This morning I prayed naked. This exercise is part of a 50 Day Challenge I am doing. Some friends of mine created 50 Suggestions to Embrace Healthy Sexuality and one of them is strip off one’s clothes and prostrate oneself. For me it looked more like huddling under my covers to stay warm (my bedroom is in a basement and my sensitive body doesn’t much care for its constant 65 degrees).
As I sat there praying, naturally I thought about my body. At first I began to consider all of its shapes and sizes—the feel of my skin and hair and curves underneath my palms. I thought about its beauty and how uniquely it was created. There are few other things that have skin similar to us humans. And we each have our own and only attributes: fingerprints that will never have a match; the unique combination of height, hair color, facial composition, and idiosyncrasies.
I am the only me. You are the only you. Ever. Period.
In the Christian tradition we speak of baptismal waters as the symbolic source of renewed life. That metaphor, however, is predicated upon a broader biblical vector concerning “living waters.” The prophetic literature contains a recurring eschatological promise of social and environmental restoration through the “rehydration” of the world, a rich tradition worth exploring for ecological theology.
In our historical moment we cannot talk about “waters of renewal” without first acknowledging the systematic “dehydration” of the earth by industrial civilization. Of the many specters of our deepening ecological crisis—climate change, species extinction, peak oil, declining natural fertility—one of the most pressing is “peak water.” The Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick describes this as “the critical point, already reached in many areas of the world, where we overtax the planet’s ability to absorb the consequences of our water use.” We see its symptoms in global desertification, widespread water insecurity, and declining water quality.
Our ancient ritual of baptism reflects a modern ecological fact: Without water there can be no life. Peak water, like the other grim trends, represents an endgame unless we “turn around.” This should compel Christians not only to seek earth-literacy urgently, but also to re-read our Bibles from the perspective of the “groaning creation,” as did Paul in Romans 8:21-22. Water is a good place to start. Though we in the First World take it for granted, it is a central justice and environmental issue that deserves both social analysis and theological reflection.
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The international scientific community is excited about the growing possibility of discovering the so-called “God particle,” the spark they believe is the origin of the universe.
Despite the fact the Newt Gingrich has for many years claimed this title, physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland, apparently stopped appearing in Dan Brown novels long enough to come close to identifying this illusive particle. (Coincidentally, my college roommate’s car was called the Small Hadron Collider, a rusty Corvair with a habit of resisting the driver’s directional input at crucial moments, such as intersections.)
By the way, perhaps you’re wondering why unlocking the fundamental mysteries of the universe—such as Rick Santorum’s political career—and creating an enormous wealth of knowledge in experimental physics is not being done in the United States. It’s because President Bill Clinton chose to strip funding from the proposed collider outside Houston and instead funded the International Space Station, a rusty construction of old Corvair parts that has cost us over $150 billion and has provided little scientific discovery, unless you count the surprising effectiveness of duct tape in low gravity situations. To be fair, someday the Space Station will look really cool streaking across the sky just before it crashes onto somebody’s backyard. But I digress.
If justice is only an implication, it can easily become optional and, especially in privileged churches, non-existent. In the New Testament, conversion happens in two movements: Repentance and following. Belief and obedience. Salvation and justice. Faith and discipleship.
Atonement-only theology and its churches are in most serious jeopardy of missing the vision of justice at the heart of the kingdom of God. The atonement-only gospel is simply too small, too narrow, too bifurcated, and ultimately too private.
When our ideas about nature come primarily from Sierra Club calendars or selected snippets from Thoreau, an east coast earthquake and monster hurricane (in the same week) are powerful wake-up calls.
We modern urban dwellers and suburbanites like our nature contained and manageable: a nice hike in the woods; a pretty sunset on the drive home; a lush, green lawn (chemically-induced, alas)
Sometimes we like nature so much we decide to worship it -- or to make it the medium for our worship of God or the "higher power" we think might be up there, out there, presiding over it all. We've been wounded by organized religion, perhaps, disgusted by its hierarchies and hypocrisies. "I can worship God on a mountaintop," we decide. (Or -- conveniently, happily -- on the golf course).
In reading some of the responses to my last post Embodied Theology, I was reminded of an essay I wrote for a class last semester, so I've rewritten part of it as a blog post to help clarify my position.
Embodied theology is rooted in the doctrine of creation. Why did God create us? As some have proposed, God couldn't not create or love us -- it's just part of God's nature. As a relational giver and lover within the Trinity, God couldn't help but be the same thing in relation with humanity. Who we are comes from God. We are not by nature sinful broken creatures, but creatures shaped in the very image of God.
The earth dries up and withers ... The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. - Isaiah 24:4-6
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! - Deuteronomy 30:19
During the 1980s, many Christians were at the forefront of a movement to avert nuclear annihilation. They saw this transcendent threat as a moral crisis and felt a responsibility to nonviolently resist, including acts of civil disobedience and divine obedience. Today, we face a comparable danger -- a climate catastrophe which could decimate life on earth. Yet it seems not to have been picked up on the Christian "radar screen" in the same way. For this reason, it is actually more insidious.