145: Who’s Spiritually Embracing Earth Day? … Why, you may be surprised!

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.”
(from the Earth Charter)

    It’s only 6 days until Earth Day, which falls in the midst of Passover this year, and ReadTheSpirit wants to help inspire and pleasantly surprise you with our offerings all this week — and next week.

    First, we’re going to honor the groundswell of interest in preserving and exploring the natural world — by people from many religious traditions. Then, we’re going to usher in a special Passover series in which you’ll meet an inspiring array of remarkable Jewish voices — including “The Adventure Rabbi,” who has a special focus on the environment.
    If you haven’t seen this groundswell, especially in evangelical circles but in other religious realms as well, then you simply haven’t been watching closely enough.
    This movement is popping up everywhere.
    For example: A big envelope arrived in the Home Office of ReadTheSpirit last week with a colorful Earth Day sticker on the front cover. The sender? InterVarsity Press, a publishing house with roots at the heart of the evangelical movement. The folks at IVPress wanted to be sure that everyone in the Christian world knows that they’re releasing a brand new edition of Edward R. Brown’s compelling book, “Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation.”
    Click on the cover of the book to read our review, but in short: It’s a good book loaded with practical tips like good choices of music for worship — and tips for transforming Christian camping experiences into a deeper meditation in God’s Creation.
    The point here is that, if Earth Day activism now is coming from the heart of the evangelical world, that’s strong evidence of a changing culture.

    What else was in the IVPress envelope?
    There was an endorsement from E.O. Wilson, the scientist who wrote “The Creation,” a book that Wilson cast as a book-length letter to Southern Baptist friends. Wilson is one of the pioneering scientists who has been undertaking in-depth dialogue with evangelical leaders. And it may be that his sometimes distant friends are responding, because Southern Baptist leaders just recently issued a letter calling for more attention to global warming.
    Just a couple of days before this IVP envelope reached our Home Offices, we had just written about this convergence of creative hearts and minds.
    Then, this envelope showed up with fresh evidence of cultural change.

    But here’s the bigger news: This isn’t merely a rapprochement between evangelicals and scientists. People all over the world are finding spiritual inspiration in rolling up their sleeves and contemplating the natural world. You’ll read about “The Adventure Rabbi” later this week when we move into our special Passover series.

    Right now, let’s hear from Sister Mary McCann of the Sisters, Servants of Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), based in Monroe, Michigan. These Catholic sisters with a long history as educators have devoted their community’s resources to healing the Earth.
    Their official vision statement says: “The IHM community envisions and is committed to bringing about the dream of God on planet Earth through respect for, nurturing of and promoting the liberation and well-being of all persons and all of nature as God’s good creation.”
    The sisters have transformed their Motherhouse and their expansive grounds in Monroe into a world-class example of green retro-fitting of historic buildings and green redevelopment of their urban landscape. Watch ReadTheSpirit in early May for a special report from the Motherhouse, complete with video and news about yet another IHM offering to help people reflect on the natural world.
    Today — let’s start with this timely greeting from Sister Mary McCann. Here’s what Sister Mary McCann sent us this week:

    Imagine the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems as a top priority on the world’s agenda.
    Imagine a commitment to the intellectual, artistic, ethical and spiritual potential of humanity as part of that agenda.
    Envision the United States fully invested in the common global good.
    Visualize governments, corporations and individuals who own, manage or use natural resources also committed to preventing environmental harm and to the rights of other humans.
    Consider the spread of democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful.
    Imagine the impact on the planet if everyone — including you — has a secure, meaningful, ecologically responsible livelihood.
    Imagine our generation exercising restraint so as to secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for future generations.

    By endorsing the Earth Charter, the IHM Sisters of Monroe and millions of others are working toward the global sustainable society you have just imagined. They are committed to restoring the well-being of our beautiful and endangered planet. They have declared their shared “responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world.” …
    Think of it this way. Our unique contribution as a species to the interdependent Earth community is the capacity of self-reflective awareness.
    Humans can consciously reflect on the miracle of the universe; we can experience awe and gratitude, grief and repentance. Individually and collectively, we can reflect upon our experiences, our choices, and their consequences, changing direction if we choose. It is this capacity in the human species that is critically important in the life of our planet.  …

    We need to re-envision our dream of the “good life” and our place on this planet.
    It means seeing ourselves as Earthlings who are part of the diverse and interdependent Earth community, not the pinnacle or the consumers of creation; as latecomers to the planet; learners; unique and important but not dominant or central in the community of life; as members of local, regional, and planetary ecosystems and dependent on plant and animal life in a way they are not dependent on us; as brothers and sisters within the one human family sharing, not competitors.

    These are postures consistent with “Respect and Care for the Community of Life” as envisioned by the Earth Charter.
    We are so much more than consumers of Earth’s resources. We are called to be grateful, mindful participants in the superb garden of life that is ours. Not only our survival but our fulfillment as humans is tied to our giving of our talents and energies so that together we may heal and restore the Earth, our Home.

    This is the great work of our time.
    Can we do it in love and gratitude?

     SO ENDS this letter from Sister Mary McCann in preparation for Earth Day this year.

    We would love to hear from you on this theme. What are your prayers, your reflections this year as we approach Earth Day? What have you found helpful in re-envisioning “the good life,” as Sister Mary McCann asks us to do.
    TELL US WHAT YOU THINK. Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of this story. Or you can email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:

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