Good Friday, meet Earth Day

I’m a sucker for stories about the liturgical calendar, so my eyes lit up when I saw the headline for Chris Moody’s piece at The Daily Caller:

Episcopal Church: This Good Friday, let’s celebrate Earth Day

The story is a mostly straightforward report — albeit written in The Daily Caller‘s winking, knowing fashion — about how the Episcopal Church’s office of Economic and Environmental Affairs is asking Episcopalians to stay mindful of global warming, recycling and reducing carbon dioxide emissions this Good Friday:

“This year Earth Day falls within Holy Week, specifically on Good Friday, a profound coincidence,” said Mike Schut, a church spokesman. “To fully honor Earth Day, we need to reclaim the theology that knows Earth is ‘very good,’ is holy. When we fully recognize that, our actions just may begin to create a more sustainable, compassionate economy and way of life.”

Christians observe Good Friday, the day reserved to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, on the Friday before Easter, which is not celebrated on a fixed date. First observed on April 22, 1970, Earth Day is celebrated to raise awareness about efforts to protect the environment.

Schut continued: “On Good Friday, the day we mark the crucifixion of Christ, God in the flesh, might we suggest that when Earth is degraded, when species go extinct, that another part of God’s body experiences yet another sort of crucifixion — that another way of seeing and experiencing God is diminished?”

The article is very brief but I wanted to highlight it. For one thing, announcements like the one above are somewhat common on the Episcopal Church news lists. The church ties its liturgical calendar to the secular calendar somewhat frequently.

However, for some reason the mainstream media never cover this kind of thing. I imagine that part of the reason for the lack of coverage is general disinterest from reporters. But reporters may also not be aware that the church’s decision to specifically highlight the combination of Good Friday and Earth Day will be noteworthy among, praised by or condemned by others. In other words, this is a hot-button subject, this kind of baptizing of a cause during the most holy days of Christian faith.

There is no question that this is an interesting story that elicited quite a bit of interest. I saw it mentioned on Facebook, Twitter and various blogs throughout the day, yesterday.

So, kudos to the reporter for recognizing the news value, even if a lengthier story could have used a balancing quote or two from other groups.

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  • Martha

    I’m just surprised they didn’t work in a reference to the Millenium Development Goals – after all, there’s already an MDG Stations of the Cross:

    http://www.er-d.org/EGRStationsoftheCross/

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Martha:

    Oh my. I have no words.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mattswaim M. Swaim

    There’s also this one:

    http://earthministry.org/resources/worship-aids/liturgical-year/EnvironmentalStationsOfTheCross.pdf/at_download/file

    An excerpt from the prayer at the 3rd station (Simon takes up the Cross/Disconnection from the Web of Creation):

    “Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy, whether animal, plant, or mineral, for we are all bound together In the great web of life…”

  • Hector_St_Clare

    as an Episcopalian, I’d like to thoroughly express my disgust at this melding together of Good Friday and Earth Day. As well as the Millenium Development Goals business.

    Good Friday is Good Friday, period.

  • Harold

    But reporters may also not be aware that the church’s decision to specifically highlight the combination of Good Friday and Earth Day will be noteworthy among, praised by or condemned by others. In other words, this is a hot-button subject, this kind of baptizing of a cause during the most holy days of Christian faith.

    Is this really news? I mean, I understand that those who love to stick their finger in the eye of the Episcopal church and mock them would care about this story, but is there really a broader story here? If this were a story meant to allow critic to stick their finger in the eye of the Catholic church, for instance, I doubt there’d be a GR belief that it was a story that needed to be covered.

    Let’s be aware of a double standard at work here. When it is liberal criticism, it’s a hit job based on bias. When it’s conservative criticism, it’s news.

  • Mollie

    Harold, you’re comparing a hit job with something that is not a hit job.

    I would oppose a hit job on the Episcopal Church, too. The reporter did not do that. He wrote a very brief, fairly straightforward account of something interesting.

    And while some people might not think that Good Friday should be mingled with anything else, much less Earth Day, that’s not a universal viewpoint.

    So where’s the double standard? Do you think this story was a hit job? I don’t see it.

  • Harold

    I think you wanting more stories like this is fishing for a hit job. It’s clear what the conservative Daily Caller was trying to accomplish here, which is pick at the Episcopal church That’s why your twitter feed and Facebook feed lit up. Now, maybe it’s fair to pick on the Episopcal church when you are at the Daily Caller.

    But what’s the mainstream media interest in a story like this, beyond giving critics and axe grinders a chance to vent? You’d be appalled if people suggested we need more mainstream stories picking apart Catholic orthodoxy so that we can interview critics and axe grinders.

