At some previous point I already noted that I read Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si’: On care for our common home. It is available for download at the Vatican website (see HERE for the text, PDF and other language versions).
I haven’t really got the words to fully do it justice. It is an appeal to all people – not just Catholics – to reflect on our relationship with the Earth, nature and cosmos. To consider how our actions of consumption, greed, control, and for many Christians, a theology of Dominion, deplete and damage the world of which we are a part. And that it is the poorest of the poor who experience the worst effects of environmental degradation. This Papal encyclical is a God-send for me, as a person of faith with a university degree in Environmental Sociology, and who tries to live a minimalist lifestyle (somewhat unsuccessfully) and who makes an ethical and ecologically-conscious choice to live on a plant-based, wholefoods diet (“diet” in the sense of a lifestyle of healthy eating, as opposed to a temporary fad to effect extreme weight loss), and who is deeply concerned with the sociological impact of theological perspectives on ecological conditions.
This quote grabbed my attention (transcribed by me as well as I could from this video, around the 18-19 minute mark): “We are this unique period of history that has benefited from this marvellous gift called the written word. We’ve got to know that that has not been true for most of history. And we’re just a little window of time. And we fell in love with it. Even though we were the religion of the Word that became flesh, we returned the compliment, we said, ‘we prefer the word.’ … At the heart of what we’re calling emerging Christianity is this rediscovery of orthopraxy … over merely five hundred more years of argumentation about verbal orthodoxy.”
EDIT: (17 December 2015): Unfortunately due to the fact that these video links are derived from external sources, I can’t guarantee that they will remain available after I’ve shared them. However, I hope the Fr Richard Rohr quote I transcribed from the video will still be helpful to readers.
“The not-so-ridiculous reasons people leave church” – a quick summary of the genuine reasons people leave churches, in light of the way people within churches dismiss the validity of ex-church members’ negative experiences. For me it raises the question, when will church leaders actually start listening to those of us who’ve been hurt by the church’s social structures or who raise genuine concerns?
Sr Joan Chittister, the dissident nun, shares her secret life – I don’t have enough words of praise for how Sr Joan’s wonderful writings have inspired my own faith. I have barely scratched the surface of her works but I find myself often bringing to mind little snippets of her wisdom. What a powerful intellect and marvellous writer. I found this short article about her life before religious vows interesting – it adds another layer to how I understand her writings.
Electromagnetic spectrum: image from Wikipedia – I found it great to learn more about it in the course I’ve been taking on Astronomy.
This month I’m taking a course in Astronomy through Open Universities Australia’s free Open2Study short courses. The course is a four-week introductory overview of the science of astronomy, major breakthroughs (including, refreshingly, frequent acknowledgement of women’s contributions to science) and some mind-blowing, awe-inspiring discussions about our wonderful universe. The course is presented by a radio astronomy researcher and lecturer from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.
As I’ve mentioned previously, though I have a lifelong love of science, for many years my particular social circumstances meant that my only exposure to scientific progress was heavily mediated by the selected reporting and interpreting of the creationist community. There were lots of reasons for this and as I’m completely disinterested in engaging in any debate (it’s just too dualistic and feels unnecessarily divisive and other people are far better at it than I), taking courses like this one has helped bring me up-to-date with current scientific understandings of the origin, expansion and development of the universe. One thing I’ve found particularly helpful in the Astronomy course is the clear explanation of what, exactly, are scientific theories (they’re not just vague hypotheses) and I have formed a far more accurate understanding of the process of the scientific method as it pertains to astronomy.
The course makes me think of Franciscan priest Fr Richard Rohr’s comment (which from memory I think was in this particular lecture) that scientists are far better than most religious folks at being humble before their incomplete understanding of the universe – where fundamentalism wants the black-and-white truth and wants it right now, science is able to take its time and explore the possibilities.
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. God Himself is not secure, having given man dominion over His works! Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable." -Helen Keller