To Serve and Preserve | Sojourners

To Serve and Preserve

Life on Earth is actually decreasing. In the past 50 years, for the first time in 100 million years outside an ice age, the actual amount of living material has gone down, by 4 percent. God made all those fowl of the air and fish of the sea and great whales and beasts of the fields and herbs and fruits and creeping things, and by taking His place and manipulating genes we've turned around and subdued every damned one of them.... God set it up, we knocked it down. We are the winners. But why aren't we saying, "This is good!"-David Helton, 1991

Origin stories matter. Our relationships with one another, God, and the Earth are deeply shaped by them. For most of human history on the planet, the various myths of beginnings told diverse stories of how God or the gods placed humans in a created world for vocational purposes. In Christendom, the Genesis creation story has functioned to shape culture and identity.

All this began to change, however, with powerful Enlightenment ideologies of positivism, capitalism, and rationalism that first challenged, then deconstructed, and eventually eclipsed the biblical tradition, replacing it with the heroic myth of Progress. This is our official civilization story today, mediated in myriad ways through discourses of science and popular culture alike.

We are told that the human journey dawned in a wilderness world, dangerous and brutal, characterized only by a struggle for survival. "Primitive" human beings were unproductive, uncivilized, and uninteresting. "History" finally commenced with the rise of the first civilizations (circa 4000 B.C.E.), recognizable to us by their concentrated populations, official religious cults, city-state organizations, standing armies, hierarchical politics, surplus economiesUS standard railroad gauge and separation from nature.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2004
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