When Nature becomes Un-Natural

Whenever it’s time to get our gardens ready, we Texans 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.


Charlotte and Janie Talk About Health Care

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though they have some different perspectives on politics, culture and theology: Janie grew to the “Right” while Charlotte grew to the “Left.” They have maintained their friendship and now talk about their differences in a shared blog. Charlotte and Janie published four conversations on religious liberty and now they are exploring their different expectations for health care in America.


One of President Obama’s most significant achievements was the Affordable Care Act, which expands medical coverage to several million previously-uninsured Americans. But it’s also one of his most controversial acts, and soon to be much more so when the Republican congress, with the backing of a Republican president, tries to make good on their long-standing promise (or threat!) to “Repeal and Replace.”

Rather than try to parse out the pros and cons of every detail of the ACA and the proposed replacement (whenever we get to see it), we’re going to start with the basics:

Do we agree there is, or should be, a basic right to healthcare?
Continue reading Charlotte and Janie Talk About Health Care

“Change Back”

Psychologist Harriet Lerner describes an interesting dynamic within family systems called the “change back” demand. Whenever any one person takes positive steps to change unhealthy patterns, everyone in the system is also forced to adjust. Lerner points out that even “good” change can be uncomfortable because the behavior patterns of the system become unpredictable and unfamiliar. Thus the demand: “change back.”

What we know is comfortable and what we are used to is predictable. But that which is unfamiliar is disorienting, distressing and distrusted. Continue reading “Change Back”

An Apology from an Embarrassed Christian to my non-Christian Friends

We American Christians are not doing a very good job of “christianing” these days. Maybe you could say we haven’t done a good job for our entire history. That would be fair.

I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.

I say this with all sincerity to you, my non-Christian friends who look at us and roll your eyes or scratch your heads or even curse under your breath. You’re right. We Christians suck at this Christian thing. Continue reading An Apology from an Embarrassed Christian to my non-Christian Friends

A Glass Half Full

The mother-wisdom I used to offer my children is coming back to me: Trouble and Goodness are both always abundant in this world and so the way we engage life depends on how we focus. We can focus our attention and our energy on what is negative and we will live our lives with anxiety, anger and fear. Or we can focus on what is positive and live our lives with gratitude, generosity and hope.

glass-half-full-webWe can say the glass is half empty or we can say the glass is half full. But it’s still the same glass. It’s still the same world. It’s still the same America.

I’ve been struggling to see the good in these days since the election. I’m anxious about the future of our nation. I’m angry that nearly unbridled power is being handed over to mean, ugly men. I’m afraid that our vision of an inclusive, compassionate America will be deeply damaged during the next four years.

I’m struggling to find my balance and to figure out how to focus my attention and energy. If these negative realities take over my vision, then I may become paralyzed; this feeling makes me want to crawl into my shell, pull the covers over my head, put my fingers in my ears and repeat “la-la-la-la…”

But today I will remember that positive realities are also at play. Today I will focus on the good, the healthy and the helpful. I will continue to believe that our collective goodness is greater than the darkness that threatens our nation. Continue reading A Glass Half Full

The Third Day

On the first day, I was in shock. Not because of the gross error of pundits and polls, but because of my overwhelming confusion that my fellow Americans could possibly have voted in favor of a man who embodies such anti-American attitudes and actions.

On the second day, the reality began to settle in. The classic grief cycle was in full swing and my shock and denial moved to anger.

On the third day, I awoke with a glimmer of hope. Continue reading The Third Day


I learned how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism in the sixth grade. I was so proud of myself. I can still spell it today although it is nowhere near the longest word in the dictionary anymore.dictionary-780x439

Of course I had no clue what it meant and I still have to unpack all the prefixes and suffixes when I think about this odd word all these years later. This word has come back to my vocabulary because Election 2016 has turned out to be a very odd turn in our nation’s history and it demands some new vocabulary.

Some of my friends who voted for Trump say they were voting against the establishment. For a variety of reasons, they are anti-establishment, all for the undoing of the Establishment.

Dissing the Establishment.

Disestablishment. Continue reading Antidisestablishmentarianism

America in Process

I pulled into my parking space next to a small pickup truck. I didn’t notice the bumper sticker on the window until I was getting out of my car. “Hillary for Prison 2016” it said. The driver of the truck was just opening his door to get in and our eyes met. A small older man who smiled and nodded and touched his cowboy hat the way country gentlemen do in my small East Texas community. It was a sweet smile, a real smile. I guess he didn’t notice my bumper sticker. Continue reading America in Process

This Remarkable American Family

A friend of mine cast her ballot in a metropolitan suburb in Texas and she remarked how “remarkable” was the mix of voters who stood in line with her.

I looked around me in awe at the diverse group of citizens there to cast their political opinions. Those with different colors and shades of skin and features, with varying faiths, from any number of occupations and education and economic situations, first time voters and life time voters, mothers with their children, adults honoring elderly parents; all smiling and chatting, all of us knowing that different votes would be cast by those around us. I was so proud to be under the same roof with these remarkable neighbors to exercise this incredible freedom!

Continue reading This Remarkable American Family

Stunning and Outrageous Ignorance

The stunning, outrageous assault upon our fellow Americans continues.

This past week, an Oklahoma legislator orchestrated a McCarthyesque hearing at the State Capitol and blatantly proclaimed (without solid evidence) some local Muslim spiritual leaders and respected Islamic advocacy groups to be “terrorists.” He has said before that: “Islam is a cancer that needs to be cut out of the nation.” Continue reading Stunning and Outrageous Ignorance