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Protecting earth is basic to valuing human relationships

Nov 09, 2010

By Toya Richards

There is a link between peacemaking and the environment, and the church can do much to advance responsible stewardship toward the earth, peacemaking, and social justice, said scholar and theologian Dr. J. Milburn Thompson in his lecture at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Speaking from the context of the Catholic Church, he shared thoughts on how to improve the environmental ethic of the church and individuals and ways in which nonviolence can positively impact the environment, among other things.

“Humans are to care for and cultivate the earth,” said Milburn, Chair of the Department of Theology at Bellarmine University, in Louisville, Ky. “It is not only about us.”

His talk, entitled “If You Want Peace on Earth, Make Peace with Earth,” was given October 21, for the 2010 Edwards Peacemaking Lectureship at Louisville Seminary. The lecture honors the Rev. Dr. George Edwards (BD ’51) and his wife, Jean, for their work for peace and social justice.

Edwards, who died June 2, 2010, also served the Seminary for 27 years as a professor of New Testament. Friend and colleague the Rev. Dr. Johanna Bos, Dora Pierce Professor of Bible and Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary, offered a tribute to Edwards before the lecture, saying his interest and commitment to all things just and peaceful “had an enormous reach.”

The endowed Edwards Peacemaking Lectureship is part of the larger Edwards-Presler Lectures on Peace, Justice and Mission, held annually at the Seminary in the fall. Celebrating the fifth anniversary of the combined lectureship, the Henry H. and Marion A. Presler Lectureship on Christian World Mission was given this year by the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler, an Episcopal theologian, author, and missiologist and the former President of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

In his lecture, Thompson, who is the author of Introducing Catholic Social Thought (2010), outlined some of the links between the environment and peace.

Peacemaking and protecting creation require solidarity and sustainable development, he said. “War is contrary to solidarity,” and often the poor are most harmed, Thompson pointed out, adding that environmental degradation has social consequences, which contribute to the most basic of conflicts, such as scarcity of food and water.

The Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, known as the “Green Pope,” has raised a prominent voice on the environment, Thompson stated. Benedict’s statements, including his view that creation is a gift of God entrusted to humanity to take care of and cultivate, have initiated a Catholic voice these issues, he said.

Thompson said Benedict extends human rights to include a right to a healthy environment and a call for lifestyle and structural changes.

Living nonviolently, Thompson contends, is essential to peacemaking and protecting creation. Persons are called to live in harmony with one another, and extending this to nature is to affirm the intrinsic value of nature in basic human relationships, he said.

“Peace is the way,” he said. “Nonviolence develops a spirituality of love.”

Living such a life includes: finding God in silence and in creation; adding creation to works of mercy, advocacy and resistance; living simply; and including the whole earth community, Thompson said.

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