This week, chapter 3: Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology."
“A prevalent theme in ecotheology is the radical interdependence of all existence and the accompanying mandate to view humankind as embedded in a complex web of relationships with other organisms that have intrinsic value.”With these echoes of the UU 7th principle – and the 1st – ecotheology is substantially connected to UU theology. Significant ecotheologians include Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, John Cobb, Joanna Macy, Sallie McFague, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Catherine Keller.
“All that exists in in relationship with everything. As Ivone Gebara writes in Longing for Running Water, it ‘is not a mechanical interdependence but a living one: a sacred interdependence that is vibrant and visceral’.”Ecology becomes ecotheology when it encounters a sense of mystery, when the study of the relations of life forms to one another and their environment evokes awe and wonder. Theology, historically and currently, may serve the interests of dominance and empire by coopting God into a story that underwrites the social inequities of its time. Mindfulness of mystery can help protect against such cooptation. African-American writers such as theologian James Cone and Shamara Shantu Riley express the connections between oppression of people, exploitation of animals, and ravaging of nature.
For many ecotheologians, God does not precede the cosmos, but arose and unfolds with the cosmos. Ecotheology lends itself to pantheism (God and the universe are the same thing), or to panentheism (God and creation are inextricably intertwined, but not identical, as they participate together in creation’s unfolding).
“As McFague explains in The Body of God, ‘Everything that is, is in God and God is in all things and yet God is not identical to the universe, for the universe is dependent on God in a way that God is not dependent on the Universe’.”Unitarians and Universalists of the 19th-century foreshadowed many of ecotheology’s concerns. UUs today
“are increasingly able to participate powerfully in ecumenical and multi-faith efforts when we draw on God language and images that are inclusive, expansive, immanent, and intermingled with the unfolding of creation.”The writings of ecotheologians provides us a language for connecting with people of other traditions yet one UUs can use with integrity.
Ecotheology’s ethic emerges from seeing that the source of evil always lies in a good and necessary need taken to excess. Virtue is skill in balancing all needs.
- What seems to you attractive about ecotheology? Are there aspects that give you pause?
- How does the power of beauty affect your work for justice?
- Ecotheologians are apt to say “God (the holy, the sacred) is in all of the created universe,” or that “God (the holy, the sacred) is the universe,” or that “God (the holy, the sacred) is creativity itself.” How might these thoughts support the work for environmental justice?