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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, September 26, 2002
    Dialogue at the door of creation
    I'm no expert in environmentalism but I take an interest. It may be seen in some quarters as being 'soft' politics but after Johannesburg it seems increasingly important to take ecology seriously.

    Earlier in the week I was struck by reading A Fist in the Eye of God from Barbara Kingsolver's book Small Wonder (HarperCollins, 2002) and I based my school assembly around it yesterday. The thrust of it was simple - to point out the value in the traditions of religion, science and humanist ethics, suggesting that they all have their part to play in this serious discussion, and that we should combine their rich insights together to help us make the right choices for the well-being of our planet.

    The only immediate response to that was from a group of Christian students who were concerned that I wasn't taking a literalist view of Genesis, and that I'd pointed out the value and worth of evolutionary theory. I hope the debate widens, and today was pleased to find in the current Ecologist magazine an advertisement for The Forum on Religion and Ecology.

    This Harvard project claims to be "the first systematic effort to explore environmental questions from the perspective of ten of the world's most pervasive religious traditions. Engaging scholars in the disciplines of religion, science, economics, ethics, education, and public policy, this innovative research is helping us to understand some of the most complicated social and environmental projects of our time".

    This seems a very thorough attempt to encourage dialogue which goes way beyond mere rhetorical appeals or simplistic answers and though it is still in its infancy the Forum has already produced what looks like useful material.

    Kingsolver, who started all this off for me this week, describes herself as "a scientist who thinks it wise to enter the doors of creation ... with the reverence humankind has traditionally summoned for entering places of worship: a temple, a mosque, or a cathedral. A sacred grove, as ancient as time". I hope my creationist friends may come to share in the Forum's dialogue in the future; but more, that others who now dismiss religion for the feebleness of its contribution to serious contemporary debate, may also get to hear what's going down.