March 20, 2008

Back to Eden

I think it's hilarious that some ministers love to pull out the Great Commission only when it's convenient, like when talking about how we shouldn't be worrying about environmentalism or taking care of our planet. In the rest of church life, the Great Commission is a statement to which they pay lip-service, evangelism a means of garnering new church members for their tithe than the restoration of human beings. I had one of those "shake your head and laugh because if you didn't you'd cry" sort of moments today in Doctrine, during a discussion on the very issue of creation-care. It inevitably happened that a few people brought up the "well it's too much of a distraction from our God-ordained mission to evangelize the world" comment that comes up in these situations.

"Too much of a distraction."

Words cannot express how angry I got at that moment. I did a decent job of restraining myself, though Dan helped too. I found something stirred within me that I've been noticing a lot lately. When I returned from India, my thoughts dwelled on the environmental damage I saw there, the garbage everywhere, the brick and mortar torn down and tossed into piles, the fires burning plastics into the air. I returned to my daily life, and on my drive to work, began noticing the new land being cleared for a wider route 68 into Lexington (to handle the growing traffic as the suburbs expand). And I just felt sad. Not that we don't need a wider road - we do - but the way in which it's being done. Instead of working WITH the land, the engineers decided instead to cut down old, ancient trees that were "in the way" (though I'm pretty sure they could've worked around most of them) and then burn them. They didn't even have the decency to use the wood for something useful, they burned it in massive bonfires.

And I felt sad.

Sometimes, when I'm too tired on my way to (or from) work, I get close to tears as I think of the waste. I'm not saying that life doesn't have its seasons, that sometimes the tree really does have to come down, but when it's avoidable?

And some people still find this irrelevant, "too much of a distraction." The very place they live is a place to exploit, rather than see the wonders of God's creative hand. They'll sing "God of Wonders" but only insofar as they don't yet need to use those wonders, insofar as their use and abuse of those wonders doesn't affect their quality of life. And the Great Commission is used as the excuse. "Go and make disciples of all nations …" is used to tell the Christian community that they don't have to be responsible with the way they live.

It bastardizes the Great Commission by saying this. What is a disciple but a person who learns at the feet of Jesus? If Jesus is the guy who walked from place to place, taking times of solitude in Gardens and on hillsides overlooking lakes, the picture of a God who creates everything good, from nothing, then I'm not sure that I'm reading the same scriptures they are. When I see Jesus care for others, for the lowest of humanity, it is never at the expense of creation. Creation is worked, improved, pruned, but never destroyed. Yes, creation is a resource for the survival of humanity; but Adam was given dominion over creation. If Jesus is the second Adam, then dominion implies servanthood, and to serve others is also to serve and maintain our planet. Where would we be without the delicate balance that is found in the created order?

Now, to be moderately fair, one of the students on that side of this discussion did mention that we owed a great deal to the environmental movement of the 1960's and '70's … but … (and there's always a "but") he thinks that the church is jumping on the "bandwagon" thirty years too late. I'm well aware that environmentalism can be a bandwagon, just like wearing crosses or attending protest rallies. But if Christians are starting to realize that they still have just the one planet, and want to take care of it, then this is a good thing! Not to mention the fact that the environment is STILL a priority in popular culture (perhaps more so, with the Global Warming debate as important as it is). If these Christians (the ones who all of a sudden seem so into the Great Commission) want to relate Jesus to this culture, then maybe working alongside those in the environmental movement (rather than against them) is a wise idea; it's like making important to you what is important to us (instead of telling them to find important only what you find important). Failing this, perhaps being concerned about the environment needs to be in the interests of self-preservation; it doesn't get any better unless you WORK at it.

But in my mind, the only real reason to take care of our planet IS God. Think of Him as a parent; a parent takes care of his kids for a while, and through their adult years as well (though in a different capacity). But in that, He teaches them to also take care of themselves. In this case, creation - both the Earth AND Humanity - must take care of itself. The environment naturally seeks balance, so the problem lies not with the earth, but with human beings. And this is what we see with God's command to Adam.

It seems significant to me that Jesus, after He was resurrected, first appeared as a gardener. If God is the creator and works with His creation as a parent, then it makes sense that Jesus is tending the Garden of His creation. Jesus died and rose not just for sinners, but for those who were sinned against - including creation. Someday, scripture writes, Jesus will return again and restore His Kingdom. But this is not simply the restoration of rule; it is a restoration of creation. Jesus moves us all back towards Eden, both body and soul, mind and flesh, man and beast, creation. As much the Coming Kingdom is the restoration of the relationship between God and Humanity, it is also the restoration of harmony between the creation and those that live in it.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need
He lets me see a country of justice and peace
And directs my steps toward his land
[Zephania Kameeta, Adaptation of Psalm 23]

UPDATE: Found this video at the Onion on this very topic! How convenient!


Dan said...

glad to see the result of all that mad typing in class yesterday!!! good thoughts.

Sarah said...

YES! Someone gets it.

you pretty much put my thoughts into words about Christianity vs. environmentalism. Thanks, bro. :)

Anonymous said...

Listen about faith and environmentalism in action:

Anonymous said...

Looks like the link was cut off in the previous post.

Anonymous said...

In Truth & Reality we are Always already in the Garden of Eden, or The Garden Of Indestructible Light.

Except that we have been "taught" or propagandized for thousands of years to presume otherwise.

The horrible and ultimately deadly myth of the "fall"---"original sin".

Destruction of both the environment, and even human culture altogether, is the INEVITABLE result/outcome of Christianity/Western "civilization"altogether!

On the Garden of Indestructible Light.



Plus a unique Understanding of the non-humans with whom we share this mostly non-human earth world.


Why/how is this destruction inevitable. Because the author points out that the moment you presume to be separate from anything you immediately try to control and eventually destroy the presumed other.

The other is always your enemy and NOT your refuge.

You are always at war with the "other".

The presumed other/separate and objectified God, world, and all sentient beings including of course "other" Humans.