A New Religion Or A New Religious Movement? (Blog 22)

The readings and videos for this week took a few different stances on how to remedy the problem but all put religion at the center of the item1911_animalkingdom_iconecological crisis. Lynn White Jr. gives a very historical argument as to what role the Christian church and movement has played in mans perceived dominance over all things non-human. His argument is that the victory of Christianity over Paganism was the end of human’s spiritual connection to all aspects of the environment in which they live. It was also the supposed end of their reluctance to exploit nature. White insists that technological invention is distinctively Western and Christian. Therefore, all of the ecological issues that have arisen out of these Christian technological advancements are a fundamental fault of the Christian religion itself. White believes that for anything to change and ecologically friendly progress to be made a new religion must emerge to replace the flawed doctrine of Christianity. The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey is more forgiving of the Christian faith not in the sense of forgiving Christians for the way that they have acted towards both humans and non-humans but, rather, forgiving in the idea that Christianity is a religion that’s built on love and because of this fundamental love there is hope that the Christian community can turn this around and lead a new movement that favors love of all God’s creatures. Linzey says, “Christian Churches then have been agents of oppression-that is common-place- but they can also be agents of liberation.”[1]

I find Lynn White Jr.’s historical account of Christianity very difficult to stomach. I think he is very selective in what he includes and what he doesn’t. For example, White quotes Ronald Regan who was, at the time, Governor of California as speaking for the entire Christian tradition when he allegedly said, “when you’ve seen one redwood tree you’ve seen them all.”[2] He’s quoting one man to back up his entire argument. I understand his need to be concise but I truly believe this quote to be an unfair misrepresentation of the Christian faith and community. I don’t believe that this is the sentiment of Californians or Americans on a large scale, regardless of their religious faith and beliefs. Furthermore, White is adamant that progress won’t be made and problems can’t be solved unless a new ecologically based or at least eco-friendly religion is founded. This is similar to a question that we examined and discussed earlier this year and this reading has done nothing00000000000000001957 to change my opinion. I don’t think a new religion is necessary. I think White is trying to reduce our current ecological situation back to a single origin or shift in mans demeanor towards nature and I think there is something fundamentally wrong with that. Man’s perceived dominance cannot and does not have one singular origin. It is a whole history of oppression from different cultures and beliefs. There are historical, religious, ethnic, geographical, and so many more factors that have resulted in the way that non-humans are treated by humans. I found Linzey to have a much better representation of the Christian faith and its doctrine in relation to humans and animals. My impression of Linzey’s argument is that the Church and Christian community have taken steps to combat racism and sexism and now it’s time to fight speciesism. There is no denying that Christianity and pretty much all other major religions have used and interpreted their religious doctrine to support some inhumane act at one point or another. But Linzey himself proves that Christians have a Gospel that is based on love. The ideas have always been there, it’s just the execution that has been a little off. I’ve often found that hate is too free and too often used human emotion. It’s a wasted emotion and a waste of time to focus one’s energy on hate. The only thing that comes from hate is more hate. I think the Christian church does a good job of teaching that and for that reason I think there is hope for a new movement led by the church to extend this love beyond humans to include (as was originally intended) all of God’s creatures because if the Church holds as much weight as White believes it does in the way it has negatively effected animals and the environment then it should hold enough weight to right its wrongs.

Question: White says, “our ecological crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications.” Is White referring to the tragedy of the commons in this idea?

[1] Donald VanDeVeer and Christine Pierce, The Environmental Ethics & Policy Book (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2003), 61.

[2] VanDeVeer, 57.

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