I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how I feel about this topic and where I wanted to go with this post, and all I have found is more confusion. While I do have some thoughts I would like to share, they all feel jumbled and misguided, and thus I’m excited to listen and participate in discussions about these two texts, however I feel slightly uncomfortable and unqualified sharing opinions.
I grew up in a Jewish household, where somewhere along the way I adopted the notion that all other religions are based on money, greed, and power, and that I was to steer clear of these for the sake of my spirituality and physical safety. Looking back on this, I can see that a lot of the views that I once carried were passed down from people who had spent much of their lives in fear of other cultures and religions. For context, my family comes from both Israel and Poland, has a rich Jewish history, and has multiple individuals who are either killed in our fought in WWII. As I grew older, I maintained the view that many religions, Christianity in particular are based on greed, power, and money, however I have done everything I could to remove myself from a feeling of superiority, or that other belief systems were wrong. I no longer associate with any religious faith, but I do not have anything against those who choose to follow a religion of their choosing, for as written by Papa Francesco “respect must also be shown for the various cultural riches of different peoples, their art and poetry, their interior life and spirituality” if we are to act in unity to make the right choices as a human race.
Coming from my background, I have unintentionally seen most religions as constructs which attempt to control various aspects of the world around us, notably other people and wealth. While this mindset created by such shortcomings of many organized religions has been easier to spot in politics, I hadn’t thought about this in The context of our collective approach to anthropogenically driven climate change.
While I understand these examples are not representative of all people and expressions of Catholicism, I would like to point to things such as the Crusades, the opulence of the Vatican and local churches, repeated diaspora due to religious persecution, the worship of gold, partial and at times prejudice views toward other religions, (most of these have to do with the “establishment” or Church rather than the context of biblical writings), etc.
To a less aware outside observer such as myself, the Catholic Church has always seemed to be plagued by an unending power struggle. As Papa Francesco reminds, “we are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.” A gift is not something to be conquered, rather to be cherished and used in good health. I feel that the aforementioned characterization of the Church comes from those who have misunderstood and, in turn, misused it’s powers, when in reality the true intent of this religion is to spread love for people and the world around us. That said, it seems that many misunderstandings come from two interpretation of love: one being to care for, replenish, and understand the world around us, and the other being to benefit from yet be grateful for. These two interpretations have far different outcomes when applied to our interactions with our environment. While some may choose to love through profit, a future is only sustainable when love is shown through awareness, care, and giving back. The importance of this understanding with respect to all other religions, individuals, and ecosystems cannot be overstated moving into the future.