The Greening of Christianity
The crisis facing our home, the planet Earth, should be obvious to all its inhabitants. However, Christian language about domination of the earth, and even stewardship language, has allowed Christians to distance the theology of human salvation from the plight of the earth. Lloyd Geering’s lecture series, given at St Andrew’s on The Terrace in May 2005, addresses this problem and gives us resources of analysis and celebration to respond to it.
Over the past twenty years, progressive theologians have developed a new stream of theological work, eco-theology. Many of the contributors have been feminist theologians whose projects of unmasking ontological dualisms have had relevance both for women as a gender, and for the earth, with which women have been associated in traditional religio-cultural systems. As male-female dualism has disadvantaged women, so too has spirit-matter dualism disadvantaged the earth.
Lloyd Geering takes his audience through an analysis of the current global crisis. He also draws attention to a frightening development amongst fundamentalist Christians, the fiction of rapture theology. This barely biblical scenario has led many conservative Christians, including those in powerful political and economic positions, to utterly devalue earthly existence. They develop the environmental policies and programmes that affect all of us, and yet they hold beliefs that see the earth as temporary and expendable.
As Lloyd Geering so rightly points out, how people understand God is a crucial aspect of response to environmental crisis. It is up to us Christians and other people of faith to challenge the image of God as a ruthless warrior, who controls in micro-detail the affairs of earth. Lloyd Geering invites us to take seriously the task of re-imagining God in ways that are immanent and focused on the sustaining of life. To do so we will need to move from an external divine imperative to an internalised earth-centred moral imperative for care of the earth and a justice commitment to all, human, animal, plant, and mineral who dwell upon it.
The nature of the crisis may lead us to a place of despair. However, Lloyd concludes by outlining the possibilities for new festivals that may revive our moral imagination and enable us to experience compassion for the earth, and to feel as eco-theologian Sally McFague has claimed, “that the earth is God’s body.”
The St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society, expresses again its deep gratitude to Lloyd Geering for his insight, his wisdom and his passion, and especially for his willingness to share it with so many through the lectures and this publication.
Chairperson, St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of religion and Society (2005)
The book can be read online in chapters as below: