Friday, June 5, 2009

Thomas Berry & American Dream

I can’t think of anyone I admire more than Thomas Berry, Catholic priest and radically innovative theologian who didn’t call himself a theologian but a “cosmologist” and “geologian.” He helped me to calmly reconcile my Catholic training with the realization that the Christian story is a myth similar to pagan myths. For Berry this was a given that opened to wider vistas, indeed the whole cosmos, as he combined evolution with theology with ecology with geology. The breadth and depth of his scholarship and influence can’t be overstated, “one of the great figures of our time . . . [who] captured so powerfully the urgency of our current environmental and social crisis.” Read more about Berry's death and work

An American Radio Works documentary on MPR, "A Better Life: Creating the American Dream," stated that no other nation in history ever created wealth as America did, within reach of millions. The promise of America said that it matters not where you start, you can have the American Dream. In the past 20 years the dream became a frenzied drive toward acquiring a surfeit of material goods that included giddy investment and fraud.

The Dream is not dead. Despite great economic inequality, Americans still believe that change for the better is possible. But the sour economy plus growing recognition that our way of life robs future generations of a lovely and fertile planet induce healthy questions. Does our value depend on how much we own? Does the American Dream mean getting rich?

Let’s see if the American can-do attitude will take us to a larger vision, one that includes Thomas Berry’s concern—care for the whole planet and all life on the planet.

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