How the modern myth of unending progress has decimated the earth

(Forgive the length of this, but this began as a reply to a comment elsewhere, and turned into a much longer train of thought)

A movie called “The Book of Eli” was about a man, in a post apocalyptic world protecting the Bible he obtained/salvaged from an evil despot who sought the book in order to use it to solidify and justify his rule (by “teaching it” to his subjects to keep them in line and submit totally to him.)

That kind of “premise” is rampant, especially since Constantine, when entire Empires became “Christian” , the “benefit” of which (in the eyes of many-an-empire) was that their subjects.could be “preached to and taught” a “Gospel” which aided the orderly operation of the Empire. There are numerous approaches to this, and many of these are so successful that they become established theologies (in no small part because they contain a mix of good moral underpinning with various specific teachings that rely on certain interpretations). This is happening constantly. It’s what the New Testament refers to as “the way of the world”, which seeps in to Christian teaching unawares.

I firmly believe that this is what happened to Christians in the Industrialized West, as they were able to allow “progress ideology” to convince them that this way of living was the sign of God’s sanctioning of this “progress”, and closed their eyes to the death they brought to indigenous people (after all, they needed to “yield” to this God-ordained never-ending progress of powerful men; if not, they were thus “expendable” and needed to be assimilated or eliminated).

This same ideology allowed the submersion and loss of the centrality and sacredness* of Creation as a “site” of God’s loving offering of himself; which is the repeated story of humankind’s rejection of God’s purposes, and God’s responding with continual acts of restoration and re-orienting humankind back in the right direction.

(* see the explanation of “sacred” at the bottom of this post)

This sacred story (“sacred” because it is the story of God’s creation of life and assigning humans to care for it, even as they are enmeshed in it and a “piece” of it) has been told, in all it’s many pieces, for millennia. We are a Judeo-Christian lineage, believing ourselves “chosen” to protect this sacred story by telling it, again and again. I am a “believer” in that. I feel called to “tell that story”. There are many elements to this story.

We are called to tell different parts of that story, not as if they are are the only parts worth telling, but that we have a charge to tell that story with passions (ie “gifts”) enabling us to tell those stories as “Good News” about particular life contexts. This “Good News” is exploring this contexts in the Kingdom of God context. In other words, how do “things, as they are in heaven” (which I take to mean, “as they should be; as to the purpose for which they were created”) look in contrast to what they ARE , right now, and how do we address that difference, so that “God’s Kingdom might come to us , here, on earth, as it is in heaven” ?

Missionaries sent to foreign lands, who encountered illness and physical infirmities easily treatable and heal-able with modern medicine, found it useful and loving to begin sending missionary doctors, trained in the science of medicine and human physical care, to help restore people back to health.

In the same way, I have found that we can “see the infirmities” and effects of those infirmities, of the ecological system effects to the assaults of fossil fuel burning, clear-cutting of forests, polluting of waterways, paving over of earth’s natural carbon syncs with materials (such as “concrete”) whose production also exert a heavy toll footprint of carbon emissions.

Climate Science has grown up in multiple disciplines, and with rapid advances of ways of measuring and observing ecological processes and trends. This is the “medical” discipline for the ecosystem. It is monitoring the health and conditions of our ecosystem that lead to either flourishing or sickness.

Missionaries trusted a medical profession many decades ago, even though there have been many advances in medicine and practice since then. But they saw what we could see then, based on the best available knowledge, and applied it to the healing and betterment and ministry to people who needed it.

I ask no less of us now in appropriating the best knowledge we have regarding our ecological condition in order to work toward the restoration of a way of living that will support human thriving. We are falling far behind on coming through for the sake of the living, in this task since we were told 30 years ago in no uncertain terms, that we had best get our act together (by James Hansen, before Congress, after decades of paltry response —and even blatant ignoring— from government regarding earlier awareness that trouble was brewing that best be dealt with ASAP).

In an interview about his newly released book, “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming”, David Wallce-Wells, observes:

“The United Nations established its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988, signaling to all the world a scientific consensus about the problem. Since then, we have done more damage, knowingly, than we did over preceding centuries, in ignorance.”

We are now, as a species, largely ignoring and proceeding on with “business as usual” as this ecological disaster has already begun it’s unfolding. And this is driven by our unwillingness to break habits instilled by generations. And we persist in these habits because we who are “comfortable” (or FEEL “comfortable enough”) will push out of consciousness those things which try to tell us we are doing wrong. So we justify it, and we have plenty of help from our fellow developed world humans and its economic and educational systems which serve to further us on our path to “growth”.

As Wallace-Wells describes in his book, we are seemingly helpless to think outside the assumptions of tens of thousands of years of humans that took for granted a certain Climate and ecosystem. It is understandable that we have difficulty processing unprecedented conditions. There literally is no precedent. But the science is showing us that this is exactly what’s happening. We have taken the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere above 300 for the first time in a million years. And it is now gone from 300 to 410 and above in the space of just 70 years.

I am still early in my reading of Wallace-Wells’ book, and I am collecting some of his tidbits or slivers of hope (of which he seems determined to include) in this “onslaught” of bad news about ecological conditions and trends. And , as I related early on in this story, I endeavor to let the reality of the Kingdom of God shine upon these conditions, so that the church might speak of it (as many others are doing).

* sacred BECAUSE of it’s role as a SITE of God’s Creating, Redemptive, Restoring Care for us all. “Take off your shoes, for the ground on which you are standing is Holy Ground”. The ground is not worshiped. The God who is present sacrilizes it. The Earth is “Holy Ground” in that God created it to contain this story. We live this life beholden to the Creator ON THIS PLANET and in this cosmos that God created. And, in the beginning, God, after creating the setting (the “heavens and the earth”, the land and sea, the plants and the animals), created humans, who are “to till and to keep” ref. Genesis 2:15)


About Theoblogical

I am a Web developer with a background in theology, sociology and communications. I love to read, watch movies, sports, and am looking for authentic church.

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