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Looking for God: an Ongoing Tale - The two extremes of ‘Mother' Nature

Michael Veenema | Interrobang | Opinion | November 28th, 2005

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
“Ok, last week you promised to tell me what Christianity says about the ecological crisis.”

Mitch had hoped to do a little reading on the subject before this lunch, but sometimes things just don't work out. He responds to Tamara anyway. “Here's the thing about the ecological crisis. With a Christian approach, you can avoid two extremes.

“On the one hand,” Mitch starts to explain, “there is the extreme of using up the planet's resources as if you should consume to please mainly yourself. If a lot of people on the planet did that, we would be in a lot of trouble.”

“What do you mean, ‘would be'? Aren't we in exactly that position right now?”

“Er, well, yes. I guess we are. I mean, absolutely. Yes, there is a crisis.”

“Well, what's the other extreme?”

“It's the extreme of glorifying the natural world, making it a kind of religious focus. Some people play up ideas of Mother Nature as if we started out in her ‘womb.' Some people get into an ‘earth spirituality,' always as far as I can tell, a feminine spirituality, where we find our meaning in life mainly in relation to how we respond to our ‘mother,' the natural world.”

“Sounds kind of cool to me.” Tamara said.

“You aren't the only one.”

Tamara continues. “So, you said you want to avoid two extremes. What's the middle way?”

“The middle way that I think Christianity points to is this. On the one hand, the natural world is not a very good mother. She can be dangerous. One time I went canoeing by myself near Georgian Bay, and knowing what can happen in a wilderness situation, I was extremely careful about food, water and not getting into an accident. Mother nature can kill you if you are careless. I admit I even had bear mace with me. It is okay, from a Christian perspective, to see that human beings struggle sometimes against nature to make life work. We struggle to find farming techniques that work on different parts of the planet. We struggle to find out why earthquakes happen so we can build in safer locations, and make our buildings quake proof. You can find this perspective in the first parts of the Bible where human beings have the role of managing the created world to better sustain human life. There is no worship of nature from this perspective.”

Tamara thinks for a few moments about how to respond. “That sounds great, but a good manager can easily become an exploitive ‘owner' of the planet.”

“Right. That's the other extreme to avoid. We can avoid that extreme by noticing another perspective in the Christian Bible. The world in which we live reflects the glory of God. I think that when we look at a fantastic sunset, most of us feel something. There is a sense of the glory of the place we inhabit. It takes your breath away. I would say that this is a clue to the fact that the world is a creation of God. And he has made it to reflect his glory. If that is true, then we cannot brazenly exploit its oil reserves, fill the skies and waterways with pollutants, and build our economies around consumption.”

“so according to your Christian perspective, the world is a difficult place in which to live. So it is okay to embrace that and struggle to grow food, build houses, and so forth. On the other hand, the world reflects the glory of a god you say created it. And for that reason, we must also take good, long-term care of the planet.”

“That is pretty much it in a nutshell.”

To be continued.
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