Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises
- Angels of Creation by Edward Burne-Jones
There's an article at The Way, the British spirituality journal, that seems relevant to Earth Day ... Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises by Stephen McCarthy.
Some have accused Ignatius of Loyola of having that Christian attitude of seeing all of the natural world simply as a prop for the benefit of humans - near the start of Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises is the First Principle and Foundation, Ignatius' view of the purpose of life in relationship .... Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. John English SJ refuted this view of Ignatius in a past Compass article.
So I was interested in seeing how Stephen McCarthy would relate Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises to climate change. The article is a little conservative for me in the way it sets up the environmental problem as a dichotomy between the values of secularism and Thomism .... secularists can be just as environmentally committed, if not more so, than Thomists ... but I like the way he uses the Two Standards as an example of choosing between selfish over-use of resources or caring custodianship of the Earth (for more on the Two Standards, see my post Philip Endean SJ on the Two Standards).
Here's just a bit of the article (you can download it for free at The Way) ....
Climate Change and the Spiritual Exercises by Stephen McCarthy
[...] Two common responses are despair and denial. Despair says ‘the problem is so intractable there is nothing we can do’. Denial says ‘global warming is a myth; there is nothing we need to do; OK, maybe the climate is getting warmer but that is part of a natural cycle which has been going on for tens of thousands of years and has nothing to do with the activity of mankind’. Without going into this discussion further, let us merely note that no serious scientific opinion supports the stance of denial, notwithstanding the irresponsible statements of a number of senior churchmen who take this position. Sadly, denial is, I believe, a disguised form of despair.
So what is a comfortably well-off Christian called to do? Where do we find Christian hope in all this? This was the second theme of my talk, and one which I have continued to pursue ever since. We have to dig deeper. What are we afraid of? Is there some inevitability here? Is everyone in the world, and for future generations, predestined to aspire to the same materialist, consumerist lifestyle that we now supposedly ‘enjoy’? Does humanity really need all this stuff in order to lead a fulfilled life? Indeed, what does it mean to flourish as a human being? What are we here for? .....