  • Mollie

    Harold,

    I just don’t see it. First off, I’m not Catholic. In fact, I’m in a church body that the Catholic Church has serious problem with. So I’d love to see more stories discussing (not picking apart) Catholic teaching on everything from mandated celibacy to the doctrine of justification to different understandings of the sacrament. Not that I’m arguing for the newsworthiness of these stories at all times, but when the moment arises, I’d love nothing more than such discussions.

    There’s no need for something to be picked apart. And this story not only didn’t “pick apart” the Good Friday/Earth Day celebrations but presented only the pro-co-celebration side. I criticized it for needing more balance — more criticism from people who may not think it a good idea.

    Also, though, many (many, many) of my Episcopal friends would say that this move by the Office of Economic and Environmental Affairs does not represent Episcopal “orthodoxy.”

    This is a great way to discuss some of the conflicting viewpoints within the ECUSA and in the larger church and culture.

    A larger story could do just that with nuance and balance. It’s even political — the thing that the media love more than anything!

  • Harold

    many (many, many) of my Episcopal friends would say that this move by the Office of Economic and Environmental Affairs does not represent Episcopal “orthodoxy.”

    Which is why you think the story is important because it feeds a preconceived bias.

    But beyond the Daily Caller crowd who eats up a red-meat story like this (and there’s no need to pretend that this isn’t a conservative red meat story, which is why Daily Caller ran it) and the people on your Twitter feed, I’m still trying to figure out where there is a broader interest that cries out for more coverage.

    I don’t think eye-poking stories are good journalism and calls for those kinds of stories seem to undermine good religious journalism.

  • Mollie

    Harold,

    So you’re saying that because some people (within and outside the church) don’t like the direction the Episcopal Office of Economic and Environmental Affairs is going, every paper — not just most of them — should conspire to hide the story? Even though it was publicly released by the church in a press release?

    Just because people you don’t agree with might be interested in the story?

    What’s the news justification there?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Mollie is right. I do not see how it is a stick in the eye for a news account–straightforwardly written–about something a church is endorsing is somehow out of line. It would be different if there were repeatedly smarmy, snarky comments by the reporter carefully embedded in the story, such as so often happens in stories involving the Catholic Church.

  • Jerry

    I’ve been thinking about the exchange between Mollie and Harold along with Mollie’s comment that this can be a hot button issue.

    I think it could get down to the reason a story makes it into the media, at least in part. Some stories are obviously news. But a story like this might be chosen because it will appeal to/rile up the outlet’s readership. If a left-wing outlet reports that a Republican was seen with a lobbyist and then sponsored a bill for that lobbyist’s organization or vice versa, it might be chosen because they know it will upset the readership and confirm the ideological credentials of the media outlet.

    In this case I do agree with Mollie that it’s an interesting story worth covering but I also wonder if there was not an ulterior motive that led the Daily Caller to carry this story.

  • Dave

    In Pagan circles the notion that the Earth is God’s body is not regarded as a new idea but a very old one. I’d like to see that covered.

  • http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/ Glen Davis

    I wonder if any media outlets will note that there are multiple Earth Days and that the first one was motivated in part by the religious beliefs (Pentecostal) of its founder. http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/28103-earth-day-has-pentecostal-root-

    It’s an interesting connection to draw given that Episcopalians and Pentecostals tend to move in such different theological directions.

  • Harold

    In this case I do agree with Mollie that it’s an interesting story worth covering but I also wonder if there was not an ulterior motive that led the Daily Caller to carry this story.

    I think it’s fairly clear what the motive was: to drive hits. And nothing drives hits on a conservative website than sticking it to Episcopalians or other mainline protestants.

    And driving hits is a perfectly reasonable goal for any journalism effort, but there’s no need to be naive about it and pretend that this wasn’t an effort to toss out some red-meat to the audience. I just don’t think mainstream journalists need to play along.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Harold,

    I’m not sure it’s an indictment to say that the reporter wanted people to read his story.

    I mean, that’s what all reporters should be doing — reporting on things of interest to their audience.

    I just think that this story would be interesting to all readers or at least many readers, not just the Daily Caller’s more tabloidy-type readers. You’re arguing it’s not, although I’m not entirely sure why you think it’s not.

    I mean, clearly the ECUSA thought it was newsworthy — having sent out a press release about the thing.

    As for me, I’m long on record as supporting more coverage of the liturgical calendar. And I don’t just mean the Lutheran one but all of them. I think the calendars do a great job of showing the values of different religious groups and this is certainly no exception.

