The Land Will Have its Rest

January 30, 2012Ric Hudgens

Post image for The Land Will Have its Rest

I don’t believe in “creation care”. 1 Creation care is too little too late. We are past the time when any of the changes that creation care advocates recommend will make any significant difference in our environmental situation. Recycling, changing light bulbs, riding bicycles, or starting a garden will not be sufficient to address the magnitude of the challenge before us.

I suspect creation care is a moralistic cover for our ongoing complicity in an evil system that is wreaking havoc on this planet. Creation care doesn’t recognize the depth of the mess we’re in. We are, as psychologist Bill Plotkin has asserted, an adolescent society that has not yet come to grips with what being a mature human being in this world requires. 2 We use more energy to live our lives each day than any society in human history. We sustain an extractive economy that utilizes nonrenewable resources which have taken thousands of years to develop, and then expends them in a matter of decades.

Governments and corporations are working together now to do whatever it takes to keep this economic system going. We will drill deeper wells, cut down more trees, fight more wars, and cause more and more environmental chaos; all for the sake of economic growth and having more.

But we don’t have to monitor the ozone layer, measure melting glaciers, or count species depletion to know the destruction we are causing. We carry the environmental crisis in our bodies. We carry it in our bones. We talk about “environmental illness” as if the environment is killing us; but the environment is not our enemy. We are killing ourselves. The problem is not “out there”. 3

I don’t believe in creation care because the creation doesn’t need our care. The planet will survive even if the human species became extinct. The natural environment is astonishingly robust and resilient. West Virginia’s strip-mined mountains, the land fills in Calumet, and the polluted beaches in Louisiana horrify us. We should be angry and we should work on as many fronts as possible to end these violations of the earth. But nature will eventually flourish once again. We get fooled because the natural world works differently than we do. The time of the earth is not human time. Nature is not interested in speed.

The Bible tells us that God does not ignore the environmental destruction of our civilization. If need be God will enforce the Sabbath rest that God intended from the time of creation. Listen to Leviticus 26:34-35:

Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, or you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbath years. As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your Sabbath when you were living on it.

These verses are about Sabbath. They explain one reason why Israel is in exile. They are in exile because they did not give the land the rest it needed. God sends them away. The land “shall have the rest it did not have . . . when you were living on it.” God enforces Sabbath.

The environmental destruction being waged upon this planet is the result of our neglect of Sabbath. Hebrew religion took Sabbath so seriously they believed God had woven the Sabbath principle into the very grain of the universe. The pinnacle of the seven-day creation story was not the creation of woman and man, but Sabbath – the seventh day. If the people honor the Sabbath and “keep it holy” they and their children will be blessed. If the people will not honor the Sabbath then God will intervene and the land will lie desolate until it finds its rest. “It shall have the rest it did not have.”

Globalization has peaked and is already coming to an end. It is literally running out of fuel. Globalization is a finite process; despite its surface health and the appearance of being a powerful force overcoming all cultural and natural obstacles. Globalization is already coming to an end. The world will either willingly enter into a post-carbon age or be forced to do so. The earth “shall have the rest it did not have.”

But clearly globalization still has a lot of fuel left in the tank. The fact that it is a finite process fueled by finite physical and spiritual resources (yes, the demonic principalities and powers are also finite!) does not mean that globalization is not a force to be taken seriously, to be struggled against and to be resisted with every spiritual weapon at our disposal. Sabbath is one of those weapons.

Globalization is a set of practices contrary to everything that Sabbath demands. We cannot serve globalization and Sabbath. Sabbath is a revolutionary practice contrary to everything that the global economy demands. The work of Sabbath is perhaps the primary form of communal resistance for Christians in the years ahead. But our practice of Sabbath must be much broader and more systemic than just taking a regular day off. 4

The work of Sabbath will confront globalization head-on in terms of our energy use. One place I am looking to with hope and encouragement in these dark ages is the Transition Town movement. 5 Transition Towns is an international grassroots network of communities working to a post-carbon society. The aim of this movement is to equip local communities for the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil.

