It's definitely there, perhaps because the Pope and his encyclical writers think that we human beings need the reminder, or need to be taken down a few pegs.
In fact, I find myself quite irritated while reading this section of Laudato Si, called The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts, probably because I question the wisdom of some of the writing in the book of Genesis. I have no problem with God creating light and darkness and everything else and calling it all good. My problem is that it seems as though the Scriptures are saying that human beings are the only ones created in God's image and likeness. If that's not human self-promotion, I don't know what is. In my books, every bit of creation is the way God shows us his and her image and likeness, and that's more than enough reason to hold all of it, not only humans, in reverence and respect!
But then the writer of that first book in the Bible makes things even worse by putting these words in God's mouth at the end of the sixth day: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Gen 1:28b)
The words aren't the problem as much as the fact that too much of the last 200 years of human history has taken those words literally, and subsequent human subjugation of and dominion over creation has created too many extinct species and too much decimated land. Some of us have played God without God's wisdom, not realizing that some of the things we do will have harsher impacts than we can foresee.
I get ahead of myself. This week we are looking at paragraphs 65- 69 of Laudato Si, which can be accessed by clicking here. I know that I too am a member of the human race, and I know I am beloved by God, as is pointed out in paragraph 65: "Saint John Paul II stated that the special love of the Creator for each human being "confers upon him or her an infinite dignity".... How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!" However, the encyclical's assertion that we are all conceived in the heart of God needs to be applied to all of God's creation all the time (even when it's not particularly convenient for human beings). I would argue that the chickadee outside my window is also the result of a thought of God and should be accorded dignity on that basis as much as I am. Therefore, using pesticides to control bugs that the chickadee likes to eat is a sin, right? And not just because that pesticide might travel through the food chain to us human beings...
Our broken relationships with God, our neighbours and the earth are the focus of paragraph 66. Sin is the disruption of those relationships, the disintegration of harmony, the disruption of the web of life. Our distortion of God's words in the book of Genesis has created a rift between human beings and nature that desperately needs to be reconciled. After Jesus, Saint Francis was one of the first to notice the lack of harmony and try to make up for it, and I sometimes wonder if his sermons to the animals weren't one big apology on behalf of the human race, with a reminder that God loved all creatures better than human beings seemed to.
In addition to reminding us that "We are not God," paragraph 67 also says, "Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures." Ahh, this finally makes me a little happier with this section. It goes on to explain that Scripture exhorts us to care for, protect, oversee and preserve our earth and its fruitfulness for those who follow after us. It also reminds us that the earth belongs to God and our claims to ownership of anything really aren't valid, though we seem to forget that on a regular basis. Can you name any of your so-called possessions that aren't actually a gift from God, directly or indirectly?
We "must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world" (paragraph 68), and take special care not to take advantage of the creatures with which we share creation. Here's where the Wisdom of the Biblical accounts comes into play, noting scripture passages that underline the importance of humane treatment of all God's creatures, even those that are considered work animals. This section is most concerned that we see that "the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures." I wonder how many in the animal kingdom are reaching extinction because of the climate events caused by our overuse of fossil fuels.
In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, "we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful."
As always, it's a matter of awareness, of recognizing that every consumer choice we make matters in one way or another, and choosing the best option every time. Do we really have to put round up on our autumn dandelions?
Next up: #14... We are all Noah