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Faith and Values: Be an aware, active advocate of creation

Paul Graves, Faith and Values columnist for The Spokesman-Review. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Graves, Faith and Values columnist for The Spokesman-Review. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Paul Graves The Spokesman-Review

As our small tour bus brought us back to Banff, Alberta, from a September afternoon at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, I knew my next column must focus on the incredible wonders of nature. We were mesmerized by the amazing rock formations everyone calls the Canadian Rockies.

Those visual wonders have been over 60 million years in the making. Erosion over those eons has exposed the rugged silhouettes that drop our jaws in awe. I simply can’t comprehend geologic time. But I do have some grasp of the time that we live in and have some responsibility for.

Millions around the world also grasp that reality in their own ways. Some are motivated by their basic human goodness, some by a dread that human and planetary survival are in the very balance. Others are moved by their spiritual traditions, whatever those traditions might be.

Given the general audience of this column, I’m prone to remind our readers that your own religious tradition is not alone when it comes to aspiring to a healthy creation. I call your attention to a 2016 book, “Voices From Religion on Sustainable Development.”

More an academic book than a commercial one, it brings together 25 authors from nine world religions and an indigenous tradition to look at environmental and other social issues. Those traditions are Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, indigenous traditions, Islam, Judaism and the Sikh religion.

Their effort seeks to engage the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 203, signed by 193 nations at the United Nations in September 2015. A summary of each religion’s essence and its commitment to the Care for Creation can be found at partner-religion-development.org.

What I feel is important for us to remember is an affirmation from the book: “The book demonstrates that common spiritual values are at the heart of all religious and indigenous traditions – and that (living) these virtues of life can contribute to overcoming environmental destruction, poverty, forced migration, corruption, terror, discrimination and injustice.”

A local and very articulate comment on spiritual values and creation came just last week in this space. The Venerable Thubten Jampa from the Buddhist Sravasti Abbey in Newport, Washington, wrote clearly and hopefully about Buddhism’s emphasis on finding harmony with the environment. I encourage you to find her insights and learn from them.

In recent months, I’ve found myself thinking about AAA. No, not that AAA. My letters stand for awareness, advocacy and action. Our trip to Banff didn’t start my awareness of how we must be partners with creation. But it was certainly a outrageously beautiful and dramatic reminder.

Everywhere we look, from majestic mountains or sunsets to the tiniest stamen in a flower, we need to be increasingly aware of how our world is nourished by every living organism around us. Whether we refer to “God’s creation,” the “natural world” or some other term, we are smack-dab in the middle of it. Let’s be aware.

When we are moved by that awareness, let us be urgent to live beyond our own selfishness to advocate for others to be aware of our societal partnership with creation. The Inland Northwest is humming with countless persons calling for us to pay attention to our responsibility to care for the creation around us.

And that call, that advocacy, must result in ongoing action that shows how much we care to nourish and sustain the environment in which we live. Individual and social actions too many to list help us tenderly, passionately care for the creation we are a key part of. Be an AAA partner of creation.

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, can be contacted at welhouse@nctv.com.