The key word for the Transition Town movement is not “creation care” but “energy descent” and the key practice is not “sustainability” but “resilience”. The human use of energy that began its ascent at the time of the Industrial Revolution must now begin to descend. “Energy descent” refers to the continual decline in the net energy it takes to support human society. This descent will be a long, bumpy, and perilous journey.

In working toward energy descent the crucial capacity that we need to develop is “resilience”. Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change. Resilience is the capacity of a local community to not break down as the environment around it becomes unstable. Resilience is a way of avoiding despair or being paralyzed by the overwhelming challenges ahead.

I do believe there are reasons to be hopeful. A post-carbon world beyond globalization need not be a barren, apocalyptic nightmare. Christians must once again do the work that Jesus called us to in announcing the kingdom of God. By announcing that kingdom Jesus was challenging us to begin re-imagining the shape of our lives. This is our calling today as well. 6

What does human life look like, what does Christian community life look like on the other side of peak oil and climate change? Given the certainty that dramatic changes are ahead of us how can we begin to live differently right now? We must begin to live into this coming Sabbath with the deep conviction that this will not be a lesser life than we have lived, but in fact a better life, a fuller life, a more beautiful life, a more abundant life. If we do not respond to the global crisis on our own, then God will enforce Sabbath, and the “land will have its rest”.

Notes:

  1. While I am not specifically targeting the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Creation Care initiative they are a very good illustration of the inadequate response I am addressing. See http://www.creationcare.org/blank.php?id=39.
  2. Plotkin actually calls it a “patho-adolescent society”.  See Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, by Bill Plotkin (New World Library, 2007).
  3. Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge, by Linda Nash (University of California Press, 2007)
  4. The biblical and theological foundation for the work of Sabbath can be found in The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics, by Ched Myers (Church of the Savior, 2002); and The Biblical Jubilee and the Struggle for Life, by Ross and Gloria Kinsler (Orbis Books, 1999).
  5. http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ is the central website. The variety of community initiatives under the Transition umbrella can be investigated here: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives
  6. Theologian Timothy Gorringe’s 2011 lecture at the Trinity Institute is an insightful theological analysis of the Transition Towns movement: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/webcasts/videos/conferences-classes/trinity-institute-lectures/radical-abundance-timothy-gorringe
  • http://naturalaw.failuretorefrain.com jurisnaturalist

    How much are future lives worth in relation to future lives? In order to establish sustainability, rest, and healing into the eternal future, how many fewer lives must there be on the earth?
    Because this is the consequence of the changes you are proposing. There is an implicit tradeoff, and until you can provide an estimate of what that tradeoff would or should be which you can then justify ethically I don’t see how a reasonable set of current policies can be formed.
    Perhaps we should all adopt a 1-child policy?
    Perhaps we should forego marriage and children altogether?
    I can certainly agree that each of us can be much much more frugal in our consumption of resources, but how much good will that do?
    Realize that your statements imply an eschatology, and eschatology determines ethics.
    Thank you for your thoughts.
    Nathanael Snow

    • Plntsequoias

      Jurisnaturalist,

      Although your own eschatology and ethics are, to some extent, available to those who know the genealogy of your concerns, I’m interested to see you articulate them for yourself. This will also make it easier to understand what you mean.
      Please be sure to include the reason behind your proclivity for the language of “trade off”, your interest in “policies”, your assumption that a “calculus” of child birth is implied in the argument above, as well as a genealogy of your definition of “worth”. For that matter, please tell us what “sustainability” means, as well as “healing” and “eternal future.”

      • Chris Grataski

        the above comment is by Chris Grataski. Not sure why it didn’t register that.

        • Chris Grataski

          testing comment titling. if this fails, someone please email me why I’m a failure.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t agree that there is an implicit trade off. There are presently 700 – 3500 people per specie (depending on how many you count). If we tried to care for every specie in a way that all species were able to better praise God, I’m not sure we would have enough people. If we culled populations in order to preserve a balanced ecosystem, if we cultivated/protected species in order to provide resilience to reproduction, we would have more than enough resources with which to live. We need to change our thinking from ‘creation is here for our survival’ to ‘we are here for creation’s survival’. When we put the kingdom of God(i.e. creation) first, Jesus promises that everything else we want/need will be provided.

