The ultimate protest

So much has been said in this book about our communion with the natural world by the way of Intelligence that it is hardly necessary to underline what the ecologists have been telling us about our rape and ruin of the earth on which we live. This first came to people’s notice in the period between the two world wars as the result of soil erosion, which sprang from the exploitation of the earth on a vast scale for commercial profit, leaving once fertile lands a desert. And it prompted T. S. Eliot in the Boutwood Lectures he gave at Cambridge in March 1939 to warn us that” a wrong attitude towards nature implies somewhere a wrong attitude towards God and the consequence is an inevitable doom”. [T.S. Elliot. The idea of a Christian society. Faber, 1939, p. 62]

Eliot here put horse and cart in the right order. The ultimate protest against the rape of the earth cannot be on the utilitarian grounds that the world’s resources will soon be exhausted. That may be true, although it always remains possible that technology will produce alternative sources of energy when we have exhausted all those now available. The ultimate protest against the earth’s exploitation is our apprehension by the way of Intelligence that the earth is the dwelling-place of God’s joy and therefore demands the forbearance, respect, reverence and love by which alone we can establish communion with Him.

The wrong attitude towards God of which Eliot spoke is that which regards Him as an object up there who lives in a kind of benevolent isolation from what He has created, a God who never walks in the garden He has planted, so that the garden may be turned into a rubbish heap without any sense of desecration or blasphemy. Such an attitude is totally impossible for anybody in whom the joy of God has gone out to meet His joy in the earth. Such a person will do everything in his power to preserve the Garden of the Lord from all the forms of pollution and exploitation which may threaten it, however much people tell that person to mind his own business. For it is his business, and everybody’s.

—H.A. Williams. The joy of God. London: Mitchell Beazley, 1979, pp.119-120.