Christianity, Earth Spirituality and the Climate Crisis - by SC Skillman

A few years ago I joined a fellow local author to hire a table at a popular weekend festival in Leamington Spa, the Peace Festival.  

At this festival, many diverse groups come together all connected by the same ethos: International Understanding and Peace. 

To see my own photos of the Peace Festival, taken in 2018, go to my blog post here.

The event showcases fair trade practices and encourages local crafts, artists, traders, organisations and entertainers to share their skills and talk about their causes. Warwick and Leamington Christians are always well-represented alongside a multitude of spiritual, ethical and idealistic causes. My fellow author, Chris Philpott, was offering his own book 'Green Spirituality.' On the table too were my two novels 'Mystical Circles' and 'A Passionate Spirit', both of which I considered ideal for the Peace Festival.

By the end of the festival weekend not only had Chris and I sold and signed several of our books, become involved in several fascinating conversations, taken turns to explore the festival, and soaked up the fantastic atmosphere, we also bought each others' books (inevitably!)

Chris had written his book to show how the climate crisis is a spiritual crisis:  because people 'have turned their back on the values and guidance offered by spiritual traditions of how to lead a climate-friendly life'. He asks what really lies behind humankind's destructiveness of nature, and he explores all the major religions of the world and shows how each, within their core teachings, offer a way of living that is in harmony with our planet.  

One individual came up to Chris, who briefly shared the theme of his book. The reply came, "That may be so, but we have no power at all. Our world is completely controlled by big corporations: they hold all the power."

Today I want to remind us all how tempting it is for us - even those of faith - to give up all hope, to share this man's view, and to feel powerless, in face of major forces for evil in this world.  

 I believe Christians have a huge role to play, and should consider the climate crisis an impelling spiritual issue.  That is borne out by another book I read more recently, written by a number of Christian authors with an eclectic view of spirituality.

Earthed: Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection sounded like a book after my own heart. The book, edited by Bruce Stanley and Steve Hollinghurst, brings together the views and experiences of several authors who have a range of different approaches but all believe that Christianity's relationship with nature is of vital importance.

In the chapter 'Do I Not Fill Heaven and Earth?', Annie Heppenstall writes: 'A creation-centred spirituality should also include St Francis' rule of compassion for the poor, a rejection of the pursuit of wealth, status or reputation in favour of simplicity and poverty of spirit.'

Simon Cross, in his chapter on 'The Green Man', draws a thread connecting the story of the Garden of Eden with the Legend of the Holy Rood, North American Indian spirituality and its understanding of the Great Spirit, through space research and exploration, and the current fascination with wilderness survival skills (as demonstrated in various TV programmes on the subject).

At the time I was reading this book, I also saw a TV programme on Cambodia presented by Sue Perkins; she noted that as she spent time with the people of a remote rural community in that country, she glimpsed and for a short while experienced 'a relationship with the natural world that many of us crave'.

So why are we so self-destructive? Why do we destroy what we crave? 

Nick Thorpe, in his chapter 'Oceanic God' shares lessons from the power of the sea and from those who earn their living by chancing their lives upon the sea.

'After my sea pilgrimage,' he says, 'I resolved to allow myself a broader, more open-handed belief: less fretful about details of doctrine, more willing to let complex realities clash, and mysteries remain.'

There is also a lovely piece by Paul Cudby on 'Friendships Across the Divide: A Theology of Encounter' in which he describes a sense of nature connection which demonstrates the principle that 'whatever you practice regularly becomes almost intuitive and then new possibilities spring up.'

In conclusion I would urge Christians not to cut themselves off from this kind of nature connection. If we do this we alienate ourselves from those who find themselves naturally drawn to mystical spirituality, and we end up creating an unnecessary division between ourselves, and those whose spiritual practices share many of the common threads that link the world's myriad of faiths. If we always look to see what unites us, we have a greater hope of meeting the challenges which face us on this planet.

SC Skillman is the author of Mystical Circles, A Passionate Spirit and Perilous Path. For Amberley Publishing she has written Paranormal Warwickshire, Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire and A-Z of Warwick. Her new novel Director's Cut is currently with publishers and she is working on the sequel.

To find out more please visit her website.

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