Monday, 24 July 2006

Hypocrisy in Green?

In this week-end's Sunday Times, Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, previewed Treasures on Earth, a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution.

The paper reports that in this booklet, Chartres explains that it is "sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a “gas-guzzling” car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home."
The argument is apparently supported by the idea that "scientific research supporting predictions that the earth faces serious climate change is “overwhelming”". And the bishop to ask Christians to be a little more mindful of what they do to increase climate change.

No doubt, US Christians (read: Bush's supporters who are still more or less denying climate change and certainly the fact that we should reduce our carbon emissions) won't be too happy with that...

On first examination, I am tempted to support what the Bishop is saying. We certainly must be a little more careful and, more importantly, more active in improving our behaviour in this respect.

Having heard the Bishop, this morning on the Today Programme on BBC Radio4, where he defended himself from wanting to pronounce a "fatwa" (How could he do that, even if he wanted to? He is not a muslim religious leader!) while calling for "moral responsibility" and highlighting the need for the Church to "respond to the condition of today", I am feeling slightly uneasy with this discours.

It is interesting to hear from one of its primate, that the Church needs to be in tune with contemporary ideas. All too often, other religous zealots tell us that the word of the Bible is the word of God and that what is inthere applies to all times and circumstances; forgetting in the process that the Bible condones slavery amongst other things that are today considered obsolete, to say the least.

But this is not the important point.

Our western society, which is arguably uniquely responsible for global warming, is based on judeo-christian ideas. One of this ideas is that of man's stewardship of the earth and its creatures as entrusted to him by God.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Holy Bible, English Standard Version - Genesis 1:26
At some other point in the Bible, Adam (man) is made to name all the creatures of the earth, which symbolically (if one considers the importance of the all-powerful Verb in the bible) gives him another huge, god-like ascendancy over Creation.

And this is where things go wrong. For thousands of years, human being have been having their ways with the planet under the impression that they had god's permission to do so. Indeed that this permission releaved them from all responsibility.

This was fine until human population started to grow big and technical progress really kicked in in the 1850's with the industrial revolution. Human being did not change their outlook but the impact of their activities became ever stronger.

We are at the time where we have to unlearn centuries of ideology fed to us by the different Christian Churches and this is not proving easy, as it is all too apparent.


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