      • http://www.facebook.com/amaryahshaye Amaryah Armstrong

        Who gets to decide things like how to cull populations and whose populations get culled? We have no business trying to mandate populations.

        • Anonymous

          While there is an on-going struggle to protect elephants from illegal ivory trade, conservation efforts have been able to make significant strides in increasing elephant populations. Now communities in Africa already work together with conservationists to cull elephant herds when they become too numerous and destructive. They have learned how to cull in ways that protect and help the elephant population as a whole. I would imagine that any conservation/culling operation would depend upon the specie, it’s habitat and life cycle. Management of a specie that is endemic to a very specific region would look very different from a specie that migrated half way around the world. Management practices would also depend on what diseases the specie was vector (carrier) for and what practical uses we could make of that specie for ourselves. We would probably treat poison ivy much differently from dandelions or lady slippers. And management would probably also depend upon the particular culture in which the specie lived; species with symbolic significance would be managed differently than those which were common. I see the biblical injunction to ‘subdue’ and have ‘dominion’ as a ‘mandate from heaven’ to manage (including cull if necessary) the creation God made.

          • Anonymous

            The biblical mandate for “dominion” in no way shape or forms advocates killing other animals to “manage” them or, in other words, making them victims for our mismanagement of the earth. If one reads Genesis carefully for example, it is clear that the instruction to “eat only plants’ comes before the call to dominion. Killing of animals is only present after the fall.

            It seems to me that if we want to help other animal species, the best thing to do is control ourselves. We continue to cut down, expand all over, overfish, overuse and otherwise “subdue” the earth for our own whims and desires, many of them driven by consumerism, selfishness and an increasingly individualist mentality.And then when other animals find themselves with less space, less food, less water, less predators to naturally participate in the life cycle, we gun them down, tell ourselves “We’re just managing their populations” and pat ourselves on the back for being such good stewards.

            Human history has taught us many lessons and one of the biggies in my opinion is that the earth needs less human intervention not more. It is our model of dominion that has gotten us into this mess in the first place.

          • Anonymous

            Nekeisha,

            I really appreciate your desire to move away from a violent mindset and renounce violence in all its forms. Your consistency of applying non-violence to how we treat animals to be the same as how we treat other people is a lesson I wish other advocates of non-violence would follow.

            When we look at the history of the earth and how life developed on earth we find that there is death before any humans appeared on the scene. No amount of theology can change that fact. Because of how the apostle Paul connects sin and death we often consider to all death to be a result of sin and evil. However, I would like to suggest that Jesus redeemed death. He advocated dying as a means to living. Jesus uses the illustration of the seed dying in order that the plant can grow and bear seed. This dying to bring life phenomena is seen through out the natural world. Each death brings life to the organisms that feed on it. Death’s purpose is to bring life.

            The natural world is geared toward producing more offspring than will make it to maturity because a specie has to guard against random cataclysmic events that could cause a specie to go extinct if the specie had a steady state replacement rate. Herbivores and plants would go extinct if there weren’t predators because the herbivores would eat their food source to extinction and then having nothing left they would also die. Predators killing herbivores keeps extinctions from happening.

            The plant/herbivore/predator relationship goes through a cycle of mins and maxes for each of the three players. If a player is already at a minimum of it’s cycle when a catastrophe strikes it is possible that that player may become extinct. What I am suggesting is that we monitor the various relationships and remove from the environment only amount of players necessary to keep the relationship between plant/herbivore/predator at a steady state. If we did not interfere at all, the environment would naturally suffer extinctions from time to time. Allowing creation to go extinct when we have the tools to prevent that from happening does not seem to be responsible governance.

            I suggest that we use plant/herbivore/predator that have been removed from the system for it’s own well being to be used for our well being. If we separate ourselves from nature and chose to obtain our sustenance from a space that we take away from nature then eventually as our population continues to expand there will be less and less space for nature. Nature’s space will become so small that it will not be able to sustain nature. And then there is the technical problem that nature does not recognize human made boundaries. If we try and defend our space from nature we will end up killing the nature that we are trying to preserve.

