Can God* forgive us for what we have done to this world?
*by ‘God’ I mean your version of the non-human force/energy/consciousness/etc. that is existence
This morning I was researching for a presentation that my wife [a mental health Nurse] & I will do at the Canadian Mental Health Nursing Conference in October on Ecological Grief and across, by accident, a reference to the movie First Reformed (2017). In it an “eco-terrorist pastor” runs amok when he is overwhelmed by what he learns about climate change. It’s about a pastor who loses his son and his wife, suffers from alcoholism and oversees a dying church while the ethically-questionable megachurch prospers next door. The pastor is not just seeing tragedy in the world on both personal and global levels, he’s seeing a church [eg. society] complicit in it.
The movie revolves around this question asked by the Pastor:
Can God forgive us for what we have done to this world?
He is just as unsure of the answer as I am. Personally, given Newton’s Third Law informs us that:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
and given this wisdom from the Bible [Galatians]:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
– I doubt it.
We are living in the age of consequence. Just as it takes longer to heal from an injury than the time it took to get injured, just as it takes longer to clean up the mess in the kitchen than the time it took to make the mess, I imagine that it will take a very long time for the Earth to clean up the mess created by our worship of exponential growth in consumption and population at all cost. I use the term worship deliberately for its religious over-tones. It seems that humans need a god to worship: whether it be a grove of trees or Zeus or Buddha or the economy it is all comes down to the same thing – we search for some higher purpose to give meaning to our brief and otherwise meaningless lives. It just so happens that our current god is killing us.
We are like the Aztecs. Their god of war and sacrifice, Huitzilopochtli, demanded continuous human sacrifice. To find new victims they had to, for religious reason, fight never ending wars by conquering new peoples who, of course, both hated and feared them. All went well for the Aztecs until the Spanish turned up – those gods predicted in their myths and thus unassailable. With the help of the surrounding Native tribes and disease [typhoid] the Aztecs were conquered – just as we will be conquered for worshipping a false god – the god of growth, growth, growth. The god that has turned us into the cancer of the Earth.
All I can say to the future is SORRY [watch video if desired]
Of course, we could, as suggested in the video above, change our ways. We are, I hope, a bit smarter than the Aztecs, a bit smarter than cancer cells, a bit smarter than yeast in a batch of fermenting beer who increase in population until the alcohol they secrete kills them. We are smarter, only, we seem not to have found a way to use that intelligence at a societal level. Our politics has failed us, because we are blinded by our god, our god of population and economic growth at all costs. So, to avoid the fate of the Aztecs and of cancer cells we must change, we must worship another god. We must find another politics that can organize us for survival. Or die. Die in the flames of a hell of our creation, as painted for us by H.Bosch in 1500.
However, Bosch does not have the last word. I leave you with this poem by Mary Oliver a classic New England nature poet who died this past January, where she explores despair.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
— over and over announcing your place in the family of things.