Monday, November 15, 2010

Other Regard and Ethical Kenosis

It is possible to think of sin as "a compulsion towards attitudes and actions not always of [humans'] own willing or approving" a power which prevents humankind from recognizing its own nature. This may be a compulsion to desire status over against God, the compulsion on which the Genesis 3 account focuses. But it may be a compulsion to gain power over others or to use sex for sex's sake or to satisfy a craving for an excess of alcohol, drugs, food, or sensation of whatever kind. All of these draw us into idolatry; they make of a substance or experience a kind of substitute god. All drain away the freedom that comes from worshipful dependence upon God. Such appetite consumes more of the world's fullness than is our share. The application of this principle of kenosis of appetite is widespread; it applies to deforestation to expand farmland for excess export crops, but also to the high-food-mile demands of the West that fuel so many unsustainable practices, to the taking of spurious long-haul flights as well as the frittering away of carbon-intensive energy in so many human dwellings.

A particular aspect of the kenosis of appetite, which links to the kenosis of aspiration, is the kenosis of acquisitiveness. Just as we humans must be willing to order our ambitions and our experiences in accord with the freedom of the redeemed order, so we must order our acquisition of the material trappings of life, which again are often acquired at the expense of the well-being of other creatures. The Pauline material does not, of course, uniquely or unambiguously generate specific indications as to what it might mean to live more lightly on the Earth, to lessen the impact of our ecological imprint. But it does, crucially, provide a model for placing such patterns of practice at the heart of Christian ethics, as a central part of what following (or, better, imitating) Christ implies (Horrell, Hunt, and Southgate 195-6).
What do you think? Are ecological ethics at the heart of Christian ethics?

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