Thursday, February 24, 2005


Its gonna take me ages to blog on all the stuff from Forge, so I'll just work through it bit by bit.

On the Sunday we did a couple of Field Trip kinda things, in the city. I chose to do the culture study one,and the prayer walk, which was brilliant.

The idea of a prayer walk is pretty simple, just walk around an area and pray for a while. Ask God to reveal to you matters of spiritual importance, just be quiet, pray about what you see-whatever. I'm so gonna do it again.

The other was a culture kinda one, lead by Darren. Basically the exercise was to go around Fed Square, llok at the cultural symbols, where God is already present, what connection points to Jesus there are, who's there, what is worshipped there, what the Kingdom of God would look like if it came fully about there etc. Brilliant stuff.

What made it even more interesting was that the Sustainable Living Festival was on. There was heaps of stuff about saving water, living more simply, not selling out to consumerism, saving trees etc. A little bit hippy, but in many ways stuff I totally reckon Jesus would be on about. Whether they realise it, or would name it as such, many of the people there are totally doing God's work I reckon. They're all about community, meeting people's needs, equality and justice, totally good stuff.

I so reckon that these kind of events, and the work they do, is many people's way of reaching out to connect with the Creator. There's a lot of spirituality in amongst the dreadlocks, homemade clothes and meditation.

I said to my group that Christians would pay to care a little more about the enviroment, particulalrly as we claim to worship the dude who made it all! It would be agret way to connect with these kinda people and with God.

There was some kinesiology, whack Chinese massage, Fallun Gong people, yoga, healing tents (which looked very different to hyped up Christian healing events i've seen...) Again people looking for God and not finding Him in church. I reckon its God working htough a lot of those types of events, and theres some parts that are totally not.

I'm not sure what to make of this whole scene, but here's what another dude did. More along ther Mind Body Spirit, but its similar kinda stuff, and a great excuse to link to some great discussion and ideas.


Garth said...

There is a spirituality to being green. I think traditionally the church has shyed away from any spirituality that doesn't involve traditional spiritual moulds.

I work in environmental research as an aquatic ecologist, and one of my colleagues surprised me one day with the thought that one of Christianity's faults was its neglect of the environment. We do only pay lip service to it, we are not the activists.

I think it will become a trait of postmodern christians to become involved in environmental affairs. For me I have just recently joined a local Landcare committee for what thats worth.

Marx Kernow said...


My final paper for my theology degree was called MISSIONARY GROW HOME: Re-placing Mission in Bioregions.

It was a paper that critiqued lots of the ways we exclude creation in our mission focus and offered some suggestions for ways of thinking about mission that connects with the whole of Gods place. this is why my forge benediction talked about loving neighbour, the ones you have!, human and creature.

This is also a problem i often have with the trendy emerging church sub culutre focus, way to anthropomorphic!!! It dosent love or even take into account the land on which communities are based and the connections required to sustain all of life.

This is why footy church by itself is to small a concept/focus.....unless its open to relationship with the whole Frankston bioregion your gunna get something less than the kingdom/economy of God.

theres a rant!
much grace

philjohnson said...

Eco-Spirituality has both "soft" and "hard" edges to it depending on what you encounter and sift through.

The "hard" edges are situated in those tribes, networks or communities that are committed to alternate/counter-cultural lifestyles in rural settings.Much of that spirituality is rooted in a nature-focussed, earth-centred form of paganism. The emphasis is on attuning human life with the rhythms of nature in the seasons, cycle of the moon etc. Sabbats are celebrated every six weeks in conjunction with the full/new moon and seasonal equinoxes. The "hard-core" neo-pagans are sometimes sedentary in communes/farms, and sometimes nomadic on the move roving from pagan gatherings and underground bush rave parties from Healesville, Berry, Bellingen, Nimbin, Maleny etc (from Victoria to Northern Qld).

There are also "hard-core" urban types living in the major cities.

The softer edges are found among adepts of DIY magickal paths or "new age" forms of spirituality in urban contexts.

There are various obstructions or cul-de-sacs concerning the creation that stymies Christians.

1. Those whose eschatology follows "Left Behind" novels, are not interested in the earth because the earth is to be escaped in the rapture and it is to be destroyed at Armageddon -- so the ethos is "why waste time" when you should be snatching souls from the peril that is to come. This is the worst form of theology to despise God's creation and fosters a quasi-gnostic outlook on the creation.

