Is Good Friday Good for the Earth?

Yet, those who write off Earth Day completely because of its semi-secular roots and the fact that there are pagan elements on the fringe of the environmental movement might do well to consider another reason why we have the shared date for Good Friday and Earth Day this year. There is evidence that Christians moved the date of their Resurrection Day celebration in an effort to supplant the spring pagan rite for the goddess Eostre, probably picking up the name Easter as a sort of vestigial cultural artifact. The fact that Christmas is celebrated on December 25th follows a similar pagan-piggybacking strategy.

In other words, Christians have a long history of redeeming and sanctifying celebrations that were originally established for non-Christian purposes. There are risks involved, because the cross-pollination can go both ways. The theologically drifting leadership of the Episcopal Church, for instance, promotes the joint date on a web page that states, amongst other, more positive comments, that "when Earth is degraded and species go extinct, a part of God's body experiences a different type of crucifixion." This is simply incorrect. Equating the Earth with the body of God is more pantheist or panentheist than the traditional Christian understanding of a created universe about which God cares deeply, and which Christ sustains in mysterious ways, but from which God remains metaphysically distinct.

Effective cultural engagement requires that we sharpen our own understanding so that we can effectively share with others.

That said, your local Earth Day event could likely use some salt and light. So I say, rather than simply thumb our noses at the mixed bag of common good and uncommon goofiness that one finds at such celebrations, let's grab those recyclables, put them in our re-usable tote, and head over on our way to church. This year we might even get the chance to witness to some spiritually wandering souls about how Good Friday was good news for all the Earth, including them.

4/21/2011 4:00:00 AM
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