Environmental Theology: Processing Ecological Shalom
(This is a paper I wrote in the fall of 2017 for seminary. We were prompted to write an environmental theology based on a piece by Jay McDaniel. If you're reading this paper from the planet Earth hopefully you'll take this theology to heart, then to your hands and feet.)
The world is moving more and more towards an environmental catastrophe.
While we tend to categorize the environmental crisis as an issue, it is better to view it as the issue.
Jay McDaniel helps us re-configure our understanding of the environmental crisis we find ourselves in with, “‘the environment’ is not simply an issue among issues but rather a context for all issues. It is the web of life on earth and more generally the vast, evolving universe” (McDaniel 232).
Therefore, our most essential questions, who is God, who are we, and what are we to do, must be re-imagined.
Process theology, in particular, has a compelling response to these questions that may move us from environmental catastrophe to environmental Shalom.
Who is God?
We must first re-imagine who God is to live into the environmental Shalom we seek.
To put it simply, for process theology, God is ultimate actuality (McDaniel 235).
God as ultimate actuality means God is the ground of becoming.
Becoming is the creativity which is the reality we experience.
God’s nature then is trifold: God-embracing-many, God-within-many, and God-between-many.
God-embracing-many understands God to be everywhere at once, concerning for the smallest molecule to the complex depressed adolescent.
God-within-many understands God to be luring all things into creativity. Whether it be the molecule adapting to its environment or the depressed adolescent recognizing he or she may need professional counseling, God is luring things into creativity to live well.
God-between-many means God dwells within the relations of things. God dwells within the relationship of the molecule of the antidepressant and the brain cells of the depressed adolescent. The molecule of the antidepressant and the brains cells of the adolescent interact with one another to mutually enhance one another’s experience.
Because of a re-imagination of God, the implications for environmental stewardship are radical.
If we understand God’s nature to be God-embracing-many, all things are uniquely concerned for God, which ought to compel us to be concerned about those things as well.
If we understand God’s nature to be God-within-many, then God’s self is within all things, therefore, if one thing suffers then God suffers, our relationship with that thing suffers, and, in turn, we suffer.
Lastly if we understand God’s nature to be God-between-many, then our relationship with other things ought to reflect the God who dwells within that relationship...