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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

as 101 year old American Kathryn Davis proves.

To celebrate her 100th birthday, Davis set up ‘Projects for Peace,’ which supported college students in 100 projects that promoted peace around the globe. It was such a success that she’s just donated another $1 million for a second series.

Davis was educated in a Quaker school. She tells the Christian Science Monitor:

“They didn’t believe in fighting; they would just keep working toward a compromise … And I think that’s what we all have to do,” she says. “Many people are very cynical about peace. They say it’s in man’s nature to fight, and I say, man has to get over that nature because war has become so dangerous.”

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It’s good to see critiques of consumer capitalism getting more common and attracting more attention.

Here’s a smart analysis of the idea that consumer cultures reproduce — indeed require — addictions. In talking about Sally Erickson’s 2007 documentary What a Way To Go: Life at The End of Empire, writer Charles Shaw says:

industrial civilization — and its end product, consumerism — has disconnected us from nature, the cycle of life, our communities, our families and, ultimately, ourselves. This unnatural, inorganic, materialistic way of living, coupled with a marked sharp decline in society’s moral and ethical standards — what the French call anomie — has created a kind of pathology that produces pain and emptiness, for which addictive behavior becomes the primary symptom and consumption the preferred drug of choice.

Shaw references the connection that environmentalists (and spiritual leaders) are increasingly making between the drive to consumption and spirituality. He sees it as the main hope we have against self-annihilation as a species.

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A few weeks back I was attending our local Friends meeting and thinking about light.

Specifically, I was looking at the many lamps hanging in the meeting room and wondering if they should ever be turned on during a meeting for worship. Why not, I thought, always hold our meetings in the available light — however dim — and simply enjoy whatever luminance nature chose to offer that day?

That led me to the value Quakers place on holding each other ‘in the light.’ It’s a wonderful concept, referring to the inner light that guides our spirits and helps us lead lives of integrity.

And that led me to literal human illumination which, surely, is something else entirely.

Take the intrusion that human lighting now makes upon the night sky. What we aptly dub ‘light pollution’ not only represents a huge waste of energy — most buildings and streets illuminated all through the night are not inhabited or traveled upon.   But it also means that there are few populated places upon the Earth where we can see anything like the true magnificence of the universe.

An effort this coming weekend — EarthHour — aims both to draw attention to the energy wasted in our excessive nocturnal illuminations, and to let us simply see the stars again.

Modesty and thrift are both Quaker virtues. Reigning in the man-made light we shed on ourselves so that we can see the natural world better — and helping save that world from the harm such profligacy causes — fits well into the Quaker way of doing things.

In that Meeting I recalled that James Turrell, one of the world’s great connoisseurs of light (both natural and man-made), is a Quaker. Turrell’s Live Oak Meeting House in Houston, Texas is justly admired both by Friends and art buffs of the highest brow. It’s a piece of modern art of extraordinary resonance, simplicity and depth.

Here’s hoping that EarthHour will be observed in Houston and that the Live Oak ‘skyspace’ will be open to the heavens that night.

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Being a Quaker means believing that clergies are more of a hinderance than a help when it comes to leading a righteous spiritual life. And for a case study in the convoluted, self-sustaining theological bureaucracies that clergies happily make for themselves, it would be hard to beat the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary — a ‘tribunal of mercy’ mostly concerned with deciding who gets forgiven for what sins.

Still, we’re glad to see Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, head of said Penitentiary, declare that pollution should be regarded as a modern sin.

In comments to the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, last Sunday Girotti listed “drugs, pollution and genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior,” to quote CNN’s story on the announcement.

CNN speculates that this is a warm up for a new Papal initiative on ecology and the environment.  We hope that’s the case.

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A group of prominent Southern Baptist leaders today declared that their denomination has been ‘too timid’ on the issue of climate change.

The authors take pains to note that they’re not necessarily saying that humans are responsible for Global Warming. But they do make the following observation:

“There is undeniable evidence that the earth—wildlife, water, land and air—can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result.”

We EarthQuakers might have added that it’s not just people who suffer as a result (we’re thinking of the phrase, ‘all God’s creatures’ and adding His plants as well), but we’re glad to see these Southern Baptists following the essential logical of their professed Christian beliefs.

After all, even if you believe that human action is not causing global warming, it’s hard to make a Christian argument for pollution. Indeed, if you believe that “creation serves as revelation of God’s presence, majesty and provision,” to quote the declaration, you should be more conservation-minded that just about anyone else.

“Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation,” is the first of four ‘statements’ in the declaration. The last states that “It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act.”

The document isn’t too clear on exactly how that action should be made manifest, though. It does make very clear that it’s unlikely to involve action on population control, for fear that would sanction abortion (although one could imagine a nuanced, yet robust and still-Christian approach to population control that, for example, does nothing to aid abortion but instead looks to provide every family on Earth with enough security that they don’t need to have a large number of children).

But when it comes to concrete action, the declaration’s a little fuzzy. The group pledges to promote “biblical stewardship habits and increasing awareness” in churches, homes and offices. And it will, it promises, henceforth “give serious consideration to responsible policies that acceptably address the conditions set forth in this declaration.” But that’s as far as it goes.

So we at EarthQuaker certainly applaud the sentiment and salute the logical theological analysis in this declaration. And we recognize that just the fact of it being stated is both momentous and welcome.

But until this traditionally Republican-leaning denomination starts to push back, hard and en masse, and in very specific ways against the many, equally-specific environmentally-destructive actions of Republican-run agencies such as the EPA, we’ll hold off on singing our own loud choruses of Laus Deo!

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