We live today in the midst of a great divorce. There is a divorce between the people and God, the people and each other, and the people and the Creation that we are called to care for. The divorce is evidenced through the thirst of the very land beneath our feet. The land carries the wounds of the divorce, just as each of us, when injured carry the wounds from the others who have wronged us. The story of the murder of Able by his brother Cain illustrates the connection of the land to the people, “What did you do?” God asks Cain. “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground that opened its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4:10-11). The cycles of life for the Earth are rhythmic. When we, the caretakers of creation, cease to understand our great connection to the earth, we miss an elemental truth. We are beings that were created for the very relationships we are divorcing ourselves from.
It is as if we have forgotten the nature of our origins. It is from dust we have come and from dust we shall return. The prophet Micah reminds us, “He has told you O mortal what is good: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God” (6:8). The Latin origin of the word humble is humilus–lowly–to the ground. The ancients of the Earth, recognized the gift of interdependency with creation and the gift of walking close to the roots of our origins. Wendell Berry quotes a version of a Native American ancient proverb as he explains life as it should be, “I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children.”
Environmental activist, Kumi Naidoo argues with those who believe our work is to save the planet, he says, “the good news is, the planet is just fine, we don’t need to worry about the planet, but if we continue on the path that we are on (referring to burning of fossil fuels causing global warming) we will warm up the planet to the point where our water resources will be destroyed, our soil will be destroyed, and both of those things give the toxic reality of food being constrained. So, the end result is that we will be gone, but the planet will still be here. Once we become extinct as a species, the forests will recover and the oceans will replenish.” He argues that environmental activism should not be about saving the planet as much it should be about, “ensuring that humanity can passion a new way to coexist with nature in a mutually interdependent relationship for centuries and centuries to come. For differently, this struggle is fundamentally about our children and their future.”
Gus Speth, Professor of Environmental studies at Yale shares, “I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation, and ecosystem collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science, but I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items but greed, selfishness, and apathy. And for that we need spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that, we need your help.”
Speth’s comments were directed towards a gathered group of religious leaders. This upcoming week, Methodist leaders from around the connection (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique) will be gathering in Conference to discern the leadership of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa under the theme “Being together with God’s Creation.” Through our connection, one with each other, we have strength. Please be in prayer this week that this time of deliberation by our leaders will bring wisdom, discernment, and ways forward that lead to transformation for Africa and all the world.
With you on the journey,