Friday, 23 September 2011

Stroud Coffehousing

I have not been a member of any political party since resigning, in the 1980s, from the Ecology Party. The Stroud branch of what is now the Green Party organises monthly Coffee House Discussions: I was invited along this evening, to contribute (on behalf of Christian Ecology Link) to a discussion on what different faiths teach about the environment. The Star Anise Arts Café was packed.

My two-pennyworth was as follows: Christianity is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ, born 2,000 years ago in a Palestinian town on the West Bank. We believe that Jesus was the son of God, who created the universe and all it contains. Jesus gave us two commandments: love God (and therefore his creation), and love our human neighbours as we do ourselves (and therefore live in justice). One of Jesus’ early followers, Basil, an Armenian, wrote: “The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry: the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who has no clothes: the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot.” All around us in the world today, we see the hungry and the destitute, more often than not victims of environmental neglect or unjust exploitation of the earth’s resources. Christians have the responsibility, therefore, to defend earth, water and air as gifts of creation that belong to everyone, and to protect mankind against self-destruction. Our tradition is to pray to God for strength, to see things as they really are; to judge what needs to be done, and to act in accordance with that judgment. As one of the oldest forms of our prayer is praise, I read – to conclude – Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun.

Seven others spoke. There was a presentation on behalf of Green Spirituality, “possibly not a faith at all”: its protagonist leads a monthly “no faith” service, usually attended by some two dozen “non-members”. A Celtic Druid was followed by a Shakamuni Buddhist. There was a Jewish doctor and Haroon from the Gloucester Mosque. One lady, a Quaker, assured us you don’t have to be a Christian to be a Friend; whilst another, a Bahai, spoke of consciousness, coherence, unity and cooperation. Tonight, she said, everyone is saying the same thing. Well, perhaps not quite, if you listen.

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