Want Your Mind Blown? Read “Godless Environmentalism”
This quote, as disconcerting as it is comforting, hit me hard as I began reading Godless Environmentalism by David Page. On one hand, it implies that we, as humans, need protection or else we will perish — a humbling thought, indeed. On the other, it promises that God will not abandon us no matter how hard we push away. As an attorney who has spent most of her life trying to “save” the environment with law and communication, I was taken aback. Had I been ignoring a fundamental aspect of environmentalism?
Page is an attorney too. He worked to save the Alaskan wilderness in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster and taught environmental law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But he remained “struck and frustrated by the difficulty of achieving any tangible results in environmental protection from a legal point of view” — something that haunted me as well.
To understand what was plaguing environmental protection, Page spent an entire decade combing through Old-Testament manuscripts for the truth. Eventually, he discovered that our focus was off:
There is, and there has always been, a gap between divine reality, or the Reality, nothing less than our connection between the world and God, or the “God Nexus,” and, on the other hand, an imagined reality that humankind at its most arrogant attempts to superimpose upon the world. That imagined, artificial or ersatz-reality is the world of “Delusion” or “Illusion,” an expression of egotism out of touch with truth — or put simply Godlessness. And it is this Godlessness that accounts for the ongoing destruction of the planet and the failure of human beings to reverse the destruction, as we continue to act without reference to the divine.
In his book, Page analyzes the “web of Delusion” that has rendered our efforts fruitless. He points to ambiguous terms like “environmental protection” that fail to explain humans’ relationship to nature, what protection entails, and why, in the end, it’s a good thing. He highlights the complexity of the planet and the inherent scientific uncertainty that underlies our understanding of the environment. And he underscores our arrogant optimism that we can “fix” the environment.
I have to admit that reading Page’s analysis made my mind spin. All of a sudden it seemed that my connection to the environment was all in my head — it was based on a series of assumptions that I had taken as fact. I felt like I was living in the Matrix. Was someone in a skin-tight, black leather suit going to show up and pull a scary bug out of my belly button?
Thank God the solution is not as scary as that; although, I wouldn’t call it simple. Page lays out the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau, brothers with a dramatically different world views. Esau pursues physical and worldly goods and is not interested in his spiritual birthrights. Jacob, in contrast, sees a constant and overwhelming connection between God and the physical world. As Page says, “everything that exists . . . are in fact divine in origin and meant to connect us spiritually to God in an intimate bond of love and service that is the source of life and protection for the entire world and all of its fullness.”
Page urges us to let go of our delusions and reforge our spiritual connection to the divine source of the planet, as Jacob did. How do we do that exactly? Well, that’s the subject of the sequel to the book. For now, we just have to wrap our minds around the fact that we might not have all the answers. In fact, we might not even have all the questions. All we have is a hidden power to spiritually reconnect with the world and thereby save it from destruction.
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