            Using the surplus of nature for our needs is an act of gratitude. It is part of Jesus promise that if we seek his kingdom first, then all of our needs will be supplied. When we reject the surplus God has provided through nature in favor of our own grown food it seems to me as that is an act of pride, the sin of the garden of Eden.

          • Anonymous

            There is much to respond to here maria and I can’t say all that I am thinking right this moment, but I do want to clarify that I was not the one making a theological argument here. I was simply pointing out that your reading of “dominion” is not a part of the Genesis text to which you were alluding.

            In addition my rationale does not come from a naivete about death. I am very aware that creatures have been dying for millenniia…that was not my point. My point is only that much of the environmental catastrophes we are facing as far as global warming and the concerns that Ric names in his article are not just “unfolding” like a seed dying to produce life. It can be pinpointed to specific choices in human activity that have had irreparable negative consequences, including species dying off. Case in point, human beings are commercially fishing our waters to the point where we could be facing total oceanic collapse by 2050. Populations of aquatic life, including the ones we now make into edible matter, are dying off at alarming rates and human and nonhuman animal communities are already paying the price. There is no “death bringing life” in that situation. Just rapid, unchecked killing bringing more (unnecessary) suffering and more loss of life, human and non.

            Speaking about these realities in romantic terms as if it is just all a part of a grand life cycle and then coming up with ideas to, in my opinion, punish the other animals who did not create the catastrophe in the first place, but are already our victims is deceptive and highly problematic. This is not some cosmic web of life playing out. It is human hubris run rampant that is already wreaking havoc on the vulnerable. I am of the mind that one of the ways to check human hubris is for humans to reign ourselves in–not by “culling” others off. And personally, I don’t see how making arguments for more human control over the mess we have made is going to do anything other than sink us deeper into the hole we have dug for ourselves and too many others on the planet.

            As for your reading of the atonement, I will just have to agree to disagree. I understand the resurrection as an overcoming of death not a celebration of it nor a mandate for it. I follow womanist theologians who name Jesus’ death as an unjust end by an unjust system of oppression that responded to faithfulness (and abundant life) with murder–only to discover through the resurrection that death has no final power, no final say. The crucifxion then is not the high point: the restoration of life, even in the face of death, is.

          • Anonymous

            Nekeisha,

            I’m glad that we can agree that animals have been around for millenia. A common understanding of paleohistory will hopefully help us come to a better understanding. And I totally agree with you that in order to avert this current catastrophe that we are bringing upon ourselves, we need to control ourselves. In no way am I trying to suggest that we make animals pay for our abuse of the environment.

            What I have come to learn from ecology is that even if we were all very modest with our individual consumption and we were the most technologically efficient we could be, and our attitude was that creation is there for our benefit, then our attitude will cause us to treat creation in a way which is unsustainable. Even if we resort to a hunter/gather lifestyle as a possible ideal low-impact lifestyle, if the well being of all of creation is not our top priority in our relationship to creation, we will end up hurting creation rather than helping it. I don’t believe there is a middle ground of live and let live. I believe that we should have the attitude of Christ he said that those who would become the greatest must become the servant of all…to serve the least of these…to follow his example of serving. In my mind ‘all’ and ‘least of these’ includes creation.

            You seem to think I have a problem with exegeting “dominion”. Maybe I do. But I’m trying to put together Jesus’ ideas of serving with what I have learned will best benefit nature. I’m trying to weave together the catechism answer of the purpose of man: to praise God and the Psalms’ idea that all creation praises him. Creation praises God by fulfilling the purposes for which it was made. The more creation there is, the more diverse creation is, the more praise God receives from creation. We have a certain control over creation. We know how to promote grow and procreation. We know how to kill. We know how to save lives. Our very act of living influences what other creatures live or die -even if we are vegetarians. Since God gave us a responsibility for creation, the best praise we can give him is in how well creation praises God.

