The Jesus/Salvation arc of modern day Christianity is embraced by the larger Eden/New Jerusalem arc of the Bible as a whole. This story has much to offer as we reflect on the arc of the Cosmic Creation Story. What does it mean that the primary, Scriptural image for human Sin, the city, becomes the symbol of God’s ultimate act of Cosmic salvation?
This proclamation strikes me as Christianity’s most important contribution to today’s question of human induced ecocide.
- First of all, recognizing the Eden/New Jerusalem arc of the Bible propels us out of a cyclical stuckness. Being creation minded many seek to put “death and resurrection” back into an ecological frame of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” This is not the Christian proclamation. Nor does it fully appreciate the directionality of Creation.
- Secondly, as we express a proper passion for environment and ecological systems, some may become overly sentimental about Gaia and our place in her existence. The Psalmist asks, “What is man that you (God) are mindful of him.” Our modern Cosmic Creation Story also holds humans as uniquely important in the arc of life. Humans, it would seem, are the “extra atom,” the one in a billion that bridges the miracle of life from what has been to what will be. Dis-equilibrium is always a part of this cycle. To silence the dis-equilibrium of humanity could be to usher in a deeper death than anything yet experienced.
- Re-affirming for ourselves that both “the Garden” and the “New Jerusalem” of Revelation must be understood metaphorically, there is nonetheless a parallel here to our concerns with natural processes and technology. No scenario for Earth’s future, aside from the essential eradication of human life, suggests sustainability apart from the employment of new technologies. What may sound like blasphemy to green ears also seems to be blasphemy to God. Yet, central to arc of time as conceived by the Bible is a fulfillment that features the very thing the Divine most abhorred a city.
Christianity seeks the same ends as those who articulate the new Cosmic Creation Story. It honors the past even as it re-phrases the future. At the same time, the Christian proclamation of life from death, resurrection, also embraces discontinuity. It re-frames that which we know in terms that we have never heard. “Behold, I make all things new!” And, not incidentally, like mutating chromosomes imagining new life, ancient traditions and Biblical teachings continue to present themselves, adapting to new challenges and giving hope for tomorrow.
What if it is true? What if the worst we have done to ourselves, and our world, holds the key to life tomorrow? What if it is possible to be a “both/and” expression of love? We can’t go back. The Garden of Eden is closed for business. Nor can we stay where we are. Life as we have shaped it is unsustainable. We must move forward, and the future is always a surprise.
The Cosmic Creation Story and the Christian Story are indeed one.
- Both affirm humanity as a creature of the earth.
- Both recognize humanity as a unique among creatures.
- Both hold humanity responsible for the care and stewardship of the earth.
- Both recognize a destructive deviation between the processes of nature and human behaviors.
- Both the Cosmic Creation Story and Christian theology preserve and build on all that has been.
- Similarly, both articulate what Thomas Berry calls “Grace Points.” Experiences of discontinuity and transition that propel creation forward.
- Both believe that Life will arrive at a place never before conceived of, and both insist that the unfolding of the universe is a deeply spiritual adventure.
The Church today is called to find new language for its proclamation, language that honors its past and is consistent with the revelation of an unfolding universe. I have called this “re-phrasing.”
In the same way the Church is called to “re-frame” its theology. Theology is the discipline of articulating revealed truths in socially and culturally appropriate ways. The world today is in the throes of an ecological disaster. One cannot speak of salvation, reconciliation or new life with any integrity without acknowledging this primary context.
Finally, I believe the Church today is called to “re-imagine” the world in which we life. We absolutely must learn to honor the rights, rhythms and restrains of the earth! At the same time, we are apparently called to advance and improvise new possibilities and processes. We cannot retreat in fear nor advance in arrogance. Like a fiddler on the roof we are called to dance the adaptive dance of faith and life in challenging times. The Christian Gospel of healing, hope and holiness is the music we need to keep our balance.
“On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. On that day I will answer, says the LORD, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people”; and he shall say, “You are my God.” – Hosea 2:16-23 NRSVCreeping covenant (Hosea too) Earth, sky, resounding seas Twixt the grain, the wine and wonder resonant rehabilitation I thirst thunder I hunger heal We are divided trade tendrils We are afraid open your heart You are my soul mate not my slave You are my passion not my pet I care not condemn I cry not control Will you risk with me compassion? Must the earth with Christ yet die? Twixt the grain, the wine and wonder Flows my love for Lo-ammi! Dave Brauer-Rieke 12/10/2010 ____________________ Thank you to Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke of the Oregon Synod of the Evengelical Lutheran Church in America for giving us permission to post the printed portion of his presentation to the Ecology of Grace and Justice: Organizing in the Biocommons Course from this past Friday. We have appreciated having you on the teaching staff! ____________________
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