Weekender: June 3, 2017

Weekender: 06/03/2017

Welcome to the weekend! Each week, we like to offer a few quick highlights from our week that we think will give you something worthwhile to think about over the weekend. Enjoy this week’s Weekender and add to it in the comments below!

This is a special edition of Weekender. Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreements has raised questions for many. The church needs to face these questions head-on. We worship God the Creator of All Things. What does that mean for us? How do we respond? How can we participate in the movement of God to make all things new? The resources offered below are not all specifically Christian. They are given for the sake of perspective.

Quotes Worth Repeating

“All life is interrelated…Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…There is an interrelated structure of reality.” From “Letters from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr.

“Strange though it may sound, lament is something we need to learn to do…Scripture is altogether our best guide to prayer, but you have to ask: How can it guide us in this situation? How could an ancient text possibly shed light on a thoroughly modern oil spill? Of course the biblical writers did not know about this particular technological disaster. However, there is one biblical voice, the prophet Jeremiah, who teaches us to lament over the suffering we have caused the earth and calls us to be reconciled with both God and the created order. Jeremiah spoke to and for God in the face of a disaster as devastating as this one: a prolonged and deadly drought, which left animals and people desperate with thirst, and ruined the once-fertile land of Judah. We would be inclined to say that drought is a natural disaster, and therefore quite unlike this oil spill, but Jeremiah would say that the earth always and everywhere suffers as a result of human sin.” From a sermon called “Learning to Lament” by Ellen Davis.

Videos to Watch

  1. Norman Wirzba: “Why Theological Education Needs Ecology”
  2. Ellen Davis: “Christians and Creation”

Books to Read

  1. The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
  2. From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba
  3. Shalom and the Community of Creation by Randy Woodley
  4. Making Peace with the Land by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba
  5. Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis

Essays to Read

  1. Whose Earth is it Anyway?” by James Cone
  2. “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” by Wendell Berry
  3. “Jesus is Coming! Plant a Tree” by N.T. Wright
  4. “Globalization and the War against Farmers and the Land” by Vandana Shiva
  5. “The Uses of Prophecy” by David Orr

You might also find some of my (Zen) writing on the subject useful (and more accessible). Click here for a list of posts on Theology Forum. I’ve also written on these matters for The Other Journal and my previous blog Faith Commune. I’ve also abridged my thesis bibliography so that it contains only books, essays, and articles directly related to this topic. You can download the PDF by clicking here.

Websites to Visit

These websites are denominationally affiliated but are loaded with helpful resources.

  1. Mennonite Creation Care Network
  2. UCC Environmental Ministries
  3. PCUSA Environmental Ministries
  4. Catholic Creation Care

Add your resources, books, essays, videos to the list in the comments below!

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Christian Beliefs Contrary to the White House’s Climate Policies [Reflections]

How do Christian beliefs about Scripture, Creation, Jesus, and the Church correspond with recent White House climate and environmental policies? 

Donald Trump said he would drain the swamp. Whatever swamp he drained, he seems eager to refill it with oil. From appointing former big oil executives to key administrative roles to making executive orders favoring fossil fuel lobbyists, Trump has pushed forward an incredibly anti-environmental responsibility agenda.

Most recently, Trump rolled back Obama-era legislation that favored cleaner forms of energy. Trump and his staff have suggested this is a wise move because it frees up industries to create more jobs. Of course, job creation is important. What they fail to acknowledge is that new pipelines do not create long-term jobs but pose very real threats to local ecosystems and communities, especially when mountaintops are blown up for coal or when vast tracks of land are mined for tar sand oil (like Keystone XL will transport). When the administration champions its “anti-regulation” approach to environmental matters, we must remember that what they are actually championing is an “anti-responsibility” agenda. Responsibility, in this case, is taking care to steward our environment for the sake of our neighbors (present and future).

