Two seemingly unrelated events caught my attention this past Tuesday, April 22nd.
The first was the news that , once again, the words "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance are under attack, this time from a "devout" atheist family in New Jersey. Their devotion to the cause of atheism involves evangelizing the removal of mention of God in the school where their child (as well as many potentially non-atheist children) say the pledge each morning.
Of course, with a bunch of kids saying it at the same time, nobody would notice if one child kept their mouth shut during the "under God" part, or even for the entire thing. I remember when I was in school, there would be kids who didn't know it and kinda mumbled the words, while others would just stand there not saying any of the words, in a fit of "teenage rebellion". Why this needs to be a court case is beyond me, but that is the state of our overly-litigious nation today: abuse of the justice system to punish the slightest "offense", in the name of liberty, freedom, or "social justice".
Well, this leads me to the second event of the day that caught my attention.
At dinner, I asked my eldest daughter what she did in school that day, and she said, "we had to write a letter."
After catching an odd, almost-wincing look from my wife, I continued, "who did you write the letter to?" (I know it's not proper grammar - so sue me!)
My daughter replied, "the Earth. We had to write a letter to Mother Earth for Earth Day."
As a Catholic, I recognize our responsibility to care for the planet. "Tend the garden," was our first assignment from God (cf. Gen 2:15), even before The Fall (Genesis, chapter 3). Various saints and popes throughout Church history have also called on us to care for the flora and fauna. Even Pope Francis, at his inauguration on March 19,2013 said: "let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment".
However, many people have taken care for the planet too far, even to the point of personifying or humanizing the inanimate planet. They use active verbs, as if the planet has a mind of its own. For example: "Earth might just decide to take revenge. The wrath of the planet would be even more furious." or "It is acceptable that we need petrol, but that is something the Earth is not refusing. It only wants us to use it judiciously." Al Gore ascribes human sensations to the planet when he uses such turns of phrase as: "The planet has a fever." Such phraseology turns an object (the earth) into a subject that is an independent actor ("Earth" or "Mother Earth" or "Gaia").
As Catholics, we are monotheists and are opposed to all forms of paganism. When personification of an object crossed over to the realm of animism - ascribing a "spirit" or active power to an inanimate object or idol - then it goes from a mere literary device to idolatry, "earth-worship", or "nature-worship".
So, these two events - writing letters to Mother Earth in school while others are suing school districts to prevent the proselytizing of a religious belief with which they do not agree or which offends them - got me to thinking. Are there any enterprising, clever lawyers out there that are willing to sue school districts and other government agencies that promote the religious worship of the Earth? Is anyone willing to file a lawsuit against Earth Day being celebrated in schools, in the name of separation of "Earth church" and state? Are my 1st Amendment rights as a Christian being infringed upon by the sacraments and high holy day of Gaia worship being taught to my children and promoted with my property tax dollars?
Unfortunately, I fear such a lawsuit would get thrown out of court, based on the evidence of my own Church's over-emphasis on the environment, particularly around Earth Day. For example, the April 4th E-scroll from the Diocese of Orlando has almost 20 separate "Advocacy and Justice" events and news items listed, half of which have to do with the environment. These myriad blurbs contains such titles as:
- Covenant Director on Fracking
- Loyola University Chicago Healing Earth Project
- Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth Produce Reflection Book
- 12 Measures to Save Energy in Your Parish
- ACTION WORKBOOK for Congregations & 2014 National Building Competition
- FROM THE COALITION (a.k.a. "Catholic Climate Covenant")
- White House, Senate, EPA, and Keystone XL
That means that environmentalism gets as much emphasis as all other "Advocacy and Justice" topics (e.g., abortion, diversity, the poor, war & peace) combined! Even the hot-button topic of immigration is in a distant second place with 3 blurbs.
If only there were a liturgical season this time of year to re-orient the Church's priorities toward proclaiming the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection and His mission for the salvation of souls...