September 17, 2021

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Many faith traditions are committed to care for creation

Fr. Rick GintherThe Season of Creation, celebrated from Sept. 1-Oct. 4, has ecumenical roots.

A day of prayer for creation (Sept. 1) was begun in 1989 by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. In ecumenical solidarity, Pope Francis announced in August 2015 that Catholics would observe this day as well.

Both the patriarch and Pope Francis invited all Christians to pray for creation that day. Other Christians and faith traditions are concerned about creation as well.

The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church are very committed to awareness of and action for sustainability.

Some Evangelicals are emphasizing the “need for Christian ecology,” or creation care (A Rocha, Evangelical Initiative, and Evangelical Environmental Network).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints references the Bible and their “Doctrine and Covenants” for a theological basis. It has implemented conservation practices at an increasing number of its meeting houses.

Major Lutheran synods emphasize the Bible’s call for care of God’s creation. Some emphasize sustainable living.

Stewardship of the environment is a major focus for many Presbyterians, including John Muir, the father of our national parks and the Sierra Club. Muir was a Scottish Calvinist.

Quakers have applied the concept of stewardship to both ethical economics and creation since their earliest days.

An independent environmental coalition of Southern Baptists believes in stewardship of God’s creation. So does the United Methodist Church.

Concern for creation is foundational in many other religions.

Jainism applies the principle of ahimsa (non-violence/non-injury) to all life, large or small. One must not kill or harm any being. This is considered the highest religious duty. “All living creatures must help each other.” And so, even violent speech or thought is to be avoided.

Hinduism is very near to nature. God is to be seen in all the universe—air, water, fire, sun, moon, stars and the Earth. The Earth is worshipped as the spouse of God; all living things are considered to be children of God and Earth. The Upanishad says that “God entered into every object created.” Maintaining this interrelationship, therefore, is a worship of God.

Hindus do penance when they kill plants and animals for food. This daily penance is called visva deva.

Islam teaches in the Quran that Allah, the creator of the world, has made humans the guardians of the planet, with a duty to care for it.

Judaism, with the Book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 as its foundation, likewise believes humans are to preserve and care for what God has created. God owns the Earth and all that fills it. Needless destruction against the property of God is forbidden.

Jews are called to preserve natural resources, even to generate new ones for future generations. This is based in biblical prohibitions against cutting down fruit-bearing trees (during a siege) and the sabbatical year of allowing the land to lay fallow.

While this is not an exhaustive illumination of Christian or other religions’ care for creation, I hope that it clearly reveals a commonality among people of faith.

We live on a common planet. Our efforts to preserve, care for and nurture it belong to us all.

The values which we share across denominations and religions are many. Amid our differences in creed and belief, we can rejoice in our common cause for our planet, indeed, the future of all humanity.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Indianapolis.)

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