2. Consumerist theology - gospel of prosperity and success baptises the worst versions of middle class aspirational values to acquire material possessions as a sign of God's blessing. Very little consideration about any creation ethics, because one is busy acquiring a four-wheel drive ( a huge oil guzzler), and the latest technology made with plastic casings and coated in fire reatrding chemicals that do not break-down when tossed on the rubbish dump.

3. A romanticism about ancient Celtic Christians that imagines St Patrick and others having the right kind of eco-theology; a desire to re-enchant the earth based on decontextualised readings of the "Celts".

4. A failure to reflect on "Imaging God" as set forth in the creation mandate -- to reflect the image of God one must be a source of blessing toward the creation, including animals. The Edenic story involved the invitation for the humans to be guardians and trustees working the earth to bring it to its fulfilment.

5. A lot of good will and sentiment is expressed about "the environment", and some helpful action does follow in reshaping habits of disposing waste, recycling etc. And joining in eco-activism is to be encouraged.

But an unfortunate tendency is to objectify "the environment" in ways that subtly implies we humans do not belong; we are mere observers of eco-systems of water, plants etc.

And into the bargain we end up with broad swish policies about saving endangered species, but with a corresponding silence on our misuse of domestic and agricultural animals.

Few Christians say anything about the ethics of intensive farming (and its ecological outcomes), little is said or done about the misuse of animals in medical experiments.

No critical reflection occurs on the commodification of animals via the fast-food industry and the dietary habits we now have as normative choices (like 419 million chickens raised and slaughtered in Australia in 2002-03).

No serious animal theology - animals praise God, are not sinners, our stewardship role, animals worshipping God in heaven and earth etc.

So neo-pagans see Christians as part of the problem rather than contributors to any meaningful solutions. And while some romanticising occurs in neo-pagan circles about the creation, they have stepped into the vacuum created by our appalling absence.

The lack of a robust creation theology and creation ethic represents one of the major "unpaid bills of the church".

Thus we have a whole menu of unreflected theological questions which are mirror imaged for us in eco-spiritual groups; and emerging church networks are failing to recognise that for a contextualised missional church to operate effectively it has to examine the culture around it.

It is not good enough that Christians ask their own questions set by the agenda of "we ought to change church culture". While issues of reform, styles of worship and music, and being "hip" on pomo have their place, the danger is that emerging church theology ends up engaging with internal questions posed inside the church, and fails in her mission to actually engage in discipling those outside its reach.

The danger for the pro and anti debates about emerging church and pomo is that it becomes a mere internalised and polarised debate, with each side choosing champions to battle each other in print and on the Internet. Meanwhile the "reality" of pomo is accepted as a given on both sides; but the pomo that is discussed is itself an imaginary projection based on arm-chair musings about Derrida, Foucault and others.

To find out the difference between pomo and "Post-modern", one has to engage directly with non-Christians, especially those who have never been linked to the church.

The forgotten lesson that speaks to into our setting is what happened in the 1960s. Two things happened:

a. Altizer and death of god theology;

b. Beatles in India.

Evangelical apologists surged to the battle and saw Altizer as the big game and big threat in 1965. It took less than 5 years for the death of god movement held by no more than six theologians to "die".

Meanwhile most of the youth generation ignored Altizer, and followed the Beatles to find God in India. The spiritual trend unleashed in 1965 by the Beatles endured and went from the counterculture of the late 60s, into becoming new age mainstream society in the 1990s. And evangelicals never paid any attention to this trend until new age was smacking everyone in the face - the culture had already bolted.

In like manner, today there is so much hip discussion about metanarratives being deconstructed and insights from Derrida, meanwhile the pop culture has gone off on a different trajectory. Once more evangelicals are backing the wrong horse.

Go to the eco-spiritual crowd and you'll find plenty of metanarratives -- which totally contradicts the received wisdom we have from Don Carson (anti-pomo,anti-EC), the late Stan Grenz (pro-pomo) and many of the respected EC voices.

Methinks it is time for a reality check. I hope that your encounter with eco-spirituality might ripen into some robust reflections and then action.