  • Bram

    Shorter Harold:

    “Covering news that your readers are interested in?”

    “Bad *Daily Caller.* Bad, Bad *Daily Caller*”

    “Covering news that your readers are interested in?”

    “Bad *Get Religion.* Bad, Bad *Get Religion*”

  • Martha

    MSwaim – needy *minerals*? Be kind to feldspar? Remember the finer feelings of tungsten?

    Oh, had I but known this when I was younger, and so heartlessly indulged in skipping stones on rives and not caring if they sank beneath the cold, dark waters! Or even worse, threw innocent stones that had been happily lying on the beach in the sun into the rough, salty waves of the sea! Alas, alack, and woe is me!

  • Martha

    Harold, as a Catholic, if any church in my denomination did the likes of this dippiness, I’d cheer on the reporter slagging them off.

    Actually, knowing my denomination, there probably is some looper somewhere (either relgious, liturgist or even priest) doing similar carry-on, but thanks be to God, there isn’t a whole Church-funded department creating alternative liturgies for Good Friday bewailing how mean we are to minerals.

  • Asshur

    As a matter of fact, TEC has been lately a great generator of headlines for any religious interested media.
    It might be that is has been the historical denomination which has “gone into modernism” more deeply (or at least with more impact), it’s normal that all their acts are closely watched.
    That simply giving space to an official press release of TEC in an usually non sympathetic media, raises the suspicion of a hatchet job by irony, is IMHO more telling of how beyond parody the current status of TEC is

  • R9

    It would be different if there were repeatedly smarmy, snarky comments by the reporter carefully embedded in the story

    There are – calling Earth day religious. (well it might be for some, like the Pagans, and fair play to them. But there’s nothing inherently religious about environmentalism).

  • R9

    Okay not repeatedly as it’s just a short piece. I agree with Harold tho, the item seems to mostly exist to poke fun at people deemed “dippy” by conservative christians.

    On the other hand I guess the Episcopalians would actually like people to know about this.

    Anyway if the melding of these two events is controversialobjectionable might be good for someone to explain why!

  • Dave

    R9, it’s evident that environmentalism is religious for many, especially if one defines religion as that which connects one to the wider universe of which one is a small part. Really getting into the environment can be a spiritual exercise. I say this not just as a Pagan but having seen Christian efforts to channel and cordon this religious response, being at pains to distinguish the creature from the Creator, e.g.

  • melisa

    Whatever your religious beliefs ( read some of the comments ) I recently read something in an article “It is a Divine LAW to protect the Earth.” http://finance.yahoo.com/news/The-Sacred-Earth-iw-201139717.html?x=0&.v=1 – well, it reminded me He created the Earth – it is our Duty to protect and care for it – in whatever way we can!

  • mer

    I’m not sure how this is any different from the old Catholic practice of Reclamation: Christmas on the Winter Solstice; Easter named after Eostre of the Dawn, a fertility goddess; etc., where a secular holiday or holiday from a different faith was “reclaimed” into Christianity.

  • http://sanluisespolon.blogspot.com jorge calderón

    me voy a salir del tema del día de la tierra y todas las intenciones de siempre para desvirtuar todo lo que sea católoco, por favor me puede dar información de la imagen puesta en la nota con esa cruz torzida al igual que las piernas de Nuestro Señor con esa posición extraña, de donde la sacaron o es un dibujo de Kiko, ¿de que año es? a mi me parece muy modernista, no sé bien pero no me es piadosa, a lo mejor estoy equivocado un saludo en Cristo Jorge

  • Asshur

    @Jorge. The work in question is most probably a Flemish / German piece of the late XV/early XVI century. I’d venture from L. Cranach or Durer (look at the bearded man on the right).
    Kiko Argüello’s work is basically inspired in romanic and bizantine art, in many regards in the extreme opposite to this work.
    Devotional or aestic value varies with time (social context) and personal tastes …

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jorge, Asshur:

    It’s The Crucifixion by Matthias Grunewald. Also a German Renaissance guy, also commemorated by Lutherans on the same day as Cranach and Durer (April 6).

  • Asshur

    Itchh … I was close.
    Didn’t know that Lutherans had a commemoration for the Reformation painters (I assume as propagandists -in the good sense-)
    I must confess I have a soft spot for their pre-1520 religious painting, and sometimes forget they went the Luther party (just look in this picture the reference to the Precious Blood)
    Mollie, just an idea, it would be a good policy to include some caption for the graphic work here at GetReligion

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Asshur,

    You’re absolutely right. I’ll endeavor to do just that in future posts.


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