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Christianity and Ecology

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The Body of Salvation

Why Christians Should Be Concerned About Nature

Adam and Eve, in the beginning, were given dominion over all animals and plants in the Garden of Eden, and thus the world. In its essence, the Judeo-Christian creation myth* relegates nature to a lower status than humans. It sets in place a dichotomy between nature and man. In its very creation, the Christian worldview is anthropocentric: the earth is here to serve man; man is here to serve God.

Christianity also rejects the notion of animism which demystifies nature and strips it of its intrinsic value. The earth is a place which is cared for by the Creator, though the Creator does not invest Himself in it. Lynn White says, "Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. Man shares, in great measure, God's transcendence of nature. Christianity not only established a dualism of man and nature, but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends." It is clear that man's spiritual home is in heaven, and not on earth.

This sets up a problematic tendency in Christian religious thought. Christian goals require that man not be of the earth, but to rise from it, to escape from its imperfection. Christians want to be with God, and God remains removed from this world, and is above, in heaven.

Catholic scholar John F. Haught, in his essay, "Christianity and Ecology" argues that the universe is God's primary revelation, for it is still unfolding and revealing the nature of God through the nature of the earth. He says that the cosmos is neither a "soul school" nor a straighforward epiphany of God's presence. It is a covenant of future fulfillment. Haught views nature as God's promise, and says we should be concerned nature because the earth is the incarnation of this covenant. It seems consistent with Haught's model to say that abusing the environment becomes a sin, as a direct rejection of the promise of God.

Christianity requires a new, all-inclusive Christic paradigm, one which has at its essence, the earth not as "backdrop" of salvation. Earth must not be a temporal setting where Christians attain their goal of salvation, this imposes the presupposition thatthe earth is of lesser importance than man. This model is utilitarian in nature, rather than creation and salvation both being necessary unto one another. Ecotheologian Sallie McFague says, "creatio is not one thing and salvation something else; rather they are related as scope and shape, as space and form, as place and pattern. Salvation if for all of creation."

McFague's model includes the world as the visible sacrement of God. The earth and all of the cosmos is the physical, bodily presence of the Divine. If we accept McFague's cosmic Christ, we realize that Christ is not limited to the body of Jesus of Narareth in physical form, but that Christ is here now in all of creation. If God is transcendent as spirit, Christ is immanent as being present in all life, and it is all life that is moving toward salvation in its unfolding and constant renewal. We realize that nature itself follows the Christic archetype of birth, life, death, and resurrection in its seasons. We must ask ourselves, would an infinite God have created all of the "parts" if he did not value them? It seems that an omnipredicated God could have created man to fully sustain himself without the need for plant life and animals. We must assume that God created all life for Him, and not for us.

McFague's Christic paradigm enforces the Biblical idea of God's radical, all-inclusive love. All bodies are united in webs of interrelatedness and interconnectedness. Biblically, this radical forgiveness and love applied especially to the sick, the needy, and the oppressed. The earth is the "new" poor, and it is our duty to act accordingly. The whole cosmos is God's concern, not as our habitat, but as the Body.

Jesus with Lamb