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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ignatian spirituality and the environment

More on this from Roland Lesseps SJ ...

Genetic Engineering Evaluated from the Perspective of Christian and Ignatian Creation Spirituality

[A]ll of God’s creatures have intrinsic value, in and of themselves. Nature is not just useful to us humans, but is valued and loved in itself, for itself, by God in Christ. A scriptural basis for this appreciation of all creatures is in Genesis 1: "God saw that it was good…God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good." This is an amazing statement, points out Sallie McFague: "God does not say that creation is good for human beings or even, more surprising, good for me, God, but just good, in fact very good. God is saying that nature is good in itself -- not good for something or someone but just plain good. God’s pronouncement here is an aesthetic one: appreciation of something outside oneself, in itself, for itself. The writer of the first chapter of Genesis leaves no doubt that the goodness of creation is its message: it is repeated seven times in the space of 31 verses. How have we missed this?"

If we are willing to shift from an anthropocentric view of other creatures and recognise that other creatures have intrinsic value, then we will be able to accept that these creatures also have rights including the right of each species to preserve its genetic integrity. Sean McDonagh puts it this way: "From an ethical perspective the nub of the issue revolves around whether other creatures have 'intrinsic' value. If they do, then it seems logical to argue that they have rights that their own 'specialness,' especially the species boundary, be respected by another creature."

Thomas Berry attributes the cause of the present environmental crisis to "the effort of western peoples to produce a civilization that recognizes the rights of humans and grants no rights to any other mode of being." Berry, however, claims that "every component of the Earth community has three rights: the right to be, the right to habitat, and the right to fulfil its role in the ever-renewing processes of the Earth community." Fitting well with these rights is certainly the right of each species to preserve its genetic integrity.

God’s appreciation of creatures as very good is clearly reflected in Ignatius' relation to creatures. It is striking that David L. Fleming expressed this Ignatian thought as the obligation we have to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. We who are made in God's image ought to reflect God’s attitude toward nature: appreciation. We are to appreciate things in themselves, for their intrinsic value. "Neither Genesis nor the Exercises offer licence to misuse the things God made. On the contrary, 'insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go' is freedom and respect, not abuse and rebellion."

This Ignatian approach to creatures, which he shares with Francis of Assisi, may be even clearer in the Contemplation for Learning to Love Like God. God dwells within all creatures. "The world is charged with the grandeur of God," wrote Gerald Manley Hopkins. We experience the creative love of God flaming at the core of all creatures and are moved to respond with our own deep love, love for God and for all God’s creatures, a love expressed in our deeds. "The Contemplatio proposes a reverential respect for all things. It calls for the threefold relationships among God, humans, and nature to be not only respectful and generous, but also loving."

God labours and works in all creatures, continually calling them out of chaos and nothingness. God continues to create all things at each moment. If, through some impossibility, God would ever cease creating, we would all immediately disappear back into nothingness. This "work" of our Creator God is very different from that of a human tinker, fixing, adjusting, mending, repairing. John F. Haught presents the theological position that our God is humble, self-emptying, suffering love.

"Since it is the nature of love, even at the human level, to refrain from coercive manipulation of others, we should not expect the world that a generous God calls into being to be instantaneously ordered to perfection. Instead, in the presence of the self-restraint befitting an absolutely self-giving love, the world would unfold by responding to the divine allurement at its own pace and in its own particular way. The universe would then be spontaneously self-creative and self-ordering." ....


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