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Building in Good Faith - Green Building Resource for Religious Institutions

Seven Jewish and Christian Theological Principles for Green Building (5)

Green Building Expands Religious Communities’ Boundaries

Religious communities all have their own understandings of the boundaries which enclose their moral community, the boundaries that define the people to whom religious groups are related and morally responsible. This moral community may include other congregations or members of their faith. It may extend to members of other religions or to the whole of humanity.

A theology of green building redefines and enlarges religion's sense of community to include the environment, the beyond-human community of Creation. This is an important recognition that we bear a moral responsibility not only to God and to the human family but to the environment as a whole.

Green Building Re-Images Religious Purity Laws to Support Life

Traditionally, societies have established purity laws as a way of defining and upholding their ethics and ethos. People, things or activities that are “pure” – either explicitly or implicitly – are understood as supporting and protecting life. Religious communities often play an important role in reinforcing certain aspects of purity customs. For example, some ancient religious purity laws were created to prevent unhealthy practices which threatened the health of people and communities. Today, many people drink bottled water because they believe – usually inaccurately – that public drinking water supplies are less healthy and less pure than bottles water.

Green building can help society develop an ecologically-sound sense of “purity.” For example, US citizens spend between 80-90% of their time indoors; the US Environmental Protection Agency has noted that the most serious environmental health threat that most people face is from indoor air pollution. By making a space freer from indoor air pollution, religious groups are asserting a new, healthy sense of a contemporary “purity” practice which supports life. Another example is found in the idea of eco-kosher, which seeks to re-define traditional kosher rules by stating that food must be grown, and animals raised, in an environmentally healthy and humane manner. A theology of green and health building seeks to create sacred spaces that are “pure” in an ecological sense, and can help reinvigorate this aspect of religious belief and practice.

A Final Text

Midrash Rabbah to Ecclesiastes 7:13 (#1)

Consider God’s doing! Who can straighten what has been twisted? (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

When God created the first human beings, God led them around the garden of Eden and said: “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are — how excellent! For your sake I create them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”

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