New signs, new metaphors #9

Sally McFague’s metaphor of the Earth as the Body of God has much to recommend. The body is ravaged, in pain. Sin then is to ignore the body, to walk on by the pain, to refuse responsibility for caring for it. This speaks to our sense of sacrament, the divine is present in the world. Most of all, this model resonates with our contemporaries. There is a language here that communicates powerfully to fellow earthlings in ways which are much more dramatic and cogent than the “elsewhere” God. It links us in a compelling way with the earth. And to the Christian Story.

We know from our science that an emergent universe continuously “dies” so that new forms might appear.There  are profound moments of sacrifice as the universe moves to higher degrees of complexity and consciousness.Berry ( or was it Joni Mitchell in her song Woodstock)

We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

When a supernova exploded in enormous heat scattering itself as stardust into space  more than 90 elements were formed.It was only then that the Earth became possible and life and consciousness.This Berry suggests is a “sacrificial moment” which helps bring about the solar system and the extraordinary yet gradual efflorescence of life as we know it. Thank you, Charlie Darwin!

Now this new eruption is a violent happening—yet a moment of cosmological grace.It is a physical event—and a spiritual one as well.This is seen in Paul’s mysticism we have previously alluded to but also the famous Fourth Gospel: “All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. (Jn1:3,4)God is in the process. Dying and rising, death and resurrection always.

All theologies in the end are metaphors, which serve in enabling us to understand the relationship of God to the world. None can exhaust God but it should be obvious that the distant transcendent monarchical and patriarchal God has seen its day as a metaphor capable of energizing contemporary believers. Theologians like McFague, Thomas Berry, John B. Cobb, Matthew Fox, Rosemary Radford Reuther and others are tapping into a rich vein here. A massive paradigm shift is afoot and is being fought tooth and nail by fundamentalists in all major religions. Readers of this essay might wish to familiarize themselves with their liberating thought.

The universe, our world then is “in God” though God is not reduced to the world. But what we have seen and understood only latterly is that with the coming of the post war Industrial Age, God’s body was being ravaged, scarred and torn apart. Forests began disappearing along with topsoil; species vanished, water became polluted and ozone  depleted. In the last few decades we noticed that weather patterns have been disrupted with the incidence of destructive storms, hurricanes and tidal waves increasing.  Mother earth literally was dying while mothers’ milk became polluted. Children with puffers are a common sight in our elementary schools. Radiation experts like Sr. Rosalie Bertell consistently have warned us of the damage to children in neurodevelopmental disorders, increasing congenital abnormalities and an increase in certain childhood cancers.

Our Aboriginal peoples who kept this wisdom alive are barely surviving. The “free enterprise” turbocapitalism has left a world in ruins. The modern myth of Progress, in Berry’s words, has created Wasteworld rather than Wonderworld. The market mania of ever expanding Gross National Product has produced a Gross Earth Deficit. Up until the past few years virtually no one could challenge this economic fundamentalism, this founding myth of capitalism. The Dow trumped the Tao and the venture capitalist and robber barons who brought us Worldcom, Enron and the 2008 bankster-driven catastrophe became the saints of the modern world. The largest Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star contains two Wheels sections glorifying fossil fuel depletion. There is no Ecology section in the paper.

And then something happened. The Great Turning began. This phrase of Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy well describes the global awareness that a kairos was upon us. Almost in a relatively short span humanity seemed to shake itself from its trance, rise from its autism. All over the world people began to name the shadow side of modernity described above. A spiritual revolution began which linked the human being to each other, to the earth community and to the cosmos.

As the Bard said, the readiness is all and it seemed that the human community was finally ready to hear the cry of the earth. For years the ecoprophets had been drowned out by the humming of the technological world, submerged by the arrogance of the neoconservative moment which had trumpeted corporate power, patriarchal control and the economics of empire. Finally the damage done to every part of creation became abundantly clear to all and the Holy Spirit of Resistance broke the global trance. No longer could global warning be denied with any seriousness. A former vice-president, Al Gore in 2006  produced a film called An Inconvenient Truth which was literally shown all over the world to great acclaim. A DVD was produced in November 2006 and is in constant use  in schools. Governments at every level started to move though predictably the Canadian government under neocon  Stephen Harper lagged behind others. Harper previously had described the  Kyoto Accord which limits greenhouse gas emissions as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of  Canadians.” He then  uttered a dire warning that such a priority was too expensive.

One would have thought that the Catholic Church, inspired by “the signs of the times” Council and the newly discovered “forgotten God”, the Holy Spirit would have embraced the cry of the Earth .

Sadly, it did not, has not and remains a captive of a pelvic theology and a very weak episcopal leadership recently commented on by Richard McBrien,the Notre Dame theologian and  our foremost ecclesiologist.

If there are any reasons for the bad patch the church is now going through, it is the appointments to the hierarchy and the promotions within made by John Paul and Benedict. By and large, they have all been conservative. That’s why so many Catholics have left the church, are on extended vacations, or are demoralized or discouraged.”

Demoralized and discouraged because “the signs of the times” are so evident to so many Catholics but the institutional leadership refuses to see.


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