Worshipping in the church of what’s happening now

Published August 1, 2000

“Rocks are as high on the hierarchy of beings as man. Plants and animals have souls. We have 11 years to change the way we live or we will destroy the planet.”

Those were among the claims made by the Rev. Matthew Fox, founder and president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California, during a debate with Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on May 3.

Fr. Sirico’s remarks were along the lines of traditional religious teaching, and his views were explored recently in an interview with Environment & Climate News (see “Religion and the environment: Natural bedfellows,” June 2000).

Fox’s views are diametrically opposed to Sirico’s. According to Fox, it is simply wrong to think in terms of a hierarchy of beings. Humans, ducks, dandelions, mosquitoes, and stones all have the same value and rights. Fox also contends they all have souls and feelings equal to humans.

To make his point of “the spiritual oneness of all creatures and pieces of the universe,” Fox likened the cutting of a tree to the recrucification of Christ, since Christ is in everything.

Fox emphasized during the debate that man was not given dominion over the Earth, as is contended by most of the world’s religions. He added that every creature is an expression and a book about God. Therefore, “if you study a caterpillar, you don’t need a sermon.”

“We [humans] are very dangerous,” said Fox, who prophesied that the world will run out of food in 50 years. That led one audience member to question why that mattered, since Fox had earlier said the Earth was going to be destroyed in 11 years.

Fox said his “university” teaches that commercial agriculture, industry, mining, cities, and the burning of fossil fuels are bad. He had, however, arrived in Grand Rapids by jet aircraft with a substantial entourage; arrived at the debate by automobile; addressed the group with an electrically powered public address system; and was dressed nicely in factory-made clothes–including leather shoes. He claimed to eat a vegetarian diet but did not explain how that could be considered supportive of the equality, souls, and feelings of plants.

Fox’s aides distributed brochures promoting the University of Creation Spirituality, which apparently operates in conjunction with Naropa University in Oakland and offers a master’s degree in Creation Spirituality. The brochures were made of ink printed on paper. Nothing in the brochures suggested the paper was either recycled or made from anything but trees.

According to the brochures, the “university” offers “. . . a transformative model of learning [which] draws on art, ritual, and intellect. With this methodology we integrate right and left brain learning, heart and mind, body and soul, praxis and theory.”

The “university” also offers workshops covering some of the topics addressed in its degree program, among them:

“Sacred Movement, Sacred Space. Simple open-ended improvisational movement guided by the instructor will approach spiritual concepts in both playful and contemplative ways. We will call forth the Spirit to our own inner space and to the space the group makes sacred through its collective energy. This will be done at times with music and other times in deep silence. No previous experience in movement is necessary; each participant works at his/her own pace and comfort level.

“Techno Ritual. The Techno Cosmic Mass is a postmodern worship experience rooted in traditional ritual form, and integrates ecstatic music and dance, multi-media imagery, and diverse spiritual practices to create worship that is intergenerational, multicultural, and deeply ecumenical. An orientation to the Techno Cosmic Mass ritual includes a brief history and introduction to its guiding principles–a journey through the four paths of Creation Spirituality–and guidance to create postmodern worship rituals of your own.”

For more information

. . . or simply to confirm that we are not making this up, visit the Web site of the University of Creation Spirituality at www.creationspirituality.com.