Few Baptist Voices Join Global Discussion on Papal Encyclical

June 23, 2015

On Thursday, Pope Francis released a much-anticipated encyclical (papal letter) on the environment. As the most visible Christian leader, what the Pope says matters and impacts how Christians in general are viewed. Additionally, encyclicals trickle down through the Catholic Church as bishops and priests use them to instruct people in the pews.

Given the potential of a papal encyclical to impact public discussion, I watched for reactions within the Baptist community. There had been some expectation that the encyclical would spark environmental conversations within various faith communities. The massacre in a Charleston church (that occurred just hours before the encyclical's release) likely took much of the attention away from Francis's words. But I did note some key responses in an Ethics Daily article today. The piece, Few Baptist Voices Join Global Discussion on Papal Encyclical, also includes a few responses by Christians in other traditions.


Here are a few highlights from Francis's encyclical Laudato Si ("Praise Be"):
Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture... The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

... Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.

... access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.

...  Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

...  In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people's access to places of particular beauty.

... when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.

...  we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and "whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor".

... The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.

...  It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance.

... This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

... Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

... We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.
The encyclical also includes considerations of biblical texts to theologically ground the arguments. Hopefully the document will spark more conversations about an important topic.

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