General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Earth Ethics

General Assembly 1999 Event 306

Speaker: Thandeka

"Earth ethics is the awareness that our bodies are astir with creation."

More than 350 people gathered on Saturday morning to hear Thandeka, associate professor of theology and culture at Meadville/Lombard Theological School, speak on "Earth Ethics" in a lecture (PDF) sponsored by the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS). She asserted that Earth Ethics are drawn from "the most radical principle of our faith," the seventh principle, and described why it is so hard to practice what we preach.

Thandeka gave three definitions of earth ethics. The first, by Larry Rasmussen, is fidelity to the earth. The second, by Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, is summarized as "interbeing" or that "everything coexists." The third definition, her own, "emphasizes the most intimate aspect of earth that we know: our own bodies." Each of these definitions is "an invitation to go back to the time when our Unitarian Universalist interdependent web of life of which we are a part—was Charlotte's web," a time when we were in relationship with a host of "non-human persons."

"When we practice earth ethics we have to return to our childhood experiences and remember what the race, gender and class lessons (taught by our parents and society) made us forget—the marvelous way it felt to relate to differences."

In summary, she noted: "As (Unitarian Universalists) we are encouraged to practice what we preach by the 7th principle of our faith. Because this is a religious value, we are called upon to help each other to live and celebrate it so that we and the world can be one healthy family again."

Thandeka's new book "Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America", was recently published by Continuum. She is also the author of "The Embodied Self: Friedrich Schleiermacher's Solution to Kant's Problem of the Empirical Self". A Unitarian Universalist minister and theologian, Thandeka was given her name in 1984 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The name is Xhosa and means "one who is loved by God."