I believe that all creation has intrinsic value as God is the creator and lover of all that is. We have become lured away from this central truth in our lives and as a consequence we are facing a growing ecological crisis. But the threat to our wellbeing is not only external. The ecology of our souls has been pillaged, raped, defiled, plundered and exploited by the materialistic powers of this world. Like the physical ecosystem, our souls need to be restored (Michael Leunig, quoted in David Tacey, The Spirituality Revolution, p.220).
How we approach these interconnected crises should be an expression of our spirituality because it is spiritual impoverishment that brought us to this wilderness place where we have become disconnected from the enduring values of the sacredness of life, our responsibility for the care of creation and a right relationship with our Creator. We have become attached to things, not just for perfectly good reasons of utility, but as a means of defining our identity. Materialism has become a condition of the mind.
We are aware that undesirable changes are taking place to our environment but we are too ready to seek out technological solutions to this crisis because our materialist mindset hustles us along this path, whilst ignoring the intensifying detriment to our spiritual lives. Our sense of foreboding has been muffled by well meaning but minor lifestyle changes. We proclaim a ‘green gospel’ of tree planting and recycling, incanting the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra but this environmental ethics is founded on utility, whereas it is a change of heart that is required; a conversion that will free us from the regressive cycle of over-consumption and the destructive patterns of behaviour that imprison us.
As a member of a liturgical church, it should come as no surprise that I place particular emphasis on liturgy and sacrament, as well as pastoral care. But I am also called to social justice activism because the poor communities who contribute least to the causes of environmental and climate change are currently the most affected. And I am seeking a balance in our economics for economic life has to be situated within the broader framework of the needs of the earth as well as humanity.
The direction of travel should start with a spiritually enriched society because when we meet others possessing an inner peace and a more holistic vision we too will want to journey with them. Evelyn Underhill emphasises that we need to find “the centre of the circle first” because “it is at the centre that the real life of the Spirit aims first; thence flowing out to the circumference (The Life of the Spirit and the Life Today, p.227). In other words, the spiritual and religious flows out into moral practice because within this vital energy we find inspiration in the the laments of the Psalmist to respect the earth, the dreams of Isaiah, and the visions of Jesus for the poor and the marginalised, urging us on the path that will lead us out of the wilderness.