            Creation by itself, without humans in the picture, suffers extinction, both periodically as individual species and in large scale global events. There have been five previous global extinctions, and likely there will be more catastrophic events that without some mitigating factor will lead to future extinctions. In my way of thinking, death on that massive of a scale does not praise God. And we have built a great body of knowledge and technology such that our influence is on a global scale, if not a solar system scale. We could become the mitigating factor that prevents global extinctions instead of causing them. We could, if our attitude was to serve creation rather than seeing creation as there to serve us. If we put our very act of living to the service of preventing death on such a grand scale or even on an individual specie scale, then we would be helping creation praise God. Helping creation praise God becomes part of our praise to God.

            Because creation has had to suffer extinction or near extinction God built into the evolutionary system a form of grace that produces more offspring than necessary. These surpluses form positive feedback loops and cyclical periods of population boom and bust, which without outside regulating influence, lead to extinctions. I believe Christ has called us to live into grace, not so that we can follow our own selfish desires, but so we become a people who bring him praise and glory. If we confine ourselves to live off the grace God has embedded in the natural system then creation benefits as well as us. To do this will require the self control which you mentioned, intimate knowledge of creation, and an attitude of serving.

            The fact that God embedded a form of grace that produces more offspring than necessary in animals as well as in plants, gives us meat to eat. When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, he gave him responsibility for the plants. Noah was given responsibility for all the animals when he was commanded to build an ark. As a reward for being responsible, God gave him the freedom to eat animals. But God holds us accountable for the life we take. The life we take must be for the purposes of bringing justice to the kingdom of God. We must recognize when the life of one specie comes at the expense of the life of another and exact the justice that God requires.

            I believe as you do that “through the resurrection that death has no final power” and that “Jesus’ death [w]as an unjust end by an unjust system of oppression”. But I believe that we come to the resurrection through the cross. It is a repeated theme throughout the gospels that whoever wants to save their lives, will lose them, but whoever loses their life for Christ will have the eternal life of resurrection. Jesus calls us to embrace the way of the cross, to take up our crosses and follow him. Jesus wants us to remember him by celebrating his death -not that we shouldn’t also celebrate his resurrection, but that becoming like him is having the love to lay down our lives for our friends, to pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hurt us.

            As Jesus, our Lord and master, lived for us, we, as rulers of creation, should live for nature. Our lives need to be lived for the benefit of creation, even if creation is unjust in taking our lives. Our deaths will be redeemed through the life they brings. When all death becomes the means by which there is new life, then death itself will be redeemed. God is working for the redemption of all of creation. There is nothing that he does not transform for his good and perfect will. We are the agents of his redemption, the image of God.

    • ric hudgens

      Nathanael, You are the one proposing population reduction as a means to an end. I don’t address issues of population control in this essay. However, it seems clear that decisions are already being made about the priority of populations and about who survives and who gets kicked to the global curb. It also seems clear that those making these decisions are not accountable to anyone other than themselves. That consideration is perhaps the place to start.

      I agree that eschatology determines ethics. When I discussed an earlier version of this essay at Reba Place Fellowship one of the older members said that too much anxiety was being wasted on environmental concerns. “Jesus is coming back” he said, “therefore we should be about other things.”

      • Anniliz

        When did Jesus ever leave? If we believe what Jesus said, he is always here, always with us, IN the “least of these”. Anxiety about environmental concerns? What about a realistic evaluation of deep ecological history and the human role in that picture? Fairly minute, I’d think, and so if we entertain ourselves trying to make our own little world or corner of it a bit more habitable and balanced, isn’t that a good thin?

        • richudgens

          I agree Anniliz. I was pretty appalled by my older friends response.

  • Anonymous

    “I don’t believe in creation care because the creation doesn’t need our care.”

    I believe paleohistory might disagree with you. So far life on this earth has experienced five extinctions. Just because we are causing a sixth does not mean we don’t have the knowhow or the technology to prevent extinctions. In small cases we are bringing species back from extinction, but I believe that if we truly took the mandate God gave us to care for creation seriously life would go from being threatened with extinction to thriving and diversifying.

