Pope Francis released an encyclical today discussing the environment and humanity’s responsibility to be good shepherds of it. Quoth Rod Dreher:
What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future. [Emphasis is Dreher’s]
There are of course many, many similarities between the religions of the world. One of the most striking, to me, is the Catholic doctrine that, “Man is not saved by faith alone. Faith must be combined with good works.”
This is also a central tenet in Islam. There are stories of the early sahabah (companions of the Prophet), who, during Ramadan, would want to stay at the mosque all day and night praying, such was the fervor and zealousness of their faith. But Prophet Muhammad admonished them to get out of the mosque, to attend to their families and businesses and lives. Not to just sit around and be all religiony.
Francis’ meditation on the environment reminds me of my favorite passage from the Qur’an. It’s from Surah Baqarah, verse 164:
Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth,
In the alternation of the night and the day,
In the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind,
In the rain which Allah sends down from the skies and the life which he gives therewith to an Earth that is dead;
In the beasts of all kinds that he scatters through the earth,
In the change of the winds and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and earth,
(Here) indeed are signs for a people that are wise.
Reconciling traditional religion with an ethos of unfettered modern capitalism and attendant environmental degradation isn’t so hard when you just ignore religion’s prescriptions against avarice and the good life. The feckless thugs of Banu Saud continue to exploit Arabia’s vast oil wealth while doing little for a young (and increasingly disaffected) population which will soon inherit the Earth.
The encyclical is a call to action to Catholics to celebrate and preserve the Earth that humanity has been gifted. Not to plunder its riches and leave nothing behind as so many of us, steeped in modern macro and micro-economic teachings, would do. All hail the Market! (and Cthulhu).
Muslims are also called to recognize nature and to be its good stewards. We, too, are not saved by faith alone. After all, Zakat, or Charity, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. And if we (including Maher) are being honest with ourselves, for those who can spare the time and energy, it should go beyond a yearly monetary gift.