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Popular US Priest: Orthodox Christians Have Their Own Environmentalism

Modern society offers a false dichotomy: either one must adopt ‘Liberal environmentalism, which is summed up by logos such as ‘Save the planet, kill yourself' and assumes that mankind is bad for the plane or conservative ‘stewardship’ environmentalism, which basically teaches that the earth belongs to us and we can do whatever we want with it.

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the earth is a cosmic cathedral

In this elegantly made video, Fr. Andrew Stephan Damic, an influential priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church in America, offers a convincing argument on what the Orthodox Christian view of environmentalism really should be.

Definitely, watch! (transcribed summary below video):

According to him, modern society offers a false dichotomy: either one must adopt ‘Liberal environmentalism, which is summed up by logos such as ‘Save the planet, kill yourself' and assumes that mankind is bad for the plane or conservative ‘stewardship’ environmentalism, which basically teaches that the earth belongs to us and we can do whatever we want with it.

In reality, though, Orthodox Christians have a completely alternate, almost revolutionary, vision of what man’s relationship to the natural world should be.

The earth is actually a cosmic cathedral and our purpose in this cosmic cathedral is to worship God and to use the natural world as part of that worship.

Here is a summary of his argument: 

Today, we think that there are only two 'environmentalisms.'

One is ‘Liberal environmentalism, which is summed up by bumper stickers such as ‘Save the planet, kill yourself' or 'The Earth doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the Earth.’ The basic idea behind this theory is that mankind is bad for the planet

Alternately, we can adopt the conservative ‘stewardship’ environmentalism, which basically teaches that the earth belongs to us.

Do Orthodox Christians have to choose? Not at all, the Orthodox have a different vision what man's relationship with the natural world should be. 

Both we and the earth belong to God. We are both creations of God and everything is ultimately referred back to God.

Man’s purpose is to offer creation back to God for God’ blessing. God blesses it and then returns it to man, and that blesses man in turn.

This is the basic narrative and dynamic of sacrifice on altars, the basic narrative and dynamic of all prayer, of liturgical action and so forth So, rather than being an alien on this earth (liberal environmental vision) or being the owner of the earth (conservative approach), man is rather the priest of this earth, his job is to offer the natural world back up to God for that blessing.

The earth is actually a cosmic cathedral and our purpose in this cosmic cathedral is to worship God and to use the natural world as part of that worship. This approach to the natural world is kind of reverence because we see God as being present in all things.

He is not identical with the world, but He is present in the world.

The Orthodox have the sense that God is present in all things and so, therefore, we approach the world with a natural reverence.

This idea, this sense, is something that a lot of the saints of the Orthodox Church have had throughout time, such as Saint Serafim of Sarov, and other saints who spent a lot of time outdoors and had a real connection with the natural world, seeing it as being part of God’s creation, just as they are part of God’s creation. 

We don’t belong to the Earth; the earth does not belong to us. But we and the world are the Lord’s.

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