Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Old Battle Continues: Vatican vs. Nature

The Associated Press reports that, "The Vatican newspaper and radio station are criticizing James Cameron's 3-D blockbuster for flirting with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion — a notion the pope has warned against."

This is certainly not a new battle. In Roman times the Catholic church co-opted pagan holidays for Christian celebrations. Perhaps the Vatican has forgotten the history of half the Christian calendar dates back to pagan religious holidays. The Vatican has vilified worshipping nature as heresy from the beginning. While this Pope defends that he is more environmental, he is quick to worry about the worship of the natural world. I hate to tell the Pope, but worship of nature doesn't replace religion - it is religion.

Indeed, this cements my desire to see Avatar this Friday evening. If the Pope is this worked up about it, then by all means it must be worth the price of a ticket. Also the Vatican seems to have failed to notice the distinct difference between worshipping a tree and recognizing the divine spark within it and all things. When I recognize the divine in nature it is an understanding of the complex inter-relationship of all things. I know many Christians that find God in nature understanding that God is not separate from creation or even humanity. Perhaps the Pope is fan of the theologian Barth that finds nature to be as fallen as humankind.

As a Unitarian Universalist I find this kind of thinking destructive. If we do not see our relationship with nature as spiritual and important, we will continue the destructive course of consumption and pollution modern society has embraced. Our fate is intertwined with nature, and our transcendentalist Unitarian forefathers Emerson and Thoreau certainly recognized it.

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 5 January 1856

The cathedral of the world in all of its leaves, shadow, and light outshines any cathedral of stone and glass. I am proud to be a part of a religious tradition that embraces many sources of wisdom, including the spirit of a tree...including the wisdom of the natural world.

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