Beyond human-centred faith

I find the biggest difference with deeper greener styles of Christianity is their post-anthropocentrism. That is, they are not so human centred. Instead of limiting their spiritual focus to the relationship of God to humanity, or even more myopically, of God to the individual, a more expansive awareness is embraced. So not only is the relationship of God to the human considered but so too is the relationship of God to the non-human, and of the human to the non-human. It’s not so one dimensional. It’s much more holistic. And this post-anthropomorphism flows into Christian ritual, experience, storytelling, symbolism, ethics, theology, social organisation, and more. It flows into the life of how we worship, how we pray, and how we read and interpret the gospel. It opens up aspects of the Christian tradition that have been long forgotten and neglected.
Embracing such styles of Christianity does however involve a lot of unlearning. It involves re-examining what we’ve been told are Christian teachings and testing how intrinsic to Christianity they actually are. Is the earth truly to be left behind? Do animals only have utility value?  Is the body irrelevant or even inimical to spiritual practice? Is the Spirit of God not to be found flowing in the earth as well as the sky, in the female as well as the male, in the body as well as the mind? Can we not, with the Psalmist, joyously call on sun and moon, mountains and trees to praise God with us, as fellow worshippers? How much of our inherited, human-centred view is intrinsic to Christianity and how much is merely the cultural accretion of the centuries? It can be surprising to learn what the scriptures and more ancient expressions of Christianity and Judaism actually say.

Noah the Greenie

Greenpeace-rainbow-warrior I made some comments to Sun Warrior earlier this evening that I thought deserved a wider screening.

I have been speaking of heroes in my recent post and I was reminded last night that Noah needs to be remembered as one of many heroes for green Christians. The flood story of Genesis is a story of ecological crisis. Humanity had gotten out of control and all creation beared the consequences. Sound familiar? What did Noah do? Did he stop just with saving his family? No. Did he stop just with saving domestic animals and food crops that were directly useful to humans? Again, no. He sought to save every species including all the wild ones. And when he had saved them, God made a covenant with them all. Not just with Noah but with all the creatures on the Arc. Irrespective of whether you credit this story with any historical authenticity or not, the fact is this is a formative story for Christians, one which we tell our kids, and it clearly expresses concern for wider issues than just God and Humanity. I see the path for us Christians is not to abandon the faith but to recover neglected teachings in this deep heritage of ours.

What reminded me was a talk by Professor Robert Barry Leal at Glebe Café Church entitled, “Is Christianity Green”. Afterwards I paused to consider the irony that the green movement has embraced the symbols from Noah story with a lot more gusto than Christians in recent decades. Do you find it curious that the dove and the rainbow spoken of in Genesis chapter 8 and 9 grace the bow of the Rainbow Warrior at the same time many Christians are dismissive of environmental activism as somewhat pagan? Personally I have always seen the Christian hope and the Green hope as very much intertwined, which goes a lot towards explaining my support of Greenpeace for over a decade now. With the Creator’s care for creation in mind I offer some of the words of Genesis for meditation:

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.  I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Whenever you see a rainbow, pause to consider what we are doing to this planet of ours … and other creatures … and God’s. Pause to consider how we can live more like Noah – that ancient greenie who saved many an endangered species.

Interested Aussies will find Barry Leal’s latest book, “Through Ecological Eyes”, being stocked at Kentigern bookstore. Guess what I’m reading now?