Brian McLaren, in his book Everything Must Change, talks about our framing story - the ultimate story we tell ourselves about how the world works. For example, if our framing story tells us that the purpose of life is to have as much stuff as possible and to have the greatest pleasure possible in our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption. Our framing story determines how we live. Call it our worldview if you like.
Postmodernism says there is no framing story. What is right for you may not be right for me. Truth is relative. The problem with that ideology is that, as the global village becomes ever smaller and we all realise how much our lives are interlinked, what is right for me also becomes right for you. Take climate change as an example.
Climate change is a challenge to postmodernism because more and more people are realising that, if we are to ultimately survive as a species, we have no choice but to have a framing story that says we have to manage our resources better and look after the planet. A philosophy of ‘what is right for you may not be right for me’ just won’t cut it in the real world of climate change. This is also linked to our addiction to economic growth.
As long as the world remains fixated on the idea that we must grow our economies, we will inevitably fall into the same trap, and probably worse than we are in now.
In the mid-1980s, our planet passed a tipping point. It was then that we started going into debt in terms of the available resources that we have to survive. It was then that we started to consume more than we could reproduce. So while we remain addicted to economic growth, we continue the slide into debt. Our way of living is unsustainable.
Truth can no longer be relative in a world where we have the choice of continuing our current way of life or making serious changes that will save the lives of untold millions. We can no longer hide behind the warm and fuzzy - but ultimately fatal - idea that there are no universal standards to live by.
Everything on this planet is interlinked. That is the beauty of how God made it. It all works together. David Suzuki, the Canadian environmentalist, describes how, if all of humanity disappeared off the face of the earth, then the rest of life would benefit enormously. The forests would gradually grow back, and relative stability would return to the ecosystems that control global temperature and the atmosphere. The fish in the oceans would recover and most endangered species would slowly come back. On the other hand, for example, if all species of ants disappeared, the results would be close to catastrophic. There would be major extinctions of other species and probably partial collapse of some ecosystems. The functions of the creatures living in the air we breathe, and beneath our feet, all work together to keep us alive. We need to, like our indigenous brothers and sisters did for 40,000 years, pay respect to the land we live on.
Our framing story needs to be one in which we all work together to bring in the kingdom of God - a kingdom of love, of justice, and of beautiful butterflies fluttering majestically over summer flowers. A kingdom where love finally reigns and where all of God’s children, in the words of Martin Luther King, will be able to shout ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’.