April 8 2022 José Arregi (Basque Country-Spain);
Tony Brun (USA); Gerardo González (Chile);
Emma Martínez Ocaña (Spain);
Elsa Támez (Colombia); Santiago Villamayor (Spain)
have sent us humanitarian arguments for the creation of a network of activists with the spirit of thee good Samaritan.
We have askedd them for action
FOR A BIOECOCENTRICAL AND LIBERATING HUMANISM
"What can we followers of Jesus contribute?"¹
We are daughters and sons of life and belong to one and the same world in close communion with all living beings. We are beings formed by a complex matter or creative matrix that throughout the evolutionary process has constituted us as conscious beings. And this ability to read in depth and with a long view discovers what we have in common with the whole planet. We perceive what we are and what we lack, the achievements and the risks of the habitat we belong to and want to take care of.
In a previous document, "For a post-religious Christianity", we argued the need to build a narrative and a praxis about following Jesus under a post-religious paradigm. We placed ourselves in a post-religious model, without losing the great values of the religious and humanist traditions and joining all the people and movements committed to the common cause and common home of life on Earth.
That is why, now, in these reflections, we are encouraged to explain the features of this model and to strengthen our participation in it. We speak of a humanist model centred on life and care for the community of all living things and all beings in our common home. As a universal project and as a behavioural model inspired by the wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth.
This mission of care harbours a profound liberating spirit of which feeling, knowledge and praxis are an inseparable part. A perspective that was born with liberation theology and meant above all the empowerment of the working class from a political, social and personal point of view. Today we complete this defence of justice and social cohesion with protecting the whole of nature of which we are a part. We are not the first on this path, nor do we represent a unique voice.
Nor is it a question of inventing another religion or of enunciating a humanist proposal in a purely scientific perspective, or even a neutral ethical one, although, affirmatively, in coherence with scientific data and with the minimum and maximum ethical requirements. We do want to offer elements of hope in this christian renewal or replacement of the traditional paradigm with one more in line with the broad movement for the protection of life and our common home, which we call a bio-eco-centrical humanism.
We dedicate a brief preamble to the category of life as the focus of our reflection. Then we explain the bio-eco-centrical humanist model, our vision and mission and the need for concrete praxis. Finally, the wisdom and inspiration that flows from the story of Jesus of Nazareth is presented.
1. THE STARTING POINT: DAUGHTERS AND SONS OF LIFE
The human species is an evolutionary product of life with a genomic identity that allows us to maintain that we are sisters/brothers among ourselves and daughters/son of the same matrix, active participants in its 'creative' process and relevant actors in its future course.
This filiation or fraternity is fragile from an individual perspective given the cycle of life and death. But we are pained by the mistreatment we inflict on each other, present and future, and we want our mother's house to be ever better cared for. We advocate for this common home, for its centrality, to elaborate a new song of the Earth that gives us back hope, a 'vision' and a concrete mobilising 'mission', because it is time to act.
It is a story with sufficient scientific support, which explains the emergence of living organisms as the fruit of an increasing structural and functional complexity, with new attributes or capacities. In the course of this evolution, which is still open, we human beings have acquired an astonishing capacity for self-transformation and we feel that through the development of culture it is possible to open up immense spaces for humanisation. These same human beings, constituted in society, and thanks to their capacity to generate, share and accumulate knowledge, have shown a growing power of intervention on human societies themselves, on the biosphere of which they are part and on the ecosystems that shelter them.
However, this same power of intervention also shows itself as domination by some peoples over others and by a few human beings over many within them. We are responsible for altering ecosystems and threatening biodiversity on Earth. We are responsible for using energy to improve the living conditions of all beings, but also for squandering it and causing the depletion of resources. We are causing global warming which, if left unchecked, could have catastrophic consequences. We have enough resources to satisfy the basic needs of the entire world's population, to build a peaceful and prosperous global society, and yet, because of our ambition, we are under the threat of collective suicide and the end of the planet.
2. ANOTHER MODEL OF HUMANISATION
Nevertheless, in this increasingly less religious urban society, we share a growing awareness of the value of life and the unsustainability that threatens it. It is the task of all of us to deepen a narrative and a praxis that mobilises people and social groups even more, so that from their own scientific and symbolic conceptions of the world, they actively assume their share of global responsibility.
a) How bioecocentric humanism arises and what it consists of
The dominant worldview in theistic cultures for some 7000 years, and especially in the biblical tradition for some 3000 years, was profoundly theocentric and theocratic. Human life according to the biblical myth was conceived as a punishment and a transit of redemption in the hope of gaining a world more worthy than this one. The Genesis command, "multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it" granted humans a small delegation of power that soon turned into domination over nature and other beings, including humans, considered inferior, and especially over women. In the end, the experience of accelerated progress, initiated with the industrial revolution, culminated in the transition from theocentrism to anthropocentrism.
