“...The church is big and influential enough to be a significant part of the solution to the current crisis.”
This was the recent banner headline for the recruitment webpage for a ‘sister’ Christian organisation.
I do have a problem with this.
The language still conveys a less-than-fully honest confidence in a “fix-it” ‘solution’, rather than a creative approach to an enduring and already ongoing crisis.
Relying on this sort of strapline, we won’t be transforming ourselves as the church into what we need to be for the damaged world, because we’ll just be buying into doing things the old imperial way.
It’s in our weakness, our differentiation from “might is right” that our strength, and our prophetic ability to speak truth to power, will lie.
We don’t defeat empire by being empire, because empire is seductively expert at co-opting.
(As an example in passing: if you ever get invited to a Royal Garden Party, see how republican you feel by the end of it! Wow, what graciousness, what wonderful tiny sandwiches....)
And yes, when we, as churches, do engage with the mighty industries which already plan to continue selling us extinction and climate catastrophe, we need to do so with the spiritual and moral authority we have as churches, rather than as pathetically insignificant shareholders.
And we need to be honest about our own hypocrisy and imperfection: we fly, drive, drop plastic, and all the rest of it. The distance of repentance we ourselves have to travel should not be allowed to silence us. Because if we waited to put our own house completely in order, there would be no voice to speak that truth.
That we, as “people of unclean lips”, can nonetheless engage with people of unclean lips, is hopeful and wonderful.
Whilst hope, and its sustaining, is a vital part of our work as churches and as Eco-Congregation Scotland, misleading ourselves and others about the magnitude of what we face, is not.
Not, as in distant memory, the ‘Band of Hope’ but the The Brand of Hope we’re after is a deep and durable one. We are a passionate, - and yes, joyful - movement, because realism sets us free to the profoundly defiant power of joy.
(I’ve already had a piece I worked hard on for a church ‘pulled’ for being ‘gloomy’, but this blog is a place for free reflection. For being realistic, not ‘gloomy’. And if the blessing of “dark humour” is part of it, then bring it on!)
We are perhaps the first age of humanity which has swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the assurance of Satan to Jesus that ‘angels will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’. We have already jumped off the parapet, and wonder what’s keeping those angels.
I’m not ruling out the odd branch sticking out of the cliff on the way down, though.
We are a culture cherishing a wholesale denial of cause and effect, grounded not even in a twisted, naive faith in God, but in the blinkering tyranny of unlimited greed and growth.
I’ve already noted the ‘greenwashing’ of the job-title of the UK “Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth”.
For it’s the idolatry of growth, and the enforced lie that business as usual can continue with a bit of ‘green’ tinkering, that continues to break the “laws that never shall be broken”.(cf Psalm 148). If we’re attentive followers of Christ, then we do not pretend Sky and Earth will not pass away.
The promise to Noah was that if rising waters destroy, it’s not God’s doing. Again, naive and decontextualised reliance on that sort of promise, is putting God to the test.
Our species (and perhaps the asset managers of some Christian organisations) have presumed to disagree with the God who in conversation with Job, cited the invincible strength of Creation in the Leviathan and Behemoth: and something obscene and blasphemously out of balance has resulted, where other species die out, not in God’s good time of ‘seedtime and harvest’, but wholesale.
(Of course, since we’re not creatures like the other creatures, we might be sad, but we’ll be safe - or will we?)
It’s the most perverse reading - if they bothered to read - of Jesus in Matthew 6: 34
’Do not worry about tomorrow’....
because it disregards the “- κακία -“ (genteel translation) “troubles” or perhaps, given the way language often works, the ‘crap’ (speculative translation) we’re up to our eyes in today. If you don’t deal with today, there won’t be a tomorrow.
Whether we’re also living out the gullibility of Adam and Eve, that ‘you will be like God’ needs more reflection.
I looked at the selection of medieval gravestones in St Andrews Cathedral recently: pretty well all of them had some variation on the words “memento mori” “remember that you will die”.
That’s not gloomy, but part of what we need to know to live well.
To know that everything we know does have an ending, which would be fine.
How would we behave if we were more conscious that this “day” could be our last?
Some, perhaps, would react with despair, some with hope and compassion. Which itself transforms every situation.
We seek a Life Appropriate to the Age, and the church, not the empire, that God call us to be, for God’s glory and the good of Christ’s beautiful, crucified, creation. In joyful faith, we seek the Way, because the solution is not yet in sight.
Hallelujah anyway. Amen.