Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Environmentally Friendly Spirituality

The Eco-forum of the Seoul Pastoral Environmental Committee and the Catholic University, written up by the Peace Weekly, was recently held to discuss the thought of Thomas Berry (1914-2009), the Passionist priest who was internationally known as an authority in the field of ecology. The first presenter was a professor from Canada, a disciple of Berry's; the second was a Korean priest from the Catholic University.

Berry was not only a cultural historian but a critic of the intellectual and spiritual history of the twentieth century. His thought about ecology was not limited to the environment but influenced religion, politics and the arts.

He felt that we have destroyed so much of our environment that to continue to live as we have would bring on an ecological disaster. We have not understood the place of humanity in God's creation, he said, and by separating  ourselves from creation are destroying it. Humanity is not the center of the universe and even when we realized this, he pointed out, we didn't  appreciate the divine in the creation which gave rise to the environmental problems we are now experiencing.

Berry felt that it was necessary to have a spirituality that includes a functional cosmological vision, if we are to solve the ecological problem. How do we achieve this vision of the universe that would allow us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong in our relationship with creation? Changing our actions that destroy the environment to actions that make it flourish.

We are all part of the cosmos, all related, all one family. Berry stressed that the  breath of God that has entered all of creation is what is drawing us to be one community.  After the universe's billions of  years of evolving, Jesus took on flesh and became one with us. He becomes one with all the matter of creation and shows the divine within creation.

Berry says that all creation has the right to exist, the right to seek its particular goal, and also the right to have what is necessary to achieve that goal. It is necessary, according to Berry, that the relationship  between the earth and humanity be mutually beneficial. This will require a vision of the universe that will encompass theology, economics and  morality.

In the second presentation, the priest mentioned that Berry considered Asian thought and religion as vital contributions to human thought and behavior.  A great deal of God's revelations can be found within it: wisdom which  can lead us into  the future. After the II Vatican Council, our theology in Asia had been concerned with inculturation, liberation theology, and feminist theology. It is now time to have an understanding of our ecological problems and seek ways to heal our environment with a theology that will serve this purpose. Thomas Berry, according to the priest, is one who can help us to achieve this goal.