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THE SPIRIT AND THE ECOLOGY (http://www.spirithome.com/environ.html)

The Christian perspective of our ecology & why we should rise up to become better stewards of our planet, gifted by God.
Peace Be With You,
Cyndy Ross, Fellowship Chairperson
Sylvan Lake Lutheran Church
2399 Figa Avenue
W. Bloomfield, MI 48324
zone 6A


ver.: 06 August 1999

Save this whole page, or cut it up for your eyes by going to the following:

God put you in this environment


What God created was deemed by God as 'good' (Gn 1). Light, the earth, seas, trees, animals, and us -- all were created 'good', and all together were deemed 'very good'. This is what the loving God sees in the created realm. Its goodness. Even with all that has happened, even with layer upon layer of disturbance, disorder, disobedience, catastrophe. Even so, what God created, God owns. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof", as Psalm 24 says.
back to where the formless void ends and the forms begin


Those who posit the earth as God's body, or as a pristine reality spoiled only by human actions, misunderstand nature. Nature is a creation, not the Creator. It is a disordered, messy creation which can be casually cruel and merciless, unpredictable and unstable. Yes, there are cycles of life which all of this takes place in, but these should be seen for what they transparently are : another way for God to make good come out of bad. The badness doesn't stop being bad just because something good came out of it; it just becomes the ground from which God will grow something new and good. It's just as true in nature as it is in daily human living.
going up....


The Old Testament speaks of more than just a covenant with one nation of humans (though it definitely does that). For instance, at the end of the flood story, God makes a promise (Gn 9:8-10), not just to Noah and his family, but to "every living creature that is with you", birds and dogs and even snakes and snails. Revelations speaks of more than just a New Jerusalem with golden streets; it pictures the whole of creation being reborn and made pure. The promise is for a new heaven and a new earth -- a new creation. Resurrection isn't just about us, it's the way God will bring all things to a new state of existence, of which this is only a glimmer. If you think that Yellowstone or the Alaskan mountains or the African plains are breathtaking, God's hardly warmed up yet...
recycle to top


The created order praises God. Not just us, with our worship songs, or even our lives. But all that exists, simply because God gave it existence, sings (Ps 96:1) the greatness of God. The Psalms, especially, are full of this. Psalm 148, in particular, doesn't leave anything out of praise-giving. Not only earth, sky, and all living creatures, but praise comes from even the cosmos beyond earth - represented in the Psalm by the sun, moon, and stars, but you can safely take that to include universes, pulsars, black holes, wormholes, supernovas, and even other beings should there be any. Does it always sing praises? I think those who say it does are hearing only what they want to hear. But there's more than enough praise going around out there to know at least of God's glory and power, and even a glimpse of God's love, through that which God created (Acts 17:27). Learning other things takes more attention to the Scriptures.
beam me back to the index, Scotty...


We are a part of nature, nature is a part of us. One's ill takes part in the other's ill. The early prophets of the Old Testament had a special way to put it : "The earth mourns and withers" (Is 24:4) "Therefore the land mourns" (Hos 4:3) And what brings it to such grief? God's people acting as if they weren't God's people. Greed. Adultery. Murder. National pride. This is more than just a literary way of making nature seem like a person so that those who hear the prophecy can get the drift of how far they've sunk. This sadness is over more than just the sorry spactacle of evil. The nation's sins actually have consequences for nature. The attitudes which lead one to adultery or murder lead one to other selfishnesses. Greedy deeds take no account of what damage is done to the environment. When we sin, we reject God's ways. But God's ways take everything into account, and hold it all together for good. In ways that range from the in-your-face destruction of an H-Bomb to the subtle intricacies of trace chemical poisoning, we defy God's ways in order to satisfy one or another sinful desire. It is not God's desire to have us cause the earth to mourn. God wants us to lead all that exists in a joyous hymn of praise. That will take a lot of remaking, but then Christians follow a resurrected Christ through the fresh, energizing breath of the Spirit, so remaking is not strange to the Body.

