What this has to do with renewables or sustainability? Perhaps that we need to return to a less globalized way of life, one we need to believe is good for us through a shared narrative..
In a world where marketing and advertisements constantly take liberty with our emotions, where we get exposed to behaviours that are clearly damaging to our mental and physical health, it is logical we try to find something to recenter our minds. Sports, yoga, meditation, new age religions all help to do that. Older religions can also play that role, and it is strange how most of us today reject f.i. the notion of ‘god’, but do believe that we can all become millionairs. The class system is still in place which prevents that with rare exceptions so such convictions are as unfounded as one could have that (a) god exists.
If we need a mental template to ground ourselves, it sounds wierd to choose religion to do that, after all, they are fairly tales. But if you calculate the cost of -really- understanding things, which takes years of education and an keen mind, then religion comes out as a good second option, one that is practically achievable for the masses. We all tell stories, we try to relate our experiences so others can learn and benefit. Let’s infuse that body of narratives with some that create a moral reference, that guides our behaviour if we could be tempted to harm others or reduce security, and lets not to forget economic prosperity of the community. Today we hear the ‘economy is in crisis’, as if our mother is in labour and fighting for her life. We hold our breath, we take the pain, we love our mother/economy. It is those kind of deeper analogies that drive our motivation to behave according to the wishes of those that (in this case) run the economy. It keeps us in a child like state of mind, it treats us as children, tells us stories, it is a mother to us.
A complex story of a man that lived like a guru and died on the cross for our sins, how does that work then, and why doesn’t it work now? What other story would work (except f.i. the economic drivel we read in the financial press)? It seems one aspect of christianity has been overlooked, and that is that it speaks of war. Imagine that you still live in a time where there is no police, no guns, no security for anyone except when they are able to build a castle or create armed militias. In a time where there are many small fights and feuds over resources because agriculture is not yet developed. In a time where there is much poverty. What went wrong in those times (and still goes wrong today) is that the poor where shamed for their position, that they are demotivated to keep them out of sight. Jesus as a guru changed that by telling them to not feel guilty, that they where forgiven by ‘god’. He could have said that ‘An enlightened mind would forgive you for your poverty and crimes, because it would understand that whatever you have done in the past and whatever situation you are in now, this can change easier if you don’t feel like you need to punish yourself, and that if it improves it is a benefit to all of us’. But people wheren’t enlightened or enlightenable, so therefore : god.
But the other story, the dying at the cross, what was that all about? It was about war. The model of a man dying for your sins can be mapped to the strong men from your small village going out to protect it, fighting and dying so you can live a free and happy life inside it. Christ did not die on the cross for our sins, he died because it would make us feel safe. It would make us feel like somebody died for our security, which is what Jesus claimed to do, because he protected the believers from going to hell. In a way he exemplified Sartes quote “Hell is other people”, because battle was hell, and the ones killing you where the “others”. A story can only work if it maps concepts we already know.
But of course ‘god’ forgives, because all ‘god’ wants is people that go about organizing their lives as if they where newly born. The underlying war analogy of the christian story may be the reason why it has been such a good tool to bring peace. Not always, but one can easily trace back the crusades to abuse of the the stories (hell was really bad and Jerusalem was really important) and the desire of lords etc. to live exciting lives. Today wars like the ones of the US in Iraq can be understood as levers to release extreme amounts of cash, so according to that mechanism war is unavoidable, and you better not offer an opportunity or you’ll get stamped out.
Today we don’t need to hear each week about who died in the local war (it’s always Jesus) while we can be safe in our church, we don’t fight that much, we have so many stories to choose form (soap opera’s, movies, economic news) that this one that quells the fear of having to stand up and protect your territory yourself doesn’t offer much anymore. It is a story of irresponsibility also associated with childhood, of course, the same abandon we see promoted to drive the economy today (go shopping!). Today we don’t rest knowing we sacrificed Jesus to be free of guilt. We sacrifice our income to buy products that allow us to use them (a freedom) but also show we made the sacrifice. The same village analogy still underlies the behaviour, and the more power we can demonstrate the more the community can feel at ease. Thus driving a huge SUV has replaced Jesus dying at the cross. Economics recreated a polytheistic environment for us to worship in but never feel completely at ease.
It seems the best solution to handle human insecurities is to return to the village, to once again make the enviroment our main constaint. But as fearfull consumers in the church of economics we lack the courage to make such a move. If we did create a patchwork of self sufficient villages I would say christianity could work once more, although it would make as much sense to adopt the narrative of a different guru, as long as it freed us from our guilt and fear..