Eco-Justice Can Lead Us Back to the Garden
Recently, clergy from across the state of Louisiana virtually convened for a webinar hosted by Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s Helen Rose Patterson to discuss the importance of preaching Creation-Care sermons to our congregations. A blog by a Kentucky reverend offered jumping-off points for discussions as we moved through the six ecojustice principles and sought to understand the Bible with a greener lens.
Today, I’ll go over all six principles to help you implement them as you practice your faith.
6. The Principle of Resistance
We start at the end with the sixth ecojustice principle. Slowly, humanity is now beginning to see that the great commandment to love your neighbor actually rests on the principle of ecojustice. We have begun to recognize that human and environmental rights are indivisible. We cannot continue to sit idly by as Louisiana continues to lose an entire football field of wetlands every 100 minutes. This loss puts businesses, homes, infrastructure and whole communities at risk.
Using Romans 8:18-25, our group discussed how we can find ourselves in the middle of suffering along with all of creation who waits eagerly on humanity to be revealed as the children of God, and the Book of Revelation 22:1-7 which provides an image of what The Kingdom of God will look like.
5. The Principle of Mutual Custodianship
Conversation around the fifth ecojustice principle centered on our ability to see the balance of life all around us. We thought about how humanity and all of creation work interdependently to sustain the balance of all life on Earth. A great example of Mutual Custodianship is Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, which guides the actions needed to work with nature to sustain our coastal ecosystem, safeguard coastal populations, and protect vital economic and cultural resources.
When you look at stories like The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, you see the potential of expanding our understanding of “who is our neighbor” to include all of God’s creation.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
4. The Principle of Purpose
Though Earth is a mere spec of sand in comparison to the vastness of the universe, it is the only planet known to sustain life. Humanity is just one of over 10 million other species that inhabit the earth, yet the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 8:5 that God created us “a little lower than the angels.”
What does that say about the purpose of humanity in God’s dynamic design?
3. The Principle of Voice
When reflecting on our time during this era of quarantine, we recognized that life has slowed down enough for many of us to actually experience God in creation.
We have heard God’s voice in the rustling of leaves or in the sound of water rushing on to the shore.
In Mark 6:25-34, Jesus speaks of “the birds of the air” and “the lilies of the field” to help us understand what it means to trust in the goodness of God. Right now, Earth is losing animal species far faster than the natural rate due to the human destruction of nature. That destruction threatens the very ecosystems that support Jesus’ teachings.
Are we paying attention to the voice of God which speaks to us in the earth?
2. The Principle of Interconnectedness
Ten million species live on Earth. Each one is remarkable, but none can survive on its own. All life depends on connections. We discussed the connections between science, religion and ethics and how this relationship has the potential to become life-giving. Science tells us what is experimentally and observationally true, and religion provides a source of morals and ways of thinking about the world and a motivation to act on scientific data.
A “life-giving” interpretation of Genesis 2:15 places us in the garden to “till and keep it” – to ethically become servants to the land.
1. The Principle of Intrinsic Worth
Finally, we arrive to the first principle. We pastors, theologians and other clergy have read the bible from beginning to end many times over. But, as it relates to creation care and ecojustice, we always come back to the beginning, Back to the Garden, and see it anew for the first time!
In Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Ten million species, all valuable and interconnected. Every species has voice. We suffer from human injustices and actively resist them in the struggle for ecojustice, while all along we are sustained by this Loving, Liberating and Life-Giving Presence of God who creates goodness, and who lives amongst us in the innate goodness of the human spirit.
As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and the fifth Anniversary of the Papal Encyclical Laudauto si’, we wonder if God may be calling us back to the garden.