Maybe it is because I’m still recovering from my 2 ½ hour, 3D cage fight with Mother Earth (to the right), but I was pleased run across an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog entitled “Green Guilt” that is helping with my deprogramming. Additionally, since it so closely mirrors one of my earlier posts–“Indulgences of the 21st Century Kind”–I can only assume that the author, Stephen T Asma, must be a regular reader of our blog:) Whether that’s the case or not, and for those of us who do not know any tree-spikers personally, this article is an insightful look into the ways traditional religious concepts: human depravity, holiness, apocalypse, mortification, sacrifice, etc. are manifesting through the current obsession with everything green. Asma writes:
Instead of religious sins plaguing our conscience, we now have the transgressions of leaving the water running, leaving the lights on, failing to recycle, and using plastic grocery bags instead of paper. In addition, the righteous pleasures of being more orthodox than your neighbor (in this case being more green) can still be had—the new heresies include failure to compost, or refusal to go organic. — There are also high priests of the new religion, with Al Gore (“the Goracle”) playing an especially prophetic role.
Aside from adding an additional analogy between early ecumenical church councils and the recent Copenhagen climate change conference, I wouldn’t change much about the parallels he has drawn, but, while I highly recommend the article, Asma’s (following Nietzsche and Freud) explanation for the primary cause of all of this hemp-fueled psychic energy, like Tofurkey, looks like something substantial, but ultimately fails to satisfy. After exposing the religious impulses couched in Envirozeal, he comments:
Environmentalism is a much better hang-up than worrying about the spiritual pitfalls of too much masturbation. Even if it’s neurotic, it’s still doing some good. But environmentalism, like every other -ism, has the potential for dogmatic zeal and obsession. Do we really need one more humorless religion? Let us save the planet, by all means. But let’s also admit to ourselves that we have a natural propensity toward guilt and indignation, and let that fact temper our fervor to more reasonable levels.
Given the fact that he is the author of the forthcoming Why I am A Buddhist, it is perhaps not surprising that the only advice Mr. Asma has for the fact that we have “a natural propensity toward guilt and indignation,” is to recognize it, chill out and try to put it in its proper Tantric perspective. Now, Asma’s secular move to explain that the roots of our problems are grounded in anything and everything other than the reality of legitimate and personal guilt incurred by sin is not surprising, and let’s just hope for his sake that this epigonus metaphysic withstands more psychic weight than did Nietzsche’s.
What is surprising, however, is how many contemporary Christian theological trends are attempting to do the same thing.
This started me thinking, and I wanted to illustrate how a few of these New Perspectives share Asma’s antipathy to what we would call a Theology of the Cross but have not abandoned its referential theological framework in favor of either secular psychologizing or mystic pantheism—yet. Like with most critiques, these are not totally without warrant, and some have really helped to clarify and correct some areas of imbalance; however, from our Mockingperspective, what is interesting to note is how each of these attacks on the doctrine of Justification, following Barth, in some way believe that the Law is a form of the Gospel. Again, this GLAWSPEL argument takes many forms, some sophisticated, many not, but at its root it denies any sort of universal affective power of God’s wrath (yes, wrath. I said it) on human idolatry. Wie immer, there is so much to be said about all of this, and if you stick around here long enough, I promise that we’re going to try to say it all! What follows is just the broad brush, general shape of things to look out for as theologians (and ecologians) learn more and more about just how little we need a message of absolution and redemption.
It was the West of Times, it was the Worst of Times. . .
From Snuggies to “For the Love of Ray-J”, everything that is tragically wrong with the world is, by some modern theologians, conveniently blamed on the ever-so-solid foundation of speculative-hemispheric-ontologizing: the dreaded “Western person/place or thing.” Throw in a few references to Kant, don’t forget to bash Capitalism here and there and add a few bits of Ziezek, and you’re ready to go. Now, I’ve never been a fan of tight Wranglers and starched shirts, but I just can’t understand what all of the fuss is about:)
This (supposedly new) argument is that modern, westerners have a deeply individualistic (and therefore flawed) sense of self; correspondingly, these poor, benighted people have read into the Bible their own steam-powered individualism and narcissism and, as a result, have missed the main thrust of the Biblical message of redemption. The arguments against this are many and varied, but it seems like they are losing the day, in part, because being part of a general mass of (emergent) humanity in need of redemption is cooler sounding, much less stinging, and not nearly as invasive as the old-fashioned Western, individualistic need for (even 8 seconds of) a Cross. For a clear sense of the direction this is all headed, see Douglas Campbell’s “The Deliverance of God.”
Go East, Young Man. . .
As a correlation to the above Western antipathy, the next coolest thing to bashing “narcissistic, Western individualism” is to embrace its (seeming) antithesis: Eastern Orthodoxy. Owing to its somehow non-individualistic view of Divinization—the ever so self-effacing theory that we become divine–proponents of this Eastward Move (and, usually, the downward dog) can’t stop talking about mimesis, perichorisis, theosis, participation and endless variations of “the Eucharistic community.” Again, this view is carrying the day, despite those of us who point out that if God wanted us to be a part of his eternal dance, the Cross seems like a fairly gruesome invitation. Nevertheless, if you want to see where this is all heading, read anything written by Robert Jenson in the last 8 years or so.
One of the most surprising, but understandable, attacks on the Doctrine of Justification has come from those within Christianity who believe that “just being forgiven,” is not enough to motivate the Christian life. This is most clearly a result of the failure to properly distinguish Law and Gospel from the pulpit. Love is the Law, not the Gospel, and when you can’t tell the difference you’re forced to create ways of staying on life-support “beyond forgiveness.” One of the most popular contemporary ways of looking for meaning “beyond forgiveness” is by baptizing the ecological movement; and we’ve come full circle.
Ok, these are just a few thoughts. As always, I’m somewhat interested in what you think about all of this:) Until then, stay classy San Diego.