Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 24, 2010
Base energy policy on Christian values
Economic reality polarizes environmental dialogue
Journey to Justice
Last Sunday, I was pedalling my bicycle through downtown Edmonton streets on my way to Sunday Eucharist when I saw a bumper sticker on a parked car that really caught my eye. It said, "I am Alberta Oil" in bold letters.
The words "I am" were written on top in red. The words "Alberta Oil" were written on the bottom with black drops flowing down from each of the printed letters.
Sometimes bumper stickers can convey a profound message clearly using few words. One can read this message as a commentary on current economic, ecological or political debates. However, as a Christian, the message on this bumper sticker challenged me at a much deeper level.
In recent weeks, I have been leading discussions with Church groups about the ecological message contained in statements coming from Pope Benedict and Catholic bishops in Canada. My approach is generally to start by talking about the faith foundations of these statements.
In the two most recent sessions, I received challenging feedback to my presentations.
A Catholic teacher responded that what I had presented posed a serious challenge to how we live in Alberta and how she teaches in an Alberta Catholic school.
IT'S MY JOB
A construction worker at a lay formation session in a northern resource community reacted passionately arguing that if people listened to this Catholic teaching, it could impact his job significantly.
Pope Benedict in his Jan. 1, 2010 World Day of Peace message would agree: "It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view."
Both speakers had heard Pope Benedict's message clearly, understood the significance of his message and were challenged.
Environmental issues are very much in today's news: from wildlife dying in tailing ponds of oilsands plants to widespread ecological devastation associated with a massive oil leak from a destroyed pump platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The debates in Alberta are highly polarized. Often we choose sides in these debates based on where we are employed or what political party we belong to.
But what does it mean for us to participate in these debates as Catholics grounded in the values of Scripture and Catholic social teaching?
Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II presented a general message: "The ecological crisis is a moral problem." Sixteen months ago, Bishop Luc Bouchard brought this message home to Albertans: "The present pace and scale of development in the Athabasca oil sands cannot be morally justified."
For many Catholics, this is a new way of understanding our Christian faith. Most of us know that our Catholic faith speaks to issues of sexual ethics.
Similarly, we can usually see a connection between our faith and our response to those who are hungry and homeless.
But what about our attitudes related to ecology? I regularly ask members of the Church groups I meet with how many times they have heard a Sunday homily or an RCIA presentation about ecology and integrity of creation. I have heard a positive response only once - from a person attending a First Peoples parish where aboriginal spirituality is affirmed.
There have been many critiques, positive and negative, made about the ecological questions Bishop Luc raises in his statement about the oilsands. However, I have seen nothing said about the theological affirmations in his statement.
Two examples ; 1) "To abuse creation . . . constitutes a lack of faith, a type of despair, or even a blasphemy;" 2) "When people destroy or damage creation they are limiting their ability to know and love God."
For Christians, the foundations of these ecological debates are profoundly theological, spiritual and moral. This does not mean that our theology will lead immediately to the details of a renewed Alberta energy policy, but our Christian faith will certainly speak to the values upon which such an energy policy needs to be based.
WHO AM I?
The provocative bumper sticker poses an important faith question to Christian readers: Who am I? The answer must be: "We are beloved daughters and sons of God, called to live in right relationship with God, neighbour and all of creation (including the oil)."
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