On March, 2 1994, Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the 2nd World Peace Conference in Seoul, Korea. His message: “The future improvement in regulating world processes and the transition to a new world order is closely connected with the assertion of a new value system.”
A New Paradigm?
Concluding, he remarked: “We need a new paradigm of existence. In the 20th century, mankind acquired common interests and goals economic well-being, harmonization with nature, human freedom, equality among peoples and nations. The challenge is how to incorporate these goals into international and national policy.” One month later he addressed The Hague and explained how his new organization hoped to accomplish the task: “The super task of Green Cross International and of its national organizations is to help the development of global environmental consciousness, of new values and the transition to a new civilization.”
Four years before Gorbachev’s speeches, Pope John Paul II issued a call for Catholics to take environmental issues seriously in his January 1, 1990 World Peace letter, entitled: The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility. He opened by noting that: “a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives.”
It should interest Catholics that a former head of the Communist party desires to include the Christian symbol in his new international movement dedicated to “environmental consciousness.” Perhaps we can be of assistance in developing Gorbachev’s paradigm shift in favor of the New Evangelization and create a win-win situation for the Catholic and Green movements: Christians (as the pope desires) would take more seriously Green issues and the Green movement could see Christians as partners. If there is an international “Green Cross” movement, let’s help them lift high the Cross and remind the world of its full salvific meaning. Even Gorbachev mentioned the cross as a symbol of “saving” in his Green Cross addresses.
Holiness + Compassion = Witness
The difficulty for those coming from a Marxist or materialist background is that they often reject Christianity based on false representations of it. They are not ready to hear a Christian-based ecology because they know only the weak and sinful human side of the Church’s earthly representatives: “[Atheism] springs from various causes, among which must be included a critical reaction against…the Christian religion in particular” (Gaudium et Spes nr. 19). We Christians can help change that by striving for true holiness and adhering to the full Gospel, really loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.
Christianity is the brotherhood of mankind with Jesus, under the Fatherhood of God. Marxists and materialists embrace the brotherhood of man, but not the Fatherhood and mercy of God. Many are sincerely troubled by the seeming senselessness of so much suffering. They must see that Christians are concerned for the rights and dignity of workers and the poor.
Spoiling the environment or exploiting workers was never the work of people practicing Christian virtues. People who put profit before the love of God and neighbor are failing to follow Christ. “The way we came to know love was that [Jesus] laid down His life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?” (1 Jn 3:16-17).
Earth Has Given, Human Hands Have Made
It is charity that makes all things work (including politico-economic systems). It is the existence of the imago Dei in every human that protects equality and justice and gives man his inherent and inalienable value. Bearing God’s image and working in cooperation with God’s light of love, man lives in harmony with nature and rightly participates in the prayer which proclaims: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the Bread of Life.” It is human labor and care of the environment that even permits us to have available so great a gift as Christ among us under the Eucharistic species. It takes labor in field and vineyard to provide the materials for the greatest Christian mystery. The fruit of the earth is elevated when human beings apply their efforts to it. This is food for thought and highlights the dignity of labor and care of the environment necessary to enable communion with God.
Mankind does not need a new paradigm for salvation. But we do need always to renew our commitment to the only paradigm, Jesus Christ the only Savior: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear” (Gaudium et Spes nr. 22). It is this mystery that has the power to reunite mankind and heal the environment.
Man (in Adam) is tied to the earth and there is an intrinsic relationship between the moral order and man’s relationship to the earth. Christians believe our relationship to the environment is healed in so far as our relationship to God is healed, putting our other disordered relationships (including with the earth) back in order: “Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be given to you” (Mt 6:33). In his same ecology letter, John Paul II reminds us:
When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace: “Therefore the land mourns and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and even the fish of the sea are taken away” (Hos 4:3).
The first Adam was a gardener, an ecologist. Thus, as other authors have noted, it should not be too surprising to find that upon His resurrection from the dead Jesus, the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), was thought to be a gardener, too (Jn 20:15). We who follow Him must bring the message of man’s stewardship of God’s good creation to bear upon the earthly city: “When therefore, as citizens of the world, [the laity] are engaged in any activity…let them be aware of what their faith demands…let them not hesitate to take the initiative at the opportune moment and put their findings into effect. It is their task to cultivate a properly informed conscience and to impress the divine law on the affairs of the earthly city” (Gaudium et Spes nr. 43). This is an opportune moment to let others know that, yes indeed, the Cross is Green.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Matthew Tsakanikas is a freelance Catholic writer. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org