rigid boundaries of his brothers and sisters in Christ?  Or is he striking a bold new path between various extreme positions regarding care for our common home? Thankfully, the answer is "yes" and "yes". 
Of course, allowing ourselves to be stretched or daring to head down a bold new path is never a painless process. Here are five steps to begin that journey:
  1. Begin with an examination of conscience--both personally and collectively.  Have I ridiculed environmental issues because they don't fit neatly within my current political or economic opinions?  Have I ignored an authentic "human ecology" which is intrinsic to real concern for the environment, e.g., by embracing political positions which support the destruction of the innocent or the harvesting of human life itself?  Have we been passive participants in our tired cycle of over-consumption, complicit contributors to what Pope Francis calls our "throw-away" culture?

  2. Look for daily ways to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle :)  In one way or another, we have all been seduced by "the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one's own immediate interests" (LS, n. 122).  Dare I identify one area of my life where I could cut some consumption?  Might I look for ways to repair older items rather than just replacing them?  Could we dramatically cut the demand for sweatshop labor if we were bold enough to shop for second hand clothes?  Finally, if the mere act of recycling bottles, cans, and paper products has seemed like a bridge too far, might I start with this small step across a new bridge to a fresh start?

  3. Identify our present predispositions about ecological issues. Laudato Si's call for an ecological conversion invites each of us to examine where we fall on the following spectrum:
    "At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited" (LS, n. 60). Does the myth of progress tempt me to resist addressing the ethical considerations implicit within the current ecological crisis--or to deny that deep change is necessary?  Or have I bought into the myth that elimination of human beings is the solution to all of our problems?  Pope Francis acknowledges the destruction caused by a misguided modern anthropocentrism, but he also argues that this "need not necessarily yield to 'biocentrism', for that would entail adding yet another imbalance" (LS, n. 118).

  4. Channel the Poverello within.  Like his namesake, the "Little Poor Man" Assisi, Pope Francis has captured the world's attention with his consistent and relentless defense of the least, the outcast, the marginalized.  In complete conformity to the grace of Christ, St. Francis lived in communion with both man and beast, through a life of evangelical poverty.  Inspired by this witness, Pope Francis is challenging those obsessed with Mammon as he proposes the Catholic view of "social issues" with both passion and compassion.  If we are open to following Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis, we will see that "a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (LS, n. 35; emphasis in the original).

  5. Make time not only for reflection but also for resolution.  My brother-in-law once argued that "Main Street drives Wall Street": So, what if my personal "household ecology" drives our "human ecology"?  Would I commit to any of these next actions, in solidarity with Pope Francis?

    *Sign the Petition to Support the Pope's Call for a Human Ecology.
    *Check out this short blog post with resources from the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.
    *Explore Natural Family Planning Awareness Week in light of the "green sex" revolution, which has the capacity to open hearts and minds even amid great confusion about human sexuality and the reality of marriage.

Let's start shrinking our "internal deserts" by making the words of St. Francis of Assisi our own, "Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs" (LS, n. 1)!