Climate and Family: A Question of Covenant

Pope Francis has left North America to return to Rome, after a trip that brought to the fore issues of climate and poverty and ended with a conference focussed on the defense of the family. 

The Catholic or conservative social mediascape would no doubt express disappointment over the lack of the longed for a showdown with the President over issues pertaining to gay marriage, abortion, or other issues that political pundits both left and right fall under the ambit of “family” or “life”. In light of this, such pundits might portray a lack of cohesion in the topics covered in the papal visit.

The Christian might be tempted to use the rubric of “family” or “life” to see a contradiction in the various actions or speeches the Pontiff made over the course of his visit. This is a pity, considering that Christianity has resources that tap into the roots of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Key among these is the notion of Covenant as a hermeneutic of events within Scripture, explicated and made popular by biblical scholars such as Scott Hahn. Using a covenantal lens, the Christian might actually find more continuity between the Pope's references to climate and family than the commentariat would suggest.

In the biblical tradition, covenants are not just contracts, but agreements through which a family unit is created by God. Furthermore, one might find a covenantal motif in looking at the first two chapters in the Book of Genesis. According to Scott Hahn, the earth was created with the covenant in mind, for the earth was meant to be a temple, used for worship and communion between God and humankind. Seen through the covenantal lens, the creation of the family also included the creation of a home for that family. In addition, the attention to that home in the first creation account, seen as “very good”, becomes the backdrop against which a man and a woman become one flesh in the second account. Seen through a covenantal lens, the questions of “family” and “life” share a seamless link with the questions concerning the planetary home.

It might very well be the loss of the supernatural frame of reference that might cause the rancorous divide between left and right over this papal visit. It is a submitted that a turning back to an alternative informed by revelation, may be the very thing needed to heal this divide. Whilst it is still too soon to fully grapple with the implications of this visit, one thread to consider might be the extent to which many Christians make the resources of revelation becomes secondary to those borne out of political allegiances.

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