When Nature becomes Un-Natural

In North Texas, when it’s time to get our gardens ready, we know well the temperamental temperament of our Texas climate. We know not to put our tomatoes out too early, but we can risk spinach and lettuce. In February, when I wrote this, it was 80 degrees during the day followed by a frost that hit us overnight. Texas gardeners are used to the swinging cycles of weather and we adjust and adapt.

All of us understand that weather cycles over the years of our lives. Some years are too hot, some are too wet, some are too dry. But many of us are noticing swings that are not typical in nature. Natural rhythms seem un-natural these days.

The questions keep coming and the debates rage: Is the climate changing? Why is the climate changing? What might be the human influences for climate change?

For centuries, within my own religious tradition, Christian contemplatives have envisioned an intimate connection between the health of the earth and the health of humanity. Religious people from within the three Abrahamic faiths carry forward ancient understandings of earth not as “nature” or “the environment” but rather as creation. We humans are charged by the Creator to be stewards and caretakers of that precious gift. Other spiritualities have long regarded earth as our Mother, a lovely metaphor this Christian embraces wholeheartedly.

But over our long Christian history, there have been alternative readings of our sacred texts. Western Christianity in particular has read the biblical creation stories as charge and blessing for the plundering of the earth. This dominionist approach within the dominant religion of the West has been seeping into the attitudes and contaminating the actions of policy makers and power brokers since before America became a nation.

Instead of honoring creation as a gift from our Creator, our precious earth became a warehouse of resources, a depository of commodities, an assembly line of raw material just waiting for humans to transform it all into something “useful.” Human beings are seen to be the end, the goal, the apex of nature and the earth as nothing more than the means to make us human consumers comfortable and our lives more convenient.

A few years ago, Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, assured his shareholders that fossil fuels are here to stay. “What good is it to save the planet,” he asked rhetorically, “if humanity suffers?” My guess is the unspoken, more truthful subtext of Tillerson’s question is: “what good is it to save the planet if our profits suffer.” Because surely he has to know that humanity will indeed suffer from this continued commodification of the earth. (I admit I may be too hard on Mr. Tillerson here. I am grateful to learn that ExxonMobil did urge the president to remain committed to the Paris climate accord.)

As a Christian, I challenge my fellow Christians to re-think our role as caretakers and stewards of God’s creation since it is our own tradition that has perverted our Scriptures and contributed to this contaminated belief that permeates our society. Even my Evangelical sisters and brothers can agree with me here: The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

The earth is not ours to use and misuse.

Rather it is ours to serve and protect.

Of all people, Christians of all stripes ought to be able to come together on this issue of Creation Care. And then, united in our Christian witness, we can join all our other fellow Americans to stand united against the plundering of God’s good earth. We can stand together for this earth that is our home, our womb, our Mother and our legacy for all our children for all the generations to come.

 

For my Evangelical Christian friends…

The Evangelical Environmental Network includes care of the earth within its pro-life commitment

For my religious friends of various faith traditions…

Here is a description of numerous faith based environmental organizations

For my non-religious friends…

PBS lists America’s 20 largest environmental organizations

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Powerful words of uncertain origin

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

 

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