Repent, Repent . . . I wonder what they meant? (Leonard Cohen)

Lent is that time in the Christian calendar for some serious self reflection — looking at ourselves in the mirror. A time to be honest with ourselves — and with God. Sometimes doing that means that we must turn to someone else and say we’re sorry. To ask forgiveness. To offer an apology.

It’s never easy.

It seems to me even more difficult for groups or corporations or nations to say they’re sorry. Native peoples waited a long time for an apology from churches and from the government for Residential Schools. “Home children”, children of poor people, shipped off to Canada and other colonies waited a long time for Great Britain to offer an apology this past week. “Comfort women” in Japan and Korea are still waiting.  And the Roman Catholic Church’s apology to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland feels more like a Tiger Woods’ apology — extracted but not heartfelt.

What about the rape and pillage and the exploitation of Mother Earth? When are we going to repent our ways, change our ways and make reparations?

Thomas Berry lays responsibility for environmental destruction in North America at the feet of excessive anthropomorphism from some of our most cherished traditions: (The Great Work – pg.45)

  • Greek cultural tradition
  • Biblical Christian religious tradition
  • English political-legal tradition
  • Economic traditions  of an aggressive merchant class

How and why does our Biblical Christian tradition make the list? How does our Christian faith — that is supposed to be about salvation – become part of the cause of the destruction of the planet?

I know of some theologians that have engaged that question. But too often, it seems to me, we want to point this individual misunderstanding of the Christian faith or that individual action as the sinful “bad apple”.

In United Church of Canada it seems to me that it took the Residential School issue to open us up to see systemic racism and prejudice towards nonwhite people.  We are only beginning to recognize and comes to terms with this hard lesson. It is systemic.

When are we going to truly examine how our very theology is part of the problem and part of our blindness in the exploitation of the earth and creation?

I’m not sure. But the cross — which is a central part of the Lenten journey — challenges us to look towards those who suffer. The streams and brooks. The oceans and the coral. The polar bears and spotted owls. Mother Earth. Feeling with and for them turns out to be the beginning of salvation – for them and for us. Part of the journey, its seems to me, is also to humbly learn from other peoples — people we’ve often persecuted or ignored –who have lived over centuries with a deep respect, care and attentiveness to the sacred aliveness of creation. This is literal salvation and the resurrection of life on earth.

It feels like a journey just begun.

A REMINDER —  Another of our Pub Conversations on Spirituality and the Environmental Crisis on Wed. March 3rd at the Fat Duck Pub at 7:30 p.m.


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