Politics, Public Policy and Progressive Faith

05 June

Diana Butler Bass: More St. Francis, Less St. Boniface

Religion author Diana Butler Bass (@dianabutlerbass) notes in a Huffington Post blog post that today is both World Environment Day and the Feast Day of St. Boniface. This is a less-than-ideal coincidence, as St. Boniface’s claim to fame involves cutting down a large tree dedicated to Thor as a means of converting ancient Germans to Christianity.

The post discusses Lynn White’s 1967 exploration of the tension between Christianity’s tendency to endorse subduing nature for human benefit and suggests that St. Francis might be a better role model:

St. Francis is of course, a better-remembered and more beloved figure than St. Boniface. But,on this World Environment Day, I can’t help but think that far too many Christians give lip service to Francis while still acting like Boniface. For the sake of all creation, I think we need to embrace Lynn White’s 1967 suggestion: to stop cutting down sacred oaks in favor of following St. Francis, “the greatest radical in Christian history since Christ,” who according to White, “tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God’s creatures.”

This Boniface-versus-Francis battle got me thinking about a recent Religion & Ethnics Newsweekly story about Interfaith Power & Light, a multi-faith group of clergy who take on climate change both by helping individual congregations (and congregants) be better stewards of energy and by getting involved in policy making.

As part of that R&EN story, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb takes up the Jewish imperative to protect creation, including trees, in an extended interview. Worth a watch:

Watch Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb Extended Interview on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.