Spirituality in an Ecological Crisis

It’s not enough to know we’re in an ecological crisis. You have to feel it. It’s a question of the story you tell yourself about who you are. It’s a question of meaning and of spirituality – a question of being who you are in relation to all the life (human and otherwise) that is.

I’m increasingly convinced of this. I can change some aspects of my behaviour and reduce the amount of harm I do, and that’s good. But something deeper has to happen if I am going to be part of shaping a world where all life flourishes. That story I tell myself about who I am needs to develop so that I change from the core of my being outwards. For me, I am finding that is happening as I pay attention to nature, as I work on a practice of nature-focused outdoor prayer/meditation, and learn to read the bible through a ‘greener’/majority-nature lens. Little by little, I feel a deepening connection with the living world beyond myself.

All that is by way of introducing my latest piece of work: Creation Psalms.

It’s a series of resources based on seven psalms that address issues to do with nature and humanity. In each one, there are questions to prompt reflection on the text, some suggestions for prayer, outdoors and indoors, some written prayers and poems, and my own reflection on the psalm.

This may ring a faint bell if you’ve been following my blog for some time. In 2016, I had some sabbatical leave and spent it exploring a spirituality of nature connection. The resulting written work was a set of essays on these seven psalms. Those essays form the core that I have now expanded into this new resource for individuals, groups and Churches wanting to explore bible-based spirituality for an ecological crisis.

The bible, being an ancient text, doesn’t address 450 parts-per-million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or oil-fuelled transportation and energy, or the way that growth-obsessed liberal capitalism ravages the planet. It does, however, often talk very positively about nature and it addresses the place of humans within nature. Its ethical code includes principles that respect and care for the land, that protect those who are vulnerable, and that should prevent exploitation, hoarding and inequality. It’s true that parts of the bible have been used to justify oppression, and that modern interpretations have tended to focus on an after-life, with a correlated devaluing of the present life (also used as a tool of oppression, as Karl Marx rightly said) and of the physical world. However, I find that there’s more than enough in this ancient anthology of spiritual texts that is affirming of life and promotes justice and compassionate living, that it still feels like a holy book to me, especially if remember to ask whose eyes am I reading it through, being alert to my own privilege and the culture of privilege in which I was raised.

The Psalms are the prayer book of the bible, so they’re a good place to go to resource prayer and reflection on who we are and how we live in relation to the living world beyond us. Themes that emerge in the psalms I’ve looked at include:

  • The completeness of creation – complete when we each participate (Psalm 145)
  • The wildness of God, against the harm done by a well-ordered bureaucratic system (Psalm 29)
  • Celebration of wildness on the earth, including wild animals – a big picture in which humanity is marginal (Psalm 104)
  • A critique of the word ‘dominion’ and the hubris and harm that result (Psalm 8)
  • The importance of a long and broad sense of belonging in community (Psalm 136)
  • Feeling at home in our bodies; not ghosts in machines but embodied beings (Psalm 139)
  • All the universe as able to worship God – a sense of the connectedness of all things, including the Divine (Psalm 148)

If this sounds like your thing, please do go to Creation Psalms and explore!

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