However, in the middle of the last century, the triumphalism of limitless developmentalism began to be questioned and a bio-eco-centric humanist view began to take shape, with a growing awareness of our limits and a search for harmonious and sustainable relationships with all beings.
And so the current of thought of bio-ecocentric Humanism was born. A plural current nourished by multiple traditions and new ecological, pacifist and feminist sensibilities, and also by the value legacy of Jesus of Nazareth, from which we wish to draw inspiration. A legacy that is in itself non-denominational and inclusive and can coexist with various forms of theism, atheism and post-theism.
This transition to the new bioecocentric paradigm began in the 1960s. The "First Earth Summit" in Stockholm (1972) alerted us to the growth of the world population, industrialisation, pollution and the exploitation of natural resources and global warming. And it was at the Rio de Janeiro summit in 1992 that what we believe to be the clearest and most eloquent declaration of the new paradigm that we are calling "bioecocentric humanism" began to take shape: the Earth Charter² , published in the year 2000.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015) was the opportunity for various religious leaders to express their support for deep environmentalism. They took on board the scientific community's diagnosis of the ecological crisis and its link to the social crisis. They extended intergenerational solidarity with intragenerational solidarity. They denounced this economic system as unsustainable. Pope Francis called it "murderous" and "ecocidal". And they demanded global governance. They also called to change consumption patterns and lifestyles, and to mobilise with concrete actions.
3. LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: VISION AND MISSION
a) A global project.
It is the case that humans, operating in society, are both fruits of the Life phenomenon and partly its controllers. Our growing capacity for creation and destruction makes us the protagonists of a future that increasingly depends on human intervention. We have been creating an increasingly dense "technosphere" around the planet, which in turn, through advances in information and communication technologies, has contributed significantly to the densification of the "noosphere", both of which are human-made. We are definitely in the Anthropocene.
The main challenge we face today is to get Humanity to renew its conscience, to unite and mobilise to confront the great threats to life, but above all to co-direct the "community of life" - including Humanity itself - and its habitat, the Earth's global ecosystem, towards a better destiny. This is a tremendous responsibility that we must assume with temperance, wisdom and maturity. This is also part of our mission.
To achieve this requires a collective realisation that the phenomenon "Life", of which we are an integral part, is somehow precious in itself, sacred and deserving of loving respect. This is enough of a programme to excite the conscience and catapult it towards a generous praxis where we all fit in and whose fruits will be effective for future generations.
Older religions, new social movements, NGOs, and democratic institutions can contribute to create an alternative economic and social system, and a liberating narrative capable of mobilising our emotions as religious drama used to do, and of interpreting the symphony of meanings and values that resonate in the nature of which we are a part.
(² For more information click on The Earth Charter Preamble)
a) Our responsibility.
Huge pockets of hunger and misery persist; the gaps between rich and poor are widening and economic power is becoming alarmingly concentrated. Weapons of mass destruction continue to accumulate, becoming ever smarter and more frightening, and bloody local wars proliferate, causing destruction and immeasurable human suffering. Migration and refugee camps show us inhumanity rather than its opposite. The challenge of the world's growing population - concentrated in the poorest countries - makes it even more difficult to close gaps and address serious problems such as deforestation and pollution of the atmosphere, land, water systems and seas. Food production and the manipulation of animal species bred in conditions that are very painful for them, the devastation of some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems, and the introduction of invasive alien species and genetically modified organisms are other problems and challenges that lie ahead. And they are magnified by post-truth and denialism.
Where are the causes of this situation? It is not enough to list the problems without pointing out the causes. Here are some of them: a neoliberal system that puts profit at its centre, an economic system that imposes itself on governments, that persecutes and punishes dissidence, a culture that encourages unbridled consumption, media manipulation, individualistic and patriarchal anthropology that destroys our true community identity. If we remain silent about the causes, we make a half-hearted diagnosis.
We are the first actors responsible to ourselves, to future generations and also to the biosphere of which we are a part. We know and can do something about building a peaceful and prosperous global society, without hunger, without misery, with opportunity for full personal development for all, living in harmony with each other and with the nature of which we are a part; about the "common home", our planet Earth, with its global ecosystem restored to its full life potential, without pollution, with climate change under control, but we do not achieve it or do not want to do it. That may be, by the end of this century, the vision of the world we want to pass on to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a world that it will then be their responsibility to look after for future generations.
