Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Cry of the Poor and of Nature

In the Scriptures, we hear the cry of the Israelites in Egypt,  the cry of the poor and oppressed. "I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of  complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering" (Exodus 3:7). There is also the cry of creation, the ecological cry. " Yes, we  know that all creation groans and is in agony even until now" (Rom. 8:22).

There is a common element in  these two cries: The cry that comes from the failure to fulfill our social and economic obligations and to recognize our solidarity with all humans, and the cry that comes from a lack of harmony between humanity and nature--the despoiling of nature often justified by putting commercial concerns before human concerns. Both cries call out to us because of the same injustice and the same suffering. 

In both injustices, the poor are the ones who suffer. Social injustice brings about ecologic injustice, and ecologic injustice brings about social injustice. As Christians we need to attune our ears to this cry and, like the Old Testament prophets, express our just anger against this injustice, against the exploitation of the poor and oppressed.  Social and ecological justice, closely related, are fighting the same enemy: exploitation of the powerless, in most cases for personal gain.

Our relationship with nature should be a familial relationship that seeks a sustainable development for both partners. If we want to free ourselves from all that enslaves us, writes a professor of scripture, we must start by living in harmony with nature. By working for the liberation of the poor, and by identifying with the poor, we are liberating ourselves.

The professor ends his article by reminding us it's not enough to acknowledge the close relationship of social and ecological justice, we need also more study and discussion of this relationship to help us complement their interconnectedness. As we work toward this goal, not only will our political, economic, and social concerns change for the better, but when we link this change with a heightened appreciation of our ecological responsibilities, and when all four concerns are seen as belonging to one undivided whole, then we will experience the liberation we are all seeking. And the Christian response will naturally follow.