Monday, December 21, 2009

On the World's Largest Stage: Narrative, Heroism, and the Ecologium in Global Climate Change (pt1)


In the beginning there was story. There would be many things adapted from the story and many additions to the story, but without the story there was nothing and there was nothing that was not in the story. The beginning was the narrative of the generation of all things by God. But the story did not end with the beginning and gained new elements as it grew. There was nothing good that could not be added to the story, and nothing great that could not be accredited to God. The humans in the story are called good and credited to God, but then, so is everything.

And not all that the humans did could be called good. Within the story emerged alienation, anxiety, and confusion. The tragedies compounded, as such are wont to do, and to them God added further good, which is what God always does, though the humans did not always see it. But this, too, became part of the story as various solutions were proposed , adopted, and denied. But God’s climactic solution was to increase the goodness to such degree that the world itself could not understand it. Many could not accept this and many more were opposed, but those who did accept it also added it to the story, because there is nothing too wondrous for God. And this wonder became the way some of the humans lived, as they tried to respond to God’s excessive goodness within the world, within themselves, and within the narrative that contained them – because now they knew what the story was about.

Today, of course, we could be telling a different narrative. We could be telling the story of the same humans standing upon the edge of a precipice that they themselves have built, and stepping over it largely of their own volition. We could be telling the story of a people so corrupt with greed and ignorance and arrogance that they actually tried to swallow the world on which they lived. And we could be telling the story of a blessed generation sacrificing its promised children to the Molochian fires of the very economic idols to whom they accredit all of their prosperity, but blaming God and God’s good world for the iniquity responsible for the desertification that threatens to spread beneath their very feet.

We who understand our place in the story could be telling all of these things. But for the most part we are not. We are silent because we believe that the crisis of global climate change is the dominion of the scientist. We are silent because we believe that global climate change is a function of its facts and that it can be measured by the veracity of volumes of carbon dioxide or the measure of its mercury. We believe that truth lies in its mathematics – and wonder why we cannot change.

We should know better, of course. Our narrative contains numbers, to be sure, but the measure of truth for us is not quantitative, but qualitative, and our proximity to it lies not in our accuracy, but in our sincerity, in our wakening desire to share in God’s salvific story. So this paper is not going to argue the reality of global climate change or articulate its causes or its cures. Such things are always deniable, even when they are not genuinely debatable and certainly outside my area of expertise. For the purpose of moving the discussion forward, this paper will assume that climate change exists, that humans are at least in part responsible, and that some cure is consequently possible. It is going to assume that nothing humanity can do lies outside of God’s dominion or God’s salvific story. And it is going to assume that this story is knowable to everyone.

This paper calls for nothing less than an undeniably Christian narrative concerning global climate change. This paper asks that Christian stop waiting for scientific and Enlightened validation of the moral truths assumed by scripture – that choices have consequences, that mortal capability implies moral responsibility, and that freedom and desire must not extend beyond their limits – and proclaim them by extending the drama of our salvation to include categories previously unconsidered.

Such a narrative need not be alarmist, though it must be prophetic as it addresses powers not yet called to account for their disregard of God’s practices. Fortunately, such a novel chapter in our story already contains many of our familiar themes: hubris, chastening, humility, and the directive acts of God. In a way, global climate change is the function of precisely nothing new. This paper will propose some of our story’s likely elements, extrapolating from what we know. And we know a great deal, because our narrative is very long and very rich and very old. We people of the book should not deny ourselves our own persuasive power. And we should not be slow in making our appeal.

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