Civil society has an important role to play in changing lifestyles in order to exert strong, non-violent pressure on those who hold political, economic and social power. We must move from greed to solidarity, from competition to collaborative work, from conflict to convergence, from (individualistic) hedonism to holism, from maximisation to optimisation. And global awareness is not enough, a structural change is essential, a change of economic, political, cultural model.³
4. THE VALUE LEGACY AND INSPIRATION OF JESUS
Born in the Christian tradition, we can find in its "founding stories" vital stimuli or "inspirations" to respond to the great challenges of our world. Jesus of Nazareth, without being the only or perfect figure or superior to the others, can be a reference of great importance. And we refer to the "Jesus of the stories" elaborated in the first Christian communities and collected mainly in the Gospels (both canonical and "apocryphal"). We make an inspiring, non-literalist reading, which aims to be coherent with today's diverse knowledge.
a) Jesus' wisdom and praxis
The parable of the Good Samaritan can be a beautiful illustration of the wisdom and humanistic praxis of Jesus. It is not the only one. For Jesus, the key is to feel and become a 'neighbour' to every human being in need. The 'Samaritan' praxis is driven by a compassionate gaze, and the compassionate gaze is expressed in 'approaching the wounded man, healing him with oil and wine, bandaging his wounds, putting him on his horse, taking him to the inn, caring for him and making the innkeeper take care of him and repaying him on his return.
It is a love which, when it becomes a culture, is the seed of universal solidarity. It is this ethical notion that has been taken in recent decades by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for holding that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights.
When Jesus teaches us about the love for our neighbour, he also passes on to us as his legacy the millennia-old Golden Rule when he tells us: "... as you would have others do to you, do likewise to them" (Luke 6:31). This ethical principle, formulated in virtually the same terms, is found in so many traditions, both religious and secular: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, Greek philosophy, Kant, and so on. If this rule were universally practised, we would be building a more 'humane' and happier world.
Benevolence in neighbourly love cannot be isolated from justice, mercy and forgiveness. Its practice of justice, guided by the ethic of care, goes beyond the justice that gives to each what he or she deserves. And the same can be said of forgiveness. Jesus invited us to 'forgive 70 times seven', that is, always. Forgiveness does not mean absolution of guilt and exemption from punishment. Forgiveness means to trust again in oneself and in the one who has hurt us, to free oneself from resentment and revenge, to consider more in the offender the suffering than the guilt, and to desire his healing.
b) The inspirations of Jesus
"Our Global Responsibility. Jesus manifested his values not only through his oral teachings, but also through his attitudes, behaviour and ways of being. This narrative ethic of Jesus' stories is for us a source of inspiration and motivation for action. Here are some of those inspirations:
- His inner and public freedom from political and religious power. Free from the search for power, money, prestige, from his own fears and anxieties; from his family, his disciples and his adversaries; from his way of living and understanding religion and from his own death. Free to love with a love of care and compassion, without exclusivism. Free to commit himself to a cause that fulfils and transcends him.
- The radical "revolution of values" that he carried out: he attributes to the poor and to the outcasts the values that were proper to the aristocracy (magnanimity, peace, generosity, divine affinity, wisdom...), and he revalues the values of the poor (hospitality, family economy of reciprocity...).
- His coherence to the end in this change of values.
- His deep trust in the depth of the reality which, according to the religious culture of his time, has been and is called "God" and which he imagines as Creator, omnipotent Lord and Father (Abba).
- His daring to change the traditional image of God. Jesus liberates God from the religious-sacrificial and priestly system of the temple and the "human traditions".
- His spirituality is prophetic, subversive. He breaks down cultural, religious and family barriers and prejudices: he attends to Jews and Gentiles, he welcomes women and men into his group, he criticises the possessive gaze of men over women, he eats with people considered "sinful and undesirable", etc.
The 'historical Jesus' was not, could not have been an 'ecologist'. However, in the Jesus of the gospel story we find traits that can contribute to inspire an ecocentric wisdom and praxis. For example, his being deeply integrated in nature, like the poor people of the countryside in ancient times; his gaze and admiration of nature as a manifestation or sacrament of God or of the depth of existence: the sun that rises on the good and the bad (in nature there are no "good and bad" beings), the rain that fertilises the fields of the just and the unjust, the yeast that ferments and gives flavour to the dough, and so on. Care could be a beautiful image of the most real and creative Reality, and a fundamental key to a bioecocentric way of living and ethics.
CONCLUSION: BUILDING A NARRATIVE AND A UNIVERSAL ORTHOPRAXIS OF MEANING
We need a poetry and a praxis for a different world to that of the last half century, a world that has abandoned religion and other references of meaning and is still beset by serious social and environmental problems. This document is only an outline of the new bioecocentric humanist vision that is emerging in many parts of the world from different movements. We are moving from a particular religious worldview to a planetary humanism, a possible outcome of a global consensus on our place and mission in the world. Perhaps in this way we can also assume an uncertain transhumanist future that, without disdaining technology, is governed more by ethical criteria. We are daughters and sons of a life that radiates fraternity, intelligence and creativity. Let us care for it and guide it.
³For further studies: GONZÁLEZ, Gerardo. “Nuestra Responsabilidad Global. Hacia un humanismo bio-eco-céntrico”. (not available in English)
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)