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Yale University

Christianity & Ecology

Yale University via Coursera

Overview

There is a need for broader literacy and deeper knowledge of the world’s religions and their ecological contributions. This course is designed as a gateway to the rich ecological dimensions of the Christian religious tradition. We delve into unique contributions from Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity, exploring views on and relationship with the natural world. We additionally highlight the relationship between Christianity and environmental justice, evangelical approaches to “creation care”, and Christian teachings on biodiversity, climate change, and the relationship between human, Earth, and cosmos.

This course is for lifelong learners curious to know more about world religions and ecology, environmental professionals eager to deepen the discourse of environmental protection and conservation, those working with non-profit organizations and NGOs on issues of ecological justice, and religious leaders and laity who want to know how they can contribute to interreligious dialogue on environmental projects.

Syllabus

  • MODULE 1: Course Introduction
  • MODULE 2: Introduction to Religion and Ecology
    • We begin by situating Christianity within the study of Religion and Ecology. We explore topics such as creation, incarnation, and sacraments as an entry into Christianity and Ecology. We introduce the emergence of eco-theology as a shift in theological thinking that relates the teachings of Christianity to our contemporary ecological and climate related challenges.
  • MODULE 3: Overview of Christianity and Ecological Responses
    • We reflect on historical questions embedded in the study of Christianity and Ecology. How do our contemporary environmental challenges and questions relate to the earlier formation and development of Christianity? Foremost among these questions are ideas of stewardship and care for the Earth along with doctrinal issues regarding incarnation, especially as this theme relates to the historical figure of Christ, and the Cosmic Christ prominent in John’s Gospel and several of Paul’s Epistles.
  • MODULE 4: Sacramental Christianity: Earth as Sacred Icon
    • We focus on Orthodox Christianity and ecology under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, first among the religious leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church. We follow the symposium he organized on the Adriatic Sea, which like all of his eight symposia focused on water issues. This conference brought together scientists, civil servants, journalists, and religious spokespersons to consider ecology, politics, and spirituality as a basis for more integrated environmental solutions.
  • MODULE 5: Christian Integral Ecology: “Cry of the Earth; Cry of the Poor”
    • We focus on Catholic theology and ecojustice under the leadership of Pope Francis, especially with attention to his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home (2015). The influence of this encyclical is widespread, including responses from other religions and transformative action led by the Laudato Si’ Movement. Through the lens of “integral ecology,” this document expands understandings of social justice to incorporate ecosystems and all forms of life.
  • MODULE 6: Embodied Christianity: Ecotheology in Practice
    • We focus on the impact of the Protestant Reformation movements in Christianity, especially with regard to their positions on the natural world as God’s creation. In the 16th Century, the Reformation opened new theological directions and institutional formations that have shaped human-Earth relations into the present. Christianity began to be guided by a broader community-church leadership as reformers engaged scripture and the natural world.
  • MODULE 7: “Integral Liberation”: Christian Ecojustice Engagement
    • We explore topics of significance for contemporary Christianity, namely environmental justice and the roles of women in Christianity and ecology. Building on Christian concepts of social justice, ecojustice has emerged in response to disproportionate environmental harms faced by marginalized communities. This integration of environmental and social issues affirms the writings, practices, and experiences of women in Christianity worldwide.
  • MODULE 8: Food, Animals, Biodiversity, and Climate Change
    • We explore emerging Christian perspectives regarding food, agriculture, animals, and biodiversity. We place this in the context of a “communion of subjects” affirming the profound interconnection of all life. We highlight emerging theological ethics and engaged religious action in response to the climate emergency.
  • MODULE 9: Christianity and Cosmology
    • How might Christianity flourish in relation to scientific insights about evolution? In this module, the first section focuses on the influence of Thomas Berry and a New Story. This evolutionary story is a context for human flourishing, an orientation for Christianity, and an inspiration for other religious traditions in a planetary era. The second section focuses on forms of worship that emphasize the sacred relationship between Human, Earth, and Cosmos.
  • MODULE 10: Course Conclusion

Taught by

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim

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