Linking environment with the Christian faith
Fr Eric Overend, Vice-Chairman of the Church Commission on the Environment, argues that each of us need to give urgent importance to our conscience and examine our performance in every single action undertaken to ensure that we are not stealing from future generations their right to live a sustainable life.
In my opinion, a true Christian cannot disregard the environment. By default the Christian determined to experience and honour God’s love, and convey it in all possible ways, must take a lead role in the promotion and conservation of Creation, through ‘leadership by service’.
I believe that the Christian vision on the environment should be led by the premise that one ought to respect and make good use of nature and Creation in a sustainable manner. Each individual’s freedom and liberty, and the good use of the common good in Creation stop where the rights of others begin (‘others’ here refers to the whole variety of creation and the rest of society).
The mature Christian perspective evolved from a deep and holistic experience of being guided by Christ’s teachings, fully aware that the presence of humankind and nature are members of the One ecosystem of Creation. It is this perspective that must constantly provoke in the follower of Christ the duty to urgently undertake the mission of passing on this message to all others in words but more importantly through his or her deeds and lifestyle. One can truly say that one is pro creation and the environment if one, freely and maturely, chooses to lead a life and take decisions not depending solely and exclusively on economic and personal benefits. Man must have an ecological responsibility to judge whether his lifestyle will in fact have a negative impact on others now and tomorrow, and perhaps hinder their right to enjoy the merits and benefits of Creation, intended for all humankind.
This is God’s call for attention to humanity, when as the biblical Creation narrative indicates, God created man and woman according to His image and likeness, meaning in and out of love, able to share this same love. Then God commanded humankind –the product of His love – to lead the rest of creation through stewardship. The good use of creation – created for all peoples and generations in the whole span of time and space – with a total sense of responsibility is obligatory. The challenge is to succeed in life without disturbing or disabling the harmony in the whole ecosystem, where all members of the one family of Creation, find a good place to live and abide together.
It is this common obligation to respect harmony in the whole of Creation that must be the sole authority which ought to serve as a guide for each of us in life. In practical terms this demands from each and every one of us a code of ethical behaviour that considers deeply and objectively the effects of one’s actions felt on the other side of the globe. It must be admitted that humans have become more fragile in their capability to control all effects and consequences of their inventions and initiatives. The advances in technology at large have ignited in humans the egoistic desire to be one’s own ruler that justifies oneself in obtaining things whilst they are easily available, without any further calculation. It is not only a question of keeping our islands clean!
Humankind needs to give urgent importance to a conscious and sincere examination of performance in every single action undertaken, assuring beforehand that one would not be stealing from future generations what is theirs by right. Daily life is proof enough that greed on one side creates unnecessary needs on the other side.
Have I ingrained in my conscience the mentality and awareness of regularly asking myself – Do I recycle? Do I consider waste ‘as a grievous sin’, as the present Pope put it? Do I bother to check whether the piece of land I desire is really a need or rather the result of an affluent society? Do I honour as sacred common good such elements as sea and underground water, biological diversity, good quality air, balanced noise?
I would like to share a brief but profound lesson I was given during recreation time when I was still a schoolboy. I was once sitting on a low wall surrounding a row of trees in the school ground. The headmaster came over and gently but firmly told me That is the space for the trees, your space is down here! Please respect it.”
May we all live in this respect without fear but with great determination.