Jun 19 2015

A Positive Outcome?

_DSC3043Pope Francis has certainly been getting a lot of attention the past few days.  His encyclical on climate change and the environment has been praised by some and scorned by others.  I have not read the entire encyclical but from the excerpts I’ve seen I am very impressed with what he has done here.  He has taken on both climate deniers and believers who are indifferent toward environmental issues indicating that we cannot afford to ignore what is happening to planet Earth.

Pope Francis notes that “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”  Who can deny that we have dirtied the planet in more ways than one?  Water and air pollution remain prevalent problems in many places on the earth.  The garbage we produce each day is staggering and the disposal of it is a current problem but will become an even greater one in the future.

_DSC3047The papal encyclical addresses global warming, species extinction and, not surprisingly for this pope, the effect environmental issues have on the poor.  Pope Francis believes we have a moral and spiritual duty to do what we can to care for the earth.  He stresses that we owe it not just to God and to ourselves but to future generations as well.  One of the quotes from the encyclical that is getting a lot of attention says “Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.”

Pope Francis’ concern for the destruction of the earth is influenced by his belief that God is present in the Creation and makes Himself known through it.  He seems to have learned much from his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who praised God for “brother sun” and “sister moon.”  Pope Francis writes, “There is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.”  He adds to this, “Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”

_DSC3317Sadly, a number of politicians and religious leaders feel Pope Francis should “stick to theology” and leave matters pertaining to the environment to scientists.  Ironically, the pope has a master’s degree in chemistry, but even if he didn’t the care of the earth is very much a part of theology.  I suspect the concern expressed by the pope’s critics has more to do with economic repercussions to his stance on the environment than anything else.  I fear many of these people bow to the gods of money and power rather than to the God of Creation whom the pope serves.

_DSC2487In his encyclical Pope Francis challenges us to “recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.”  I hope and pray that we will all take this challenge seriously.  Elsewhere he writes “We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome.”  In these two passages I see the pope calling believers to both prayer and action.  Yes, we should all pray for “a positive outcome” to the crisis we find ourselves in but we must also follow God’s guidance and take the steps necessary to ensure that there will be a positive outcome both for us and for those who will follow in our steps.  This Protestant pastor hopes that Christians from all faith traditions will take seriously the message of Pope Francis.  I cannot help but believe that the future of the earth depends upon it.

–Chuck

(The pictures shown above are some I’ve taken recently at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area and Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.)