Global Warming and the Relational Ice Age – Dr Marty Folsom

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The world of relationships is in crisis. Tragically, we are easily distracted from approaching disasters by our pursuit of success. The quest for financial success at the expense of natural resources and environmental caretaking has blinded us to this dawning conclusion: small steps pursued for short term progress can have unintended long term consequences that destroy the world that sustains us. This is true in the ecosphere and in the field of personal relations.

Individualism in Western thought has evolved into a license to primarily act in self-interest. We have neglected paying attention to the consequences of our priority on self-fulfillment. While intent on ensuring that the self is satisfied, a coolness develops in our relations as we drift apart. In the absence of the warmth of connection, an icy attitude stretches into our shared spaces as we drift apart like icebergs in a frigid sea. We are entering a relational ice age and, like global warming, few seem to be noticing.

While in the ecosphere the icecaps melt, the personisphere is going into a freeze. The personisphere is the field of relations that is sustained by our love and respect for others who nourish our lives. Failure to recognize the impact of our detachment has left a growing population polarized. We become combatants stuck with others, battling within political or economic poles, or feeling outside the fight. A fading minority passionately believe that we must work together. The problem of separation even shows up in our daily routine. Each act of resisting others in our busy schedule or relegating them to a group unlike us is a cooling disintegration of relation.

Emissions from cars or factories silently deploy their subtle sway. So too, each missed meal, rushed or neglected conversation, or the restrained involvement for fear of losing our time lowers the temperature of our relational being and the chill sets in. We cannot immediately see the symptoms of the relational frostbite, only the final effect as it leaves us lonely and wanting. In our isolation, we cannot easily name the depression that is a mere absence of the warmth of joy only sustained by others whose glow no longer lingers.

The “right of the individual” is the creed of the ice-sheet of separating masses. Each individual asks or demands what is owed to them by those deemed to have more. But the siphoning-self takes from others and does not see the loss in relation—that actual way we grow and warm by giving in return. Responsibility got lost along the way, that responsive call of asking what we can consistently give to those in our personisphere. We must wake up to the fact that it is only in the loving give-and-take of daily life that we find the state of health that melts our hardening hearts and opens the gates for grace to restore.

Atheism has proclaimed there is no God. Those who believe this lose the warmth of meaning in personally being known and loved. Deism, with its distant God who casts a withdrawn eye on the weary world, gives only a dispassionate vision of a world where we are left alone. But an absent God is a dispassionate God who leaves us cold. For many in the modern world, God coolly left the picture long ago. The empty or emptying churches are a tombstone of the stone-dead life that is fading into the current spiritual ice age. The church is not immune to the chilling winds of our times. What is the Spirit saying to the churches?

The Triune God of loving Grace is ever present as the giver of life and love. Only that love can restore what is being lost. This God created a universe that they still hold together in love. DNA and the complexity of the human body are the handiwork of this God of life. While the human inclination is to separate and seek power over others, this God brings the broken back together and serves to ignite a fire that rekindles divine love in our hearts. The fulfillment of the divine life is one that is shared in love. As God’s love is revealed in the common life of Father, Son, and Spirit, so the hope of our life is never in our separateness, but is created, sustained, and fulfilled in the active sharing of God’s self-giving love.

This call to awaken is an inconvenient truth, but it must be heeded if we are to experience the flourishing life of humanity, the personal life of fulfillment, and the gift of living within God’s life. The warning bell has sounded, who will heed its call? Who will share this message with others?