(This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
The churches that have been a part of the European and North American cultural framework have played a unique and important role in the colonization of our planet over the past five centuries. At times, it should be recognized, they calmed down some of the excesses of colonization. Unfortunately, as we have begun to see more clearly in recent years, church silence and, too often, complicity with colonization has tainted the reputation of these churches. Providing a pretext and the proof texts for colonization, they bent the dominion passage of Genesis 1:28 enough to obscure the many texts that command an ethical framework for human development, political and economic.
We may be surprised to find that the most important aspect of this story may be in what is to come: can the churches develop the ability to discuss the moral and theological issues related to an advancing second phase of colonization? In the first phase of colonization, a time of spreading-and often crude-political and economic control, the churches were intimate with the advance forces of colonization. In this second phase of vast economic, cultural and environmental control, the churches are not so prominent, yet their silence has contributed to the widespread notion that there is very little that the Christian faith has to say about the environmental crisis, very little about climate injustice.
Unlike scripture, modern society generally views economic development and its impact on human and environmental life as morally neutral. In this way, it has gradually become a moral absolute, meaning that we allow the narrow category of economic development to become the judge of what is best for humanity and the planet.
This way of living has led us to a global culture that is both unsatisfying and threatening. It arrogantly treats the design of God as optional or a subject for improvement, almost always on a narrowly economic basis. We now see human culture organized toward a new Tower of Babel, a denial not only of God’s design, but in its moral presumption-that economic life rules all other life-a denial of the sovereignty of God.
Let us find the heart to proclaim a faith that speaks to all aspects of our life on this planet. We begin by searching both the scripture and our hearts. This is a way toward awakening from the hypnotism of our ever-expanding economic culture. Beyond that, the churches can become a place to discuss these matters.
At first, we need not pursue any particular political, social or cultural agenda. These are urgent things, but simply to talk will begin our road to health. Soon, there will be decisions to be made.
Jesus, who lived, died and rose again to bring all things into unity, has saved us to do the good works that we were created to do (Ephesians 2:8-10). We cannot tolerate a faith that calls itself Christian and separates our salvation, our morality and our world, a faith that is silent in the face of such injustice.
Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.