“…creation can only be understood as a gift….” — Pope Francis underscoring that faith tells us that the earth is not a possession to be used and destroyed… very much in the spirit of indigenous beliefs
Pope Francis sees the cause of the collective crises in what he calls a “technocratic” mentality, one that considers “the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” This is underscored repeatedly in his Laudato Si’.
The easy targets for concerned citizens are the corporations, those running their show and those showing up to do their bidding for a paycheck and benefits. But the damaging focus on “one’s own immediate interests” must be extended to the vast majority of U.S. citizens, including many of those who are proactive in addressing the major issues of our day. They have a say in the way things will unfold, but have been sold (as much as anyone else) on embracing the American mantra, “Do your own thing, follow your passion, and — above all — look out for Number One.”
This is not discussed.
Activists need to take a new hard look at exactly WHY they are involved in civic engagement. For the relativism which Pope Francis spotlights what happens when human beings are placed at the center, their interests, needs and passions all the be all and end all. That all, of course, can easily be manifested in a form of socializing and/or wanting to be one-up on others (less informed or less engaged), or by creating a spotlight on oneself to pump up one’s self-esteem, overweening pride.
Which side are you on? The answer is easy if you’re simply shooting to be politically correct. A problem arises, however, when one is honest about what is at the center of one’s activity. At the center must be God, not mundane concerns. Yes, the very best of fighting the good fight can be reduced to mundane, earthly interaction. And unless there is an acknowledgement that earthy foci pale when placed next to Eternal Truth (whatever that is for one), nothing gets done which is worth the heartbeats.
Yes, one can — without God in one’s heart and soul and mind — find a way to improve the lot of this and that one. But it is far too easy (without embracing God) to nurture a view that there is no intrinsic value in lesser creatures… and even in human beings (considered to be of a lower order). Far too easy. Just look at the disappearance of species… the rate… the absolute numbers. How is it possible that concerned citizens with humanity in their hearts have allowed our present momentum on that front and on many other scores to become so horrifying?
God is dead to many, yes. But that’s by choice. All is by choice. Even when we’re plagued by what’s external to us there is choice. There is, for example, choice in faith. Choice of faith, choice to simply have faith in what is above and beyond oneself.
God, though, has been put on some kind of shelf for the vast majority of those who are running and ruining this world. And barriers to retrieving God for our lives are put up constantly by proud logical positivists, who fancy that their Apollonian arguments are the final word. [Pause.] They are only the final word for this world.
We must acknowledge that the “‘technocratic’ mentality” which Pope Francis invokes has taken over this earth, and is slated to take us over the precipice. Ecological problems will not solve themselves, as he notes, “simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change.”
Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 began the tradition in Roman Catholic circles of putting
the state of society into a healthy broad perspective. What’s new in Laudato Si’ is the emphasis on urgency and the paucity of options. Concern for the environment and meaningful action regarding our collective crises is no longer “optional” according to Pope Francis’ encyclical, but is an integral part of the teaching on social justice.
He has stressed the interconnectedness of all creation* and the fact that we can always redirect our steps. Our abominable steps at present, though, cannot be reversed without a radical restructuring of spiritual thinking. We do need the radical restructuring of society, as per the words of Martin Luther King, but the attempt to bring about such institutional change has to have a God-centered foundation.
*Very much along the lines of what indigenous groups and acolytes of Eastern religions advocate.
Issues related to gender and sexuality and abortion and birthrate and embryo research and cosmology aside (for the moment), I ask readers to consider their own mortality as the wrestle with what’s the best approach for civic engagement at this juncture. I also humbly and respectfully request that readers tune into their personal attitudes toward their own agency.
Where do you come from? What is this you’re experiencing at this very moment? Do you really think that professors or professionals of any stripe or counterparts to Michael Stipe can answer those questions? Neither “experts” nor icons can help. Only Eternal Truth can answer those questions. And that must be sought with faith… patiently.
The nihilism of Nietzsche has found a home in the hearts of most millennials, and their elders long ago bought into the Science, Technology, Psychology, Sociology, Business bottom line and the like as… god-like.
But that can change. The world can change. If you change… so that you view anew the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn. This is not the same, though, as saying “You must be the change you seek”… the Gandhi-related mantra that’s so popular among activists.
It involves more.
Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.