Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rest Remains

Day of Rest
 A couple of days ago three of us GreenFaith fellows were having a phone conference about one of our GF assignments - to try to begin articulating our own "ecological theology".  Though coming from quite different faith perspectives, we all shared the difficulty of finding a place to start speaking of care for creation - "I know what I believe, but where do I begin?"

One natural place to begin is from the creation story. "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31). This "everything" includes the radiation from the sun and the water cycle, as well as the lives and doings of plants, fishes, birds, animals and humans. Then one might go on to posit a fallenness of this creation order, arising from and connected to human fallenness ("Cursed be the ground because of you", Genesis 3:17) and a hope of redemption ("the creation itself will be set free", Romans 8:21).

The trouble I have is that by beginning from a prelapsarian state, it is difficult to avoid giving the idea that creation care is really all about wilderness care - about "preserving" special places that are uncontaminated by human doings.  And that is not the whole story.  Creation care has also got to be about caring for farmland and cities and (even!) suburbs... about the environments in which 99% of human beings actually live.

With this as motivation, I was wondering whether the sabbath should provide a starting-place for a theology of creation care.  In Genesis, immediately after the "very good" quoted above, God rests on the seventh day: "And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work." This is where the creation project is headed: to adapt some language from Barth, the sabbath is "the internal basis of creation." The point of creation is not endless  labor and "productivity", important as these things are, but a rest and rejoicing in which all the created order shares with God.  This then is what is prefigured in the Sabbath commands in Exodus and the related "ecological" laws like the one that commands the people not to glean to the edges of the field.  Perhaps understanding this better could lead to an eco-theology which is less anxious and more joyful, even if it contemplates "lean years" ahead.

No comments: