Last night I went to the Operation Noah annual lecture on faith and the environment (specifically climate change), and this year it was given by Rowan Williams. Here is the lecture.
His points were based on our broken relationship with nature, which needs to be healed to allow us to be fully human and fully alive (we seem to think along the same lines!) Here is The Guardian review. He spelled out his arguments well and with intellect and clarity. He was direct, sometimes a little too simplistic, but the overall impression was a lecture that had moved the public debate on from being worried about light bulbs to being aware of the bigger picture which puts us in a spiritual crisis as well as a physical one.
I have just written to him to ask him to move one step further - stage 3 of this road of many steps we have to travel.
Stage 1 - realising there is a problem that needs our action
Stage 2 - understanding the problem is caused by a broken relationship with the natural world, and that is a spiritual crisis which affects us as well as the earth.
Stage 3 - understanding what a true and grounded relationship with nature actually is.
I've asked Rowan Williams to reflect theologically on the fact that our relationship with nature is based on competition. Nature is not just a warm fuzzy thing we need to reconnect with and all will be well - a benign and lovely thing just waiting for us to love it again. Many species and habitats are in direct competition with us for resources and living space. The earth is terrifying, awesome, dangerous and full of ruthless competition. So what does that say about us and our healed relationship?
A Jesuit missionary told me he would happily cut down the rainforest where he worked in the Congo to get rid of the mosquitoes. "If you carried as many children to their graves in the back of your car as I do in mine, you might not love nature so much."
Stage 3 is a grounded and realistic theology of competition, it is developing an understanding of what it is to form a meaningful and sustainable relationship with a competitor. It means to love that which often frightens and devours us; as well as inspires us to poetry and music and to see the face of God. Over 1 million people die each year of malaria - carried by mosquitoes.
See an earlier post on my old blog on this.
A restored relationship with nature will challenge us to be "more fully human" than we might like - or are ready to accept. But we have no choice.