My recent trip to the National Museum of the American Indian reminded me that entire cultures can respect and hear from nature, and that in certain times and places one need not be converted in some fashion to see nature.
I don’t live in a time or place like that. Such as it is, my appreciation of nature is the young fruit of my painful conversion from Christianity to Christianity a while ago. I think I have to be converted to respect nature and to hear from nature much.
Most of what I’ve heard about the Evangelical Church’s new interest in ecology does not sound like conversion. We’ve found a Scripture here about “destroyers of the earth”; we’ve recalled God’s charge to Adam to cultivate and keep the garden. But it all feels like an environmental option package on the same gas guzzler. If this planet gets much hotter, we may tack on an eleventh commandment. But probably nothing more.
The possibility of my appreciation of nature comes from living my faith enough to die to my false self. When I rise again in this life, alien to myself, I’ll find nature alongside me, eager and smiling.
Stated another way, the key to my appreciation of nature from a New Testament point of view is the resurrection. Most Christians have no dreaming idea that nature is humanity’s partner in resurrection. Like the foundation of Locke’s version of natural rights, the resurrection is based on the distinctions among God, humanity, and nature. Each of these three has its own resurrection, and the first resurrection – Christ’s – was accomplished before the foundation of the Earth we are destroying.
Paul hears from nature when he speaks of the resurrection. Nature, he says, longs anxiously, waits eagerly, groans and suffers the pain of childbirth. Nature will throw off its slavery to corruption as a result of our own resurrection. It is Christianity’s way of saying what Isaiah said: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb…”
Do I believe in this resurrection? Who cares whether I say I do. Who cares whether I get concerned about the planet. If the resurrection of the dead is to mean anything, I must fall to the ground and test it. Paul puts it to a group of fellow Christians: “So death works in us, but life in you.” I must come over to the dark side.
The planet’s well-being cannot be only a concern. My daily death must lead me, step by step, to a place where I love nature like a brother.
Posted May 2006