By: Timothy Wotring
So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. (Revelation 12:13-16 NRSV)
Apocalyptic images permeate our culture and society. On front pages of newspapers depictions of war torn areas, political and social leaders changing societies, and other developments with our technocratic world take up the ink of these pages. If you were raised in a fundamentalist dispensationalist church, I assume the landscape of your theological imagination consisted of the book of Revelation and the end times. According to these churches, Revelation is a map of things to come, which includes violence, the destruction of the Earth, hopeful rest for believers, and hellfire for those whom God has not chosen. Amongst these images, one could miss a beautiful description of Earth as a subject and a character. Before we proceed, let me lay a textual framework.
In 2001, Joyce Hollyday; a theologian, minister and author; joined with other folks to begin Word and World, “an experiment in alternative theological education – bridging the gulf between the seminary, the sanctuary and the street”. Word and World; inspired by freedom schools, popular education, William Stringfellow’s alternative seminary on Block Island, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s alternative seminary Finkenwalde; began as series of seven “schools” or weeklong retreats that met in cities across the US. The schools focused on four major movements: the black liberation and civil rights movement, liberation theology and borderland justice, the disarmament and nonviolent resistance movement, and feminist, womanist, and LGBT liberation theologies. After organizing these “movable feasts”, Word and World facilitated a year-long mentoring program for folks under 30 that included three group retreats, a reading curriculum that covered much of the material covered in the schools, writing assignments and service.
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