Nature has Been My Ballast

The last few months have brought storms and strange currents to the people and organizations to which I’m tethered. My spirit has fallen, risen, and fallen again. My legs have ached, not from training for the marathon I was hoping to run, but from sitting too long in my makeshift office, an old table in a corner of the basement. There, a roaring water heater and furnace drown out virtual meetings.

The thud of my kids’ feet on the floor above is rolling thunder. The dog steals their erasers or hats. They give chase. In the din and swirl, I read notes from quarantined congregants, contemplate layoffs and lead prayers. The ship has stayed afloat. Its ballast has been rocks and trees, sun and cloud. Continue reading “Nature has Been My Ballast”

Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question

Here’s a piece I wrote some time ago “in partial fulfillment of the requirements” of a course I was taking. If you’re hoping for some spiritual or theological reflections from me, this will not scratch that itch. While I do think the question of whether or not nature should be granted “rights”  is of theological and pastoral significance, that isn’t the lens I’m using here. I’m posting this piece as an invitation to reflect on what I think is a provocative and important question. (I’ve removed the footnotes below, not to avoid attribution but to make it a bit less tempting to borrow.)  Continue reading “Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question”

From Nature to Creation – Further Explorations in Ecotheology

What is the basic description of our contemporary environmental crises? From climate change to the extinction of species to air pollution to the unsustainable exploitation of non-renewable resources—what stands behind these? Norman Wirzba thinks the central issue is theological. He thinks the root of all these distressing trends it is idolatry.

He makes this case in his 2015 book From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision of Understanding and Loving Our World. The arc of the book is pretty simple: as residents of modernity we have come to see Earth as a meaningless happenstance of resources instead of as a divine gift. Wirzba writes, “Since we cannot look to God as the source of the world’s meaning, the only place to turn is to ourselves as the ones who will assign to the world whatever intelligibility or purpose it has.” The diagnosis of idolatry is not an evaluation of the world itself. Idolatry is created by the assumptions we hold not by the object behold. There is nothing idolatrous about nature, the idolatry comes through our thinking that we can manipulate nature for our own ends. Wirzba quotes Jean-Luc Marion, “‘The gaze makes the idol, not the idol the gaze.’” The modern gaze turns nature into resources, into economic potential, into unexploited wealth, or, to use a phrase of Heidegger’s, into “standing reserve.” The modern gaze places expectations upon nature that it can’t possibly bear. This is the essence of idolatry.

But is Wirzba right? And if he is right, does it matter? Continue reading “From Nature to Creation – Further Explorations in Ecotheology”

A Primer in Ecotheology with Celia Deane-Drummond

This post is the first in a series based on reading I’m doing this winter in the literature of ecotheology.

I’m not exactly sure where the eucalyptus branches came from, but there they were at the front of the sanctuary on the altar. The woman who put them there said they were to remind the congregation of Australia, eucalyptus being a common tree in that country and that particular Sunday being about the time we learned that hundreds of millions of animals had died in the fires there. In the midst of the service I found myself praying for those animals. I had never prayed such a prayer from the pulpit before. Continue reading “A Primer in Ecotheology with Celia Deane-Drummond”