    I do like the Transition Town movement. However, I don’t believe we have to forgo sustainability for resilience. I believe resilience is another quiver in our aim for sustainability. With efficiency, modesty, and alternative renewable energies we can maintain a high standard of living without damaging creation. I believe that we need a great deal of the knowledge and technology we have acquired in order to fulfill our purpose of caretakers of creation.

    I believe creation care needs to become part of our understanding of what living into the kingdom of God looks like. I agree that we are past the time for superficial changes such as changing light bulbs, that we need to make deep personal sacrifices and resist our society’s allure that takes advantage of the earth. We need to work diligently to untangle ourselves from the systems which destroy God’s creation. And I agree that God will give the land it’s rest; that humanity is bringing destruction upon it’s self such that only a remnant will survive to live as his people in the land in an age of Sabbath.

    Thank you for speaking up for the land in a prophetic way.

    • http://thetheologyofjoe.wordpress.com/ Joe

      I agree with Mariakirby. Geologically humans may have little impact on the substrate, but I don’t think it is true to say that the planet will ‘survive’ without humans if we are talking about the whole ecosystem.

      I disagree about Transition though. All talk and little action.

    • Andylewis

      Embracing technology will stop extinctions….. the past 10,000 years might disagree with you.

      • Anonymous

        I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that agriculture was a means by which we stopped hunting and gathering plants and animals to extinction. The problem now is that we’ve gone so far with agriculture that we are threatening the very species we were trying to save. Any tool needs wisdom to use it properly. Even stone axes can be used for murder or they can be used to make life more livable. The French philosopher Ehul(sp?) makes a good point about how we have idolized technology. When we idolized ourselves in the garden of Eden, we sinned and turned a very good creation into a source of regret. It was the idolization that was the problem, not the creation.

        Technology is very powerful. When we submit it to God, he can use it for good. But being selfish beings, we have a tendency to want that power for ourselves. That’s why the cross is so relevant for today. Jesus had ultimate power, but he didn’t use it to save himself. His submission of his power frees us to be the creation God created us to be. When we use our power for the sake of creation rather than for our own selves we free creation to become what God intended it to be.

        • Andylewis

          So maybe if we we said ” God, please use nuclear power for your glory” we’d be on the right track. Perhaps Ehul would agree with that.

          • Anonymous

            :) Geothermal heatpumps seem to be an excellent use of technology that harnesses nuclear energy used for good.

    • richudgens

      Maria, I know that the assertion that “creation doesn’t need our care” is controversial and in direct conflict with some Christian views of stewardship and dominion. I disagree with many Christians on at least two points: (1) that our technological developments are necessary for human survival on this planet; and (2) that human survival is necessary in order for the planet to thrive.

      I believe that our dependence upon creation is similar to our dependence upon God. God does not need us but we need God. Creation does not need us but we need creation.

      I think it’s important to emphasize this in order to underline human fragility, dependence, and vulnerability and to counter human pride, greed, and domination. Creation is in a sense happy to provide for us, but if we were to disappear then creation could still continue to flourish. Humanity is not the essential species for planetary survival.

      Whether God would allow human extinction is an entirely different question.

      Therefore, I am suspicious of “creation care” and “sustainability” as Christian slogans for those who want to be pro-environment and yet do not want to oppose the forces that endanger the environment. There is an insidious pride in much environmentalism that perpetuates the dilemmas it tries to address.

      • Anonymous

        Ok Ric, I bit the bait ;)

        I can agree with you on (1) to some degree. Humans have lived quite a long time on this planet without very much technology. However, I don’t think 7billion people can live on this planet without technology. Technology allows efficient use of resources so that the same amount of resources can service more people, etc. Without insulation and efficient means of sealing doors and windows we would need a lot more energy to heat our homes. If we applied our knowledge of passive solar building to every home, very few of us would need to heat or cool our homes. A hunter/gather uses quite a bit of energy in the form of wood, dung, and the like in order to stay warm and cook their food. Our problem is self-control. Jevons noticed the paradox that the more efficient we become with using energy, the more energy we use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox If 7billion people used the same energy (and sources) as a primitive hunter/gatherer then within a few years we wouldn’t have any forests.