The same thing sustains nature that sustains us : the life-giving Breath of God (Ps 104:30) which made all things from the void (Gn 1:2). In the Genesis account of creation it is written: "The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2). It is this same Spirit who is the breath of life for all living things and particularly for man, made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:30; 2:7). Generally speaking, the Spirit in Hebrew is called the "breath" or the "wind" of Yahweh. It is this ruach who makes everything alive, the "giver of life" who upholds and sustains the universe in its existence and life (e.g. Ps 104:29; Job 33:4).
moving around this page is a breeze, too


God's role as creator of all has another implication : God created the nations -- not just Israel, but all nations. All nations are thus under God's authority, not their own. Just as the 'fallen' human defies God and the 'fallen' created order doesn't always act as it should, the 'fallen' societies pretend they have noone to answer to. Nations need to pick up their part of healing this world, too, and the spiritually-attentive Christian belongs in the forefront of making the nations do so. This is especially tough when there are so many nations and so many reasons for some of them to tempt businesses into their nation by not enforcing environmental laws. Since Christians are all over the world, they can act together to bear witness about it ito the public.
okay, you can go back without turning into a pillar of salt...


The sin which most threatens life on earth is the will to power. Humans find out very early on that they are able to change that which is around them ('our environment'). It wasn't really Genevan Calvinism nor Greek philosophy that taught us that (despite what some creation spiritualists say). It was when each of us as a child first arranged the room so we could play in it, or first cleared out objects in a field for a soccer game with the other kids. Or when we first noticed that we could break a tree limb by pulling on it, and then use the resulting stick to draw figures into the ground or dig channels for the rainwater to flow to a nearby puddle. We experience over and over again, even as a little child, that we can shape the nature around us. The older (smarter, and stronger) we get, the more our day-to-day experience teaches us of the powers we have. It becomes a part of our identity and our sense of safe space. It is what Psalm 8 is about. It is part of what comes with being created in God's image; we have weak versions of the powers that God uses in a greater way. As we become adults, we then tend to accept philosophies which claim to explain that power and help us get more of it.

In the face of this reality, talk of oneness with nature and such by itself is really of no help. Nor does it help much to understand the limits of these powers, that we don't understand the sheer complexity of life and existence. Most of today's people think we'll eventually solve that through technology, a belief that assumes a lot about our pr. Like any other sin, there is only one help against the illusion and reality of this sense of power over 'our environment', and that is Christ. Christ had all sorts of power over all sorts of matters, but used it to serve. Christ called all of us humans to become aware of what our power does to nature as well as to people. He calls us to turn away from the sinful lust for power over other things or other people, the sin of coveting as found in the Ten Commandments. Then, the Spirit makes us able to free our sense of who we are from the desire to control everything and make them serve our narrow purposes. Then, we can view ourselves as bodily beings that are a part of a creation that is much bigger than we are, a creation which is the ground we live on and the air we breathe and the stuff we claim to 'own', all created like we were by a loving God. It becomes no longer 'our environment', but 'God's world', in which we too belong. The powers we have been given are that of a trustee, and we are responsible to use them in the way of the crucified servant Jesus, not in the way of a crucifier-master.
go to the head of the class...


Another sin that puts us in conflict with nature is greed. We're not the only animal that hoards stuff, but we are the only animal that chases after having ever greater amounts of stuff, especially stuff that we don't really need. We use our powers to get and make what we want, and it doesn't matter to us much that it rips out a hillside or creates radioactive wastes. Many Christians have responded to this by way of 'simple living' -- sharply reducing the stuff that we own and use.

Christians did not create the idea. It's been around in some form as far back as recorded history goes. Ancient records are full of ascetics (people who are extreme about not having stuff). John the Baptist was part of a long history of Jewish ascetics. Jesus wasn't really much of an ascetic. While he himself had no real estate and no more property than his robes, his Jewish ceremonial wear, and maybe a scroll or two, he did not hesitate to accept and use what others provided for him, and sometimes this was a bona fide feast. He was constantly living at other peoples' homes as he traveled, and often took part in parties and celebrations -- as his critics pointed out. But Jesus did not serve stuff; it mattered to him only as far as it was used for goodness' sake. In fact, Jesus treated the desire for wealth as the biggest pretender to God's place on the throne of the human heart. He even gave it an idol's name : Mammon.

