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ECOLOGICAL HOLISM AND THEOLOGICAL DUALISM AS ROOTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM: MEDIEVAL LESSONS FOR MODERN RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

The central hypothesis of this paper is that idealization of nature may fuel environmental racism when combined with dual interpretation of human religious or spiritual states. Medieval typological Biblical exegesis, originally based on historic rather than racial differentiation, encouraged presentation of Christianity as "natural" and Judaism as contra-natural. During the Gothic period, the stained glass of St. Denis Cathedral presented Judaism as occupying the material rather than the transcendent spheres of existence. In numerous stained glass windows, Jews appear as threats to nature by attacking Christ on a green cross, which symbolizes the renewal of all life, or the Lignum Vitae. As Christian architects and scientists increased their focus on the divine light of creation, prejudicial portrayals depicted Judaism as blind Synagogue, unable to fully appreciate nature. Pagan motifs, such as the Green Man, syncretized with Christian theological dualism, also serve to separate Judaism from living nature. These depictions purposefully conflict with Gothic aesthetic emphasis on proportion, clarity, and integrity and were intended to imply that religious minorities have no legitimate role in Christian European society. Modern religious scholarship must be cautious not to describe some religions as natural or nature religion, while neglecting others, particularly Judaism and Islam.

10.1163/156853503321916200
/content/journals/10.1163/156853503321916200
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/content/journals/10.1163/156853503321916200
2003-03-01
2016-12-07

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