        As for point (2), I agree that humans are expendable. If humans don’t do the job God intended us to do then we will get destroyed. God can make some other creation who will do his will if we don’t. Noah and the flood demonstrate this as well as Israel and Judah’s exile. Even though human beings, and in particular the chosen people of Israel, are made special by God, if we do not obey him eventually he will destroy us. However, I do think that there is hope for faithful followers. In each story God’s grace redeems a remnant that follows him. And it seems that the geological record shares a similar story: during each extinction God saves a remnant of life which multiplies and diversifies to become more plentiful in kind and quantity than what had lived before the extinction. Just because God saves a remnant of life from extinction and can recreate diversity doesn’t mean that humans don’t have a role to play in preventing such events from happening. And just because we are presently causing an extinction doesn’t mean we can’t keep extinctions from happening. Because we have the capability, because there is the need, and because God gave us responsibility for creation, I believe that preventing extinctions is part of our telos.

        I also agree with “our dependence upon creation is similar to our dependence upon God”. From a panentheistic view of God there is no difference. However, I would be hesitant to say that creation doesn’t need us. Creation may not need human beings, but creation does need creatures who will moderate the cycles of feast and famine and prevent extinctions from happening. The fact that we depend on creation makes creation an integral part of the Church. Christ’s body is not only the sum total of all believers and their relationships in the spiritual world, but includes the relationships that give believer’s bodies life in the present creation. So even if a believer didn’t have a panentheisic view of God, creation by virtue of our dependence and relationship to it becomes part of the manifestation of God in this world.

        I appreciate your desire to “counter human pride, greed, and domination” and your suspicion of those who want to talk about “creation care and sustainability” without doing the real work to change their behaviors to be in alignment with their declared values. I struggle with the same things. Your piece was good. I hope my comments didn’t distract too much from the points you were trying to make about our need to be humble and live consistently with a healthy respect for our relationship with creation.

  • http://www.markvans.info/ markvans

    Ric, you may be interested that the mainstream media is beginning to explore the implications of what you’re talking about: http://www.theonion.com/articles/scientists-look-onethird-of-the-human-race-has-to,27166/

    • Travis

      Can’t decide if I think this is funny or not. The way “Oh, so u want genocide” is the first response to anything like this essay(ric’s) is starting to get annoying. I don’t know at what layer of irony to read that onion piece, so I don’t know if that’s what they are doing.

      • http://www.markvans.info/ markvans

        I added it because this is always somewhere the conversation goes. I thought I’d cut it off at the pass by linking to a rather funny work (in my opinion) of satire.

  • primaltruth

    I am glad this is addressed. And I am thinking God really means it that sabbaths should be observe. It is relevant to individual human beings, and as is said here sabbaths for the land for its rest is applicable. Creation care is superficial, and not taking enough responsibilities, in fact environmental movements generally are not going far enough, the crises are to great. And from that human well-being is at stake. Civilization heads in destructive direction it cannot free itself from.

    What will post civilization look like? For Christians? I think there are some Christians who will do their part, who can be a part of that. It would be living in a sustainable way, that the world could support all people doing. It would not be giving any harm to the environment, and mean living in simplicity, even primitive, and that is done sustainably with not depending on taking animals’ lives for human needs, when there are other options.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Harding/752966172 Sara Harding

    I don’t understand why, when we talk about energy reduction, genocide is brought up as a reason NOT to reduce energy use. Isn’t there enough evidence that genocide is already being conducted full scale as the result of (and as a prerequisite for the success of) our fossil fuel based economic globalization?

    • Anonymous

      I agree, that argument is getting very old. At this point there will be a population decline no matter what, it would be nice if that decline wasn’t forced on certain populations but I don’t see the people in power letting that happen. To talk about policies is ridiculous in our position (most of us are anarchists), obviously more government and more resource extractive economies will not help the earth. There is something called Carrying Capacity and we’ve overshot it, there’s no changing that now without a decline and it will probably be nasty. I think that is where radical communities and transition like things come in. At least transition town is preparing people for this, but my problem with it is the lack of critique of civilization/reification and the teeth to fight Monsanto/corporate bullshit, but I still participate in the local organization despite the differences.