Jesus' followers took on much the same attitude, at first. But as generations passed, they went two different ways. As Christianity became official, official Christianity dropped its concern about having too much stuff, started gathering an incredible amount of wealth, and started blessing certain other peoples' actions for gathering more wealth. Meanwhile, monasteries and convents developed where devout people committed themselves to having no goods. (Of course, the typical Christian had little wealth and even less freedom to chase after it. This was true of the public before Christianity, and once official, Christianity did little to alter the picture.) Later on, the followers of Menno Simons rediscovered what the monks knew, that living simply made it much easier to focus on God. There was less to get in the way. Others, especially in Methodist and Holiness traditions, picked up on this same theme.

Today, there are all sorts of Christians trying (fitfully) to re-establish some limits to the constant craving for more stuff. But they are discovering that the benefits go beyond just those of spiritual focus and preserving our limited natural resources. It's not just what you remove from your life, it's what you add to it. The chase after goods makes you as fake as the packaging; the way out of that is to add being truthful and authentic in whatever you do. By giving a Christmas or birthday gift that you make (maybe goods, maybe experiences), you add something more of yourself to the relationship. When you add this way, you miss the stuff much less. If more of us did that, we would not be so stuff-driven, and we would be less driven to spray insecticides onto the garden, less driven to gouge the land for coal or ore, less driven to pave over good farmland or forest to put up malls or outlet centers. And we could then be freer to pay more attention to the Spirit's voice, calling us to see the created world as God sees it, and to treasure it as God treasures it.
back to the list


God gives the Body gifts for strengthening, guidance, and healing. It may well be that, because we have been given the mind to learn how nature works, God has given us a responsibility to help it where it falters, especially where we ourselves have broken it. (That alone is a lot of breakage to repair.) But let's go a step further : could it be that God provides gifts for the task? It makes sense: if God is redeeming all of creation, and we are a part of creation which is called to serve God's purposes, and God the Holy Spirit gives Christ's followers the gifts they need for the service they are to provide, then it may very well be that the Spirit has given some people from among us the gift of healing the scars we have put upon the world we live in, and some people the inner wisdom as to how to prevent such scarring in the first place. Could that be you, or people in your church, or your fellow employees? Pray for it.

God gives life to nature. God is at work restoring it. Thank God we don't have to depend on our puny efforts. But just as God calls us to be a part of the divine task of restoring humanity, God calls us to the divine task of restoring the created realm. And the hope nature has is the same hope that human beings have : the risen Christ.
lost? go here...

Some Links :


O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--- Book of Common Prayer (US), p. 814

"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! For your sake I created them. Do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one to repair it."
--- Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah

Spirit of God in the clear running water,
   blowing to greatness the trees on the hill,
Spirit of God in the finger of morning,
   fill the earth,
   bring it to birth,
     and blow where you will.
Blow, blow, blow till I be
   but breath of the Spirit blowing in me.
----- "Spirit Of God", v.1, by Sr. Miriam Therese Winter
(c) 1965, Medical Mission Sisters, adm. by Vanguard Music Corp. Used with permission.

There was a pine tree in the woods. It was sullen and its branches hung low. "What's wrong?" asked a joyful tree nearby. "I am just another pine tree in the woods... ", mumbled back the sullen tree. "Just another pine?" said the joyful tree, "Why do you compare yourself to other trees? Lift your leaves towards the Sun. The Sun has given and continues to give you life. How lucky you were to have been a seed. How even luckier to have taken root in good soil. How even greater that you may lift your branches skyward and see what has made all this possible. What bliss to see the Sun." The sullen pine lifted its branches joyfully and was happy evermore.
---- a tale for a miracle world, as relayed by Lynn Tracci.


A Challenge :

choose a specific place in your area that has serious environmental damage. Then, pray regularly for God to give healing for that site, and pray for action from the people who can make that healing take place. (That might include you.)


You *do* pollute. But you can choose to do right by the rest of creation.

I'd love to hear from you. Please write me at rlongman1@aol.com.
Or, off to my personal Web page.
Or, back to the Spirithome front page.
 Copyright © 1997, 1999 Robert Longman Jr. All rights reserved.

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