“THIS WORLD IS not my home / I’m just passing through / My treasures are laid up / Somewhere beyond the blue.” This old gospel song summed up my approach to the physical world as a young Christian.
Coming to faith in the Bible Belt of the United States, I confused admonitions to “not belong to the world” (John 15:19) and “walk not according to the flesh” (Romans 8:4) with a blanket statement to shun physicality. Later, when I discovered the contem-platives and monastics, their stories of fasting and asceticism seemed to reinforce the idea that detachment from the material world is the most holy path.
But in a time when some Bible-thumping Christians respond to deforestation and species extinction with a shrug and say, “It’s all going to burn anyway,” I reject these interpretations. “The world” and “the flesh” that Jesus and Paul had in mind are not the earth and our bodies. They are, rather, human-made social hierarchies and oppressive, extractive economies. Do not belong to these. But do belong to the gooseberries, the crickets, the soil, and the gurgling creeks.