I have written elsewhere about Christianity and caring for God’s creation. This time around I simply want to offer angles from which Christians might be able to recognize the connection between environmental policy and the Christian faith. In this article, I will present four angles for reflection. I do not suggest how Christians ought to respond in this article. Churches will need to have conversations in their own communities and respond according to the unique problems in their own cities. Continue reading

On Earth as It Is in Heaven: A Review

Hallelujah! After two years — full of reading and writing and reading and thinking and writing some more — I am officially a graduate of Duke University Divinity School. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to study with many great folks and to have fallen in love with the city of Durham. Jessie and I have some serious thinking and praying to do concerning whether or not a PhD is in the cards; for now, we plan to travel. To fill the time between wrapping things up here in Durham and beginning our season of travel (in Nashville, TN!), I requested a few books to review for the blog.

W.m. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. was kind enough to send along On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Cultivating a Contemporary Theology of Creation, edited by David Vincent Meconi,
SJ. This book is a collection of essays written by prominent Catholic Meconi_On Earth as it is in Heaven_wrk01.inddscholars and guided by a shared concern to theologically “resist the contemporary dangers of mindless acquisition and the consequent squandering of the earth’s rich resources” (p. 1). Each essay resists these contemporary dangers in a slightly different way. Some of the writing is quite dense, requiring a high level of attention and, for readers not trained in theology, perhaps a theological dictionary. The writers are masters of the theological craft. Agrarian writers, however, such as Wendell Berry, encourage interdisciplinary work, even at the risk of getting things wrong the first time around. I do not mention this to say that the writers of these essays have gotten things wrong. Rather, I mention it to note that many of these theologians are purposefully pushing themselves to think in new and exciting ways and that their thinking will only be refined as they become more comfortable writing at the intersection of Catholic theology and environmental matters. Continue reading

Book Review: From Nature to Creation

After a long holiday season, I am delighted once again to be immersed in reading and thinking. In four short months, Lord willing, I will be graduating from Duke Divinity School. In order to graduate, however, I must complete a thesis project. I have the great privilege to craft my thesis under the guidance of professor Norman Wirzba. Professor Wirzba is well known for his work in the field of theology, ecology, and agrarian studies. From Nature to Creation (Baker, 2015) is his latest addition to that field of writing.

The cover of From Nature to Creation by Norm Wirzba.In From Nature to Creation, Wirzba invites the reader to develop “an imagination for the world as created, sustained, and daily loved by God” (3). Few Christians would argue that we ought not to have such an imagination — nearly all Christians confess such a belief. So, the problem is, then, living as if that is true. In each chapter, Wirzba reviews certain characteristics of modern culture that make it difficult for Christians in the west to live as if God created, sustains, and daily loves the world and all in it. Once Wirzba has described the characteristics and their theoretical underpinnings, he presents a Christian theological response to the problem. These responses are founded upon biblical exegesis, theological traditions, and Christian disciplines. In all, Wirzba confronts five problematic characteristics of modernity.

First, Wirzba draws attention to Nietzsche’s now famous assertion that “God is dead.” What God’s death implies is not that God actually ceased to exist, but that God has been replaced by or, perhaps, misplaced into other things. Modernity is characterized by an infatuation with “scientific reductionism, the autonomous self, instrumental reasoning, unencumbered individualism, technophilia, and the dis-embedding of communities” (8). Such infatuation reduces things that were once meaningful, because God gave them meaning, into amoral, material elements. We no longer have reason to see nature as creation or people as creatures and thus intimately related to God. All things are, then, the result of meaningless, random events. In turn, it becomes difficult to see that we have certain innate, moral responsibilities related to creation and other creatures. Christian grammar, however, provides a powerful alternative to this description of the world. Instead of being random, meaningless, and amoral, Christian grammar teaches us that all that exists is created by God and imbued with God’s self-offering love. Drawing from Scripture (namely the Christ hymn in Colossians 1) and early Christian theologians, Wirzba concludes that Christians must name the world and all in it as Creation. Doing so will enable us to recognize that Christ’s participation in creating and redeeming the world gives all things inestimable value. Nothing is amoral and nothing is random; all is God’s beloved creation. Continue reading