Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hanson: "Spiritual Blasphemy"

Shrimp here, with a matter so important that the ELCA News Service put out two different stories in one afternoon. First,
ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses Environmental Concerns to LWF Council
08-100-JB

ARUSHA, Tanzania (ELCA) -- It is "spiritual blasphemy" to abuse the environment, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In a June 25 address here to the LWF Council, Hanson called on LWF member churches to advocate for changes in policy and practice, adding that "hope compels us to be disciplined, courageous, faithful stewards of the whole creation."

The LWF Council, which Hanson chairs, is meeting here through June 30. The LWF is a global communion of 140 churches in 78 countries, representing 68.6 million of the world's Lutherans. The ELCA is an LWF member.

Hanson addressed the theme of the council meeting, "Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: A Witness of a Suffering Creation," in his report. Environmental abuse is treating God's creation as "an adversarial wilderness, a godforsaken wasteland, a natural resources dump to be used for our own self interest rather than cared for in obedience to God for its own sake," Hanson said.

The LWF president said it is clear from the Bible's Genesis chapter 3 and from human history that humankind "has rebelliously seized and abused the creation." He cited a number of examples, including consumption of forests and farm land, water and air pollution, and climate change, which is causing snow to melt on Mount Kilimanjaro near here. These "offenses" are an assault on fellow living creatures, including "human beings who are less privileged, less powerful," Hanson said.
Read it all here. A few moments later, this story was released:
ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses Climate Change, Other Global Concerns
08-101-JB

ARUSHA, Tanzania (ELCA) -- The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) can help create a global movement to limit or halt environmental degradation, but it must have many partners and large numbers of people to be effective, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Hanson made the comment at a June 25 news conference following his report to the LWF Council, which is meeting here through June 30. The LWF is a global communion of 140 churches in 78 countries, representing 68.6 million of the world's Lutherans. The ELCA is an LWF member.

Hanson addressed the theme of the council meeting, "Melting Snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: A Witness of a Suffering Creation." In his report he said it was "spiritual blasphemy" to treat God's creation as "an adversarial wilderness, a godforsaken wasteland, a natural resources dump to be used for our own self interest rather than cared for in obedience to God for its own sake." He called on member churches to advocate for changes in policy and practice, and he said that "hope compels us to be disciplined, courageous, faithful stewards of the whole creation."
Read it all here.

Where should we begin? A contributor to ALPB Online chimed in pretty quickly on the ELCA Presiding Bishop's use of "spiritual blasphemy," wondering if Bishop Hanson had ever used such a strong word on any other topic. As frequently happens on that board, the discussion was sidetracked in several different directions, ably assisted by the wide variety of quotes by the Presiding Bishop in the press, er, news release. But his use of very strong religious language kept coming back for, after all, how often do we hear an ELCA bishop or pastor speak of "blasphemy" of any sort?

Shrimp was most taken by these comments by Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS, an ELCA pastor in West Virginia. Writes Pastor Kliner here,
It seems interesting (and troubling) that the great and grave sin of Blasphemy has been invoked in conjunction with the environment...  Blasphemy, as I understand it, is a sin against the Second Commandment (You shall not make wrongful use of the Name of the Lord, your God...).  How is this "in play" with the environment, as PB Hanson describes it?

The interesting implications of this that I see are:

1) PB Hanson either has a radically different understanding of blasphemy or misunderstands this grave sin (may it not be so!)...

2) God's name and being are being co-equated and confused with the Creation, which could be the great sin of Idolatry...

3) The true, great and grave sin of blasphemy, which should be every bit the concern of the Presiding Bishop, is being ingnored in favor this "spiritual" blasphemy that the PB lays accusation of...  Or in other words, when you have Ebenezer and "Herchurch" committing real and true BLASPHEMY, the PB chooses to ignore that and lay out a "new" blasphemy? 

Now I'm not accusing PB Hanson of being ignorant or idolatrous, but one needs to ask the question of what exactly he means by invoking the sin of blasphemy in this case...  Especially when he avoids naming that sin in other, real cases of blasphemy...
In case you've forgotten, "Ebenezer and Herchurch" can be found here. We could say a lot more about Bishop Hanson's environmental comments. (One word that comes to our mind reading the news releases, especially the second one, is "hubris;" but we'll save that for some other commentary.) But it is interesting to see what it took for the Bishop to start using a very old-fashioned word. Thank you, Pastor Kliner!

Shrimp out.

1 comment:

Clam said...

We all become passionate about those things that animate us.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...