Green Religion and Dark Green Religion

I am a Unitarian Universalist. One thing that means is that I'm in a sacred covenant with every other Unitarian Universalist in this world, to, among other things, affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part. That is a spiritual statement and a spiritual act. Environmental action is spiritual practice, and environmental protection is a spiritual mandate. Our relationship to our planet is as much a religious issue as our relationship to our soul is; as much a religious issue as our relationship to God is. Indeed, for many of us, our relationship to our planet is both our relationship to our soul and our relationship to God.

Every religious tradition on the planet includes a deep belief-tradition of respect and honor for our planet. Indeed, “deeply embedded in our human consciousness is a primal awe and gratitude for the air, water, solid ground, sunlight, and nourishing life forms that sustain” us. Our ancestors have “stood in awe of these at our most sacred ceremonies” for maybe a million years. Our awareness of being bound in a relationship of responsibility with our planet is religious awareness. Acting responsibly within that relationship is religious practice.

We may ignore what is happening to our home, break our connection to the holy whole, break faith with the ground of our being. We might do so out of hubris. We might do so out of despair. Either would be a form of faithlessness.

So if environmental protection is not a religious issue, then there are no religious issues.

Amidst the many trends – the resource depletion, the pollution, the greenhouse gases, there is this hopeful trend: religion is greening.

There’s green religion – and there’s also what Bron Taylor calls dark green religion. Bron Taylor is a professor of religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I met Bron during my time in Gainesville.

Green religion, he says, “posits that environmentally friendly behavior is a religious obligation.” A number of Christian, Jewish, or Muslim groups have in recent years shifted away from the idea that humans have been granted dominion over the earth and toward the idea that God calls us to stewardship, and that this stewardship is measured by health ecosystems and sustainable, responsible consumption.

That’s an important shift.

There are also an increasing number of people who are going beyond green religion to dark green religion. For dark green religion, it’s not merely that we have a religious obligation to protect ecosystems, reduce consumption, and in general be responsible stewards of our environment. Rather, in dark green religion nature itself is sacred, has intrinsic value, and is due reverent care – not simply because it is God’s creation and God tells us to, but because nature tells us to, and nature has that authority based on being sacred in itself.

Dark green religion is popping up in a lot of places that aren’t in churches.

Next: Where dark green religion is popping up!

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This is part 3 of 5 of "The Ecospiritual Imperative"
Next: Part 4: "Dark Green Religion: Everywhere and Nowhere"
Previous: Part 2: "Sustainability: A Spiritual Problem"
Beginning: Part 1: "Soteriology and Ecology"

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