The Peripatetic Preacher Goes to the Earth

Well, of course, I am already ON the earth, as are you, so why should I need to go “to” it? By using this odd locution, I am suggesting that each one of us needs to shift our orientation away from merely living on our planet to connecting ourselves to it in a particular and brand new way. In this way we will celebrate Earth Day, 2018 so as to make every day earth day, for that is what we must do if we are to make a dent in the ominous climate disasters that we all face.

In addition to our personal need to relate ourselves differently to our earth, we unfortunately have other barriers we must overcome this earth day as we struggle to combat out climate woes. The current administration in Washington, led by the denier-in- chief, continues to reject the evidence of the 97% of scientists who have been announcing for decades that we humans are the proximate and most significant causes of our warming world. And perhaps most horribly and absurdly, President Trump’s chosen administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, made a career before his current appointment of suing the agency he now directs! As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency numerous times to prevent it from doing its job of actually protecting the environment. As the EPA’s administrator, Pruitt has rolled back many of the regulations that the Obama administration instituted to combat the oil and gas industry’s continued massive release of hydrocarbons into our saturated atmosphere. Under Pruitt’s leadership, we may need to change the meaning of the EPA to the “Environmental Predation Agency.”

So, our enemy includes those we have elected to do our work. In no sense are they actually doing our work, so we must not only fight the ogres of a warming planet, but we must also fight those who are supposed to be on our side! Despite the Trumps and the Pruitts, along with the just approved head of NASA, another Oklahoman who denies climate science (!), it remains incontrovertible truth that the planet is growing warmer, and you and I are the chief culprits, as we drive our gas guzzlers, as we air condition our too-large homes, and as we collect our royalty checks from oil and gas conglomerates. I trust you get the picture: we have a huge problem, and it will take all of us to move toward livable solutions. Trump and his cronies will be gone someday, sooner rather than later it is to be hoped, but a heating globe will not cease its heating unless we all act and soon.

Still, I am a theologian and lover of the Bible; I am not a scientist. Thus, what I can do is to urge all of us to repent of our anthropocentric view of the earth on which we live. We are decidedly not the center of God’s creation, but it has been that false notion that has landed us in the boiling pot we now are in. We simply must get ourselves off the center of the world, and find our appropriate place as the partners of all living things rather than the master of them. In short, we must jettison Genesis 1:26-28, that dangerous text that speaks of humanity as dominant subduers of the remainder of creation, and move instead toward Genesis 2:15 that describes us as “servants” and “protectors” of God’s garden, the earth. No, we are not stewards of it, however much we love to think we are. A steward is still a primary actor, a controller of a house or garden. And, let’s not

deny it, we have not even been stewards of the earth, but masters of it, or perhaps better put, attackers and rapists of it. We must embrace the language of servant, one who humbly offers herself for the betterment of the places the real master has entrusted to us. Only God is master. “The earth is YHWH’s and everything in it,” as the psalm states, which mans that we own precisely nothing but may only serve it for God’s pleasure, for our own benefit, and for the earth’s delight.

Yes, we must imagine that the earth delights in our loving treatment of it. We need not imagine that the earth is a living thing, though those who think so, who think of earth as Gaia, a living entity, would have us do so. I do not think like that, but I do imagine that earth has intrinsic value, not just value for me and my needs, for God loves the earth and it is that love that gives the earth its value apart from my desires for and from it. The National Forest motto, found on all of its signs of entrance and exit from its beautiful spaces, states, “Land of Many Uses.” That is too limited. Of course, we may “use” the forests for our pleasure, our camping and fishing and hiking and photos. But the forests of the earth are intrinsically valuable and glorious and wild. They are not only for my use, but they exist as God’s gift fully apart from me.

I challenge you this earth day to love the earth, to deem it the wild and gritty and magnificent and mysterious home that it is. And I further challenge you to move yourself off creation’s center in order that you might become servant of earth rather than master. And I challenge you to stand up for the earth against those who misguidedly imagine that its resources are only ours, that it is merely an infinite warehouse from which we might shop to our heart’s delight. The earth is our home, our future, our glorious planet, and we must love it before we lose it for our successors. I will not see the worst that a warming globe can present, but my grandchildren surely may unless we repent and become servants of this tiny blue ball. Happy Earth Day!

 

(Images from Wikimedia Commons)            

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