By: Ric Hudgens
Shawn Sanford Beck’s short, suggestive essay (60 pages) on “Christian animism” is a provocative delight. I want to highlight some of his most salient points and indicate some further directions for those who want to go further.
The Rev Shawn Sanford Beck is a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. He lives with his family on an off-the-grid homestead in Saskatchewan.
Beck writes:“To say that a Christian can, and should, cultivate a relationship with the spirits of nature, the spirits of the land, is something new. What was natural and somewhat unconscious up until the end of the medieval period now requires consciousness and intentionality.”
But can’t we do that without calling it “Christian animism”? Beck argues that we need not fear animism, nor should we see the conjunction of Christian and animist as something so foreign or idiosyncratic. Christian animism according to Beck is “what happens when a committed Christian engages the world and each creature as alive, sentient, and related, rather than soul-less and ontologically inferior.”
Christian Animism seems so exotic and frankly eccentric because we have all been indoctrinated into a “cult of reductionism” that reduces the world’s wondrous multiplicity to a series of justs: just a tree, just a rock, just the earth. In my own initial writing about Christian Animism I noted how the voices of creation have been bound and gagged by modernity so that only the human voice can be heard.
Our Identity as Relational Beings: a posthumanist response to claims of exploitation in the story of creation
By: Kyle Summer
It is often argued that the creation stories in the Hebrew Bible lay out a framework in which humans are given permission from God to do what they please with the rest of the created world. The Bible convincingly serves as a means of justification for the mistreatment and exploitation of non-human animals as well as a lack of overall concern for environmental degradation. Some prominent thinkers often point a blaming finger towards the creation accounts presented to us in Genesis to illuminate the origins of animal and environmental exploitation. Though the majority of these critiques come from a misunderstanding of certain themes that occur in the first chapter of Genesis (i.e. Image of God, dominion, etc.), the second chapter of Genesis provides us with a sound argument against such claims. The response to the charge that the creation accounts found in Genesis are the primary cause of animal exploitation and environmental degradation is one that can be found in almost every commentary that exists on the book of Genesis. Their brief mentions of human/non-human relationships, however, are often eclipsed by their focus on the fall of humanity. This is unfortunate because such a primary focus on the human relationship with the self, as opposed to the human relationship with the other, is far outside of the intentions of the created order and is precisely where the subjugation and exploitation of the non-human world finds its beginning. Speciesism, which Peter Singer defines as “a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species” (Singer 2009, 6), is something that is a result of human kind disobeying God and taking things into their own hands rather than a God-given right, as many suggest. This study of Genesis 2:4b-3:24 will serve to expose humanity’s distortion of God’s desired relational priority which ultimately results in chaos and disunity between the human and non-human world.
By: Jim Tull
On an early May morning, 2014, I was fast asleep in a room in a house atop a mountain on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. There and then I had a dream. The otherwise busy dream featured a brief but vivid shouting match between me and Martin Luther King. No mistaking it was King. I was vaguely aware of what I was excited to share with my teacher [we never met in waking life], but the exchange did not last beyond this:
Me “I have something to tell you!” [delivered with some enthusiastic intensity]
Martin “No, you listen to me!” [with escalated intensity]
Me “No, you don’t understand!” [holding the intensity]
Martin “No, you don’t understand!” [escalating a bit]
Then Martin seamlessly vanished into the ether of the dream, which carried on with no apparent connection to this encounter (besides, stretching a lot, my brother-in-law and I noticing the high ocean tide gently lapping against the back of our beach house). It isn’t any more characteristic of me to engage in such substanceless shouting matches as it was of MLK. I recall, in the dream, wanting to sit down and have a certain dialogue, but he just let into me (of course, this is my reporting of the event!). In his response, no doubt, there is a message for me. But in the dream analysis meantime, I will settle for sharing, in a letter, the thought I was so excited to have the chance to run by Martin, but could not:
Note: The following is a piece I wrote for the 2015 edition of wretch, a day planner and resource guide. It was long enough since my last project that it took a few tries to get started, but it felt good to finally put thoughts to paper again.
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 (NRSV and NIV)
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