Saturday, May 03, 2008
Green is in. I find the green movement just about everywhere I go. It's seeping into philosophy, into education, into medicine. I find it in food, in fashion, and in home decor. In fact it is so prevalent that if Colleen McCollough is correct in saying that "People have contempt for whatever there is too much of", green is already on its way out. No, probably not.
Not to be left behind, our Church has embraced this craze as well. A recent link at Spirit Daily brought me to a column in the Tulsa Beacon by architect Randy Bright, titled "Eco-theology may emphasize creation over the Creator." Since that is my belief as well, he captured my attention.
Bright reviews an issue of Faith & Form, an architectural journal that focuses on religious architecture, themed "Greening God's House", which included the theology of John Paul II reviewed in an editorial in the publication. The main article was written by architect Roberto Chiotti, and featured a project of his firm recently completed, St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, church home of a Passionist parish in Toronto, and the first Gold-LEED church in Canada. Motivator for the project was Father Thomas Berry who seeks "to establish a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship." This would be the same Thomas Berry who wants to "put the Bible on the shelf". The usual green theology makes its appearance in the article, and then Bright writes:
What disturbs me is how the worship of creation instead of worship of the Creator is seeping into some of our churches. Are our roots so shallow in our knowledge of the scripture and our knowledge of God that we cannot see flawed thinking? Are we becoming so enthralled with the fad of green design that we must justify it with a philosophy that demeans God’s creation of mankind and that relegates us to a position equal to or even lower than animals or plants? Or in the words of Chiotti, become “co-creators” with God?
While there are many things in the green movement that are good, and we should always be striving to manage the Earth’s resources better, we need to be careful not to get so caught up in the green movement that we diminish the sovereignty of God.
I couldn't have said it as well myself!
A brief article from the Daily Commercial News by Dan O'Reilly provides some details about the new church building.
- It is the "first place of worship in Canada to achieve LEEDS certification"
- It took 18 months to build
- It replaced a 50 year old church
- It has waterless urinals, dual flush toilets, and solar powered low-flow faucets
- It uses passive solar heating
- It provides a 50 percent reduction in energy costs (compared to what he doesn't say)
Most significantly O'Reilly tells us:
"Reducing costs was one of the reasons for building a green church," says parish priest, Father Paul Cusack. But our primary motivation was to establish a link between the sacredness and gathered community of faith and sacredness of Earth."
Ok, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now!
We worship what is sacred, do we not? The Sacred Heart for instance? Father Cusack has told us that we worship the earth and ourselves!
Let's take a look at this variety of Earth/self worship. Here's the church. I hope the sign out front is quite large given that this looks much more like a local library here in the Akron area than it looks like a church. In fact, 50 years from now when the parish decides yet again to abandon its building, maybe the local library can make use of it.
The website tells us the old church had been "built...in a farmer's field" but today it "stands in the centre of a vibrant and bustling urban landscape." Just imagine what this eco-friendly church is going to look like in 50 years given the same advance in civilization the last 50 brought. Unless they bought up a large portion of land, these folks are going to be building another church long before the usefulness of this building has expired. I hope the cost savings of the current one is worth it. Somehow I don't think so.
As the Baptismal font scrolled up on my computer screen, my first thought was that I was looking at one of those new urinals. Ah, but no, this one has water in it. The walls that aren't glass in this place creep me out. They remind me of a mausoleum.
And then there is the altar. Note the three candlestands? Sort of like the three lights of Masonry?
The LEEDS award is explained in the website in an article titled "New Church Project Article #1". That's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEEDS. Gold is the coveted higher LEEDS award.
Here I learned that the 50-year-old previous church was a "deteriorating facility that had become prohibitively expensive to operate and maintain". My house was built in 1957. I sure don't think of it as "deteriorating". Perhaps if the good priest had kept up with the maintenance, his church would not have been "deteriorating" either. Let's hope he does better with this new state-of-the-art (read expensive) model. That damning quote about sacredness of the earth and man is right there in their parish website! He even elaborates:
Unlike most churches built to inspire a sense of other-worldliness, the new St. Gabriel's is designed to emphasize that when we gather to worship, we do so within the greater context of creation.
I would have thought a crying baby or two at Mass would have taken care of that. I don't go to church to worship creation. I go to church to be in the house of God. If I want creation, I go out in the backyard and pull weeds.
The priest has bought the zeitgeist of ecological crisis. I don't get the impression he believes God can handle it, either. He quotes Rosemary Radford Reuther to back up his statements. According to this priest water that is polluted can't be used in Baptism? Says who? He takes the typical earth-centered deep ecology position that the earth is more important than man:
[Thomas Berry] believes that the real hope lies in our ability to re-establish an integrated sense of the whole, to redefine a cosmology based not upon an anthropocentric view of the human as primary but based instead upon a biocentric understanding of the earth as primary and the needs of the human as derivative.
That is a radical departure from our theology which teaches that we are made with a soul in the image and likeness of God. After reading through Article #1, I concluded that this new church is a monument to Thomas Berry who is still living, I believe. It certainly wasn't conceived as a house of God.
But wait! It gets worse in "New Church Project Article #2". Now we are asked "How will you address the sun?" Actually I won't be addressing it because it doesn't talk.
The "south facade of the worship space...is glazed with clear glass" to "harness the winter sun's energy". Doesn't the sun rise in the east and set in the west? In any case the website says that in this liturgical environment "time...takes on a cosmic dimension as the sun traverses the sky above" so that "no two masses will experience an identical liturgical environment." The liberals have been arranging that "no two masses" concept for quite a while with a lot less cost involved.
The chapel of reservation is stuck in the north end of "this sacred axis". Isn't it traditional to face God by facing east? Not here. Here worshippers face God by facing north. Isn't there some pagan god that comes out of the north? Anyway...
They have made an "unprecedented investment" in an underground parking garage. When you have a giant window, looking out at cars it messes with your symbolism, I guess. Worshippers are supposed to sit in church and forget how they got there perhaps. Cars, after all, are so disgusting when you're an environmentalist. Best to keep them underground. The parking lot has reserved spaces not for the handicapped (though it might have those as well) but rather for the car pooling and hybrid vehicle parishioners. I guess this is a wealthy parish. Check out the cost of hybrid vehicles.
The piece de resistance turns up in this second article. It dwarfs all of the rest of my critique in its magnitude of heresy.
Pedestrians who approach the church from Sheppard Avenue are greeted with "stations of our cosmic earth" situated strategically along the path through the garden. Based upon a series of eight stained glass windows commissioned for the chapel at the Passionist's Holy Cross Centre for Ecology and Spirituality, the stations depict significant moments in the evolutionary story of the universe and the pilgrim journey of humankind within that story. The first station depicts the "big bang", the initial bursting forth of energy at the beginning of time from which all else has evolved. The following two stations move through the coalescing of matter to form our solar system and the emergence of early life forms within the seething primordial broth of our planet's oceans. The fourth depicts the emergence of the human.
It goes on from there, but you get the idea. The article also speaks of "the Passion of Christ including the Passion of the Earth", which means that the Earth is redemptive in the opinion of this priest. In any case he tells us
The new building as sacred space presents a "Gestalt whole", and like the medieval cathedrals of Europe, becomes itself a form of Catechesis, engaging the senses and inviting transformation.
As you build, so shall you pray?
Now what was it again that Randy Bright had to say about the dangers of eco-theology?
What disturbs me is how the worship of creation instead of worship of the Creator is seeping into some of our churches. Are our roots so shallow in our knowledge of the scripture and our knowledge of God that we cannot see flawed thinking?
Ummmm, yes, I guess they are. How did these parishioners get suckered in?