  • Anniliz

    Just a few scattered comments here…thanks for all the stimulating thoughts, ideas, etc….
    can’t help but have these questions: If God does not need us, why were we created? If Cration doesn’t need us, why did human species evolve into so many manifestation over so long a perod of time? Is there really such a things as “time”? or do all things always exist at once in God? Why do modern humans insist on labeling Earth based cultures “primitive’? Why do people say Jesus is coming again, and very soon, when Jesus himself told his followers that he was always with them, that whatever they did “to the least of these” (and doesn’t that include all species?) we did it to him? Why do we think God is best referred to in male gender? and that “He” controls everything? and that everything must “submit” to him? Why is the only story Christians can tell, the one that is Western, linear, dominated by male gender, “kingdom”(empire) oriented? Are there no other stories that are holy? healing? saving?

  • Jan Rogozinski

    I am disappointed that no one really took the time to think about jurisnaturalist’s questions.

    It is impossible to see how the human race can preserve a livable world without cutting population. In fact, the population is growing even now, and we reach a peak, it is predicted, about 2050 of 15,000,000.000–as opposed to, i think, 9,000,000,000 today. Imagine the Sahel in Africa with twice as many inhabitants.

    We have far more people now than are needed for civilization. I am a long time-student of French history. Note that during the 13th century, when they built all those lovely cathedrals that millions visit every year, the population of France was about 20% of what it is today.

    This has nothing to do with distributive justice. Take Haiti. If all the money in Haiti were divided up equally, life for everyone would still be nasty, brutish, and short. I cannot think of a more horrendous sin against God and her fellow humans than for a Haitian woman to become pregnant. Until their population is restored to what it was in 1900, or better 1800, no progress is possible. Of course, we can keep sending money Haiti–for as long as there is enough to send.. But that just puts a bandaid on Leprosy.

    • Anonymous

      “I cannot think of a more horrendous sin against God and her fellow humans than for a Haitian woman to become pregnant.”

      This statement is appalling and gross.

      -Chris Grataski

  • Chelsea

    As we can see here, population control politics tend to be racist and violent. But, in response to the article, I wanted to say thanks and that I got a lot out of it. The one thing I would say is that I think there’s something of a consensus among Biblical scholars that during the exile, most of the Hebrew population stayed behind and continued farming; it was just the religious and social elite who were deported. So, why did the writers of Leviticus think the land was getting a rest during the exile?

    • richudgens

      Chelsea, I would suppose that this was not an accurate historical portrayal, but rather a priestly rationale for Israel’s exile, and a priestly defense of the practice of Sabbath. It’s a bit like the Jubilee year of liberation which we have no documented proof Israel ever practiced. Nevertheless, the Jubilee and the Sabbath (if faithfully practiced) would address the ecological needs of the land and the spiritual needs of the people (reminding them of limits, dependence, gift, etc). It is the absence of ecological and economic policies and practices which address those needs that must be addressed. Sabbath (and Jubilee) may not be the only way to do that. In fact one could expect that Jesus would be creative and inventive in ways that might look different from Leviticus and still maintain the spirit of the law.

      I’m not a Bible scholar so someone else may have much fuller understanding and more accurate explanation than my own.

      Ric

      • Chelsea

        Thanks this was helpful!

      • primaltruth

        I do not doubt that there was the practice of Sabbath rest even for the land as was specified, and the jubilee year, at least in the times that Israel did not fall into general disobedience. And Yahweh God was giving a standard that was beneficial if followed, environmentally in rest for the land, and personally in rest for the people, to find spiritual renewal in a time of weekly rest. Jesus has such insight for being inventive, but in his life here he upheld living by the biblical Law, which was inclusive of sabbath rest, even though he did not put up with human traditions, which are not according to what is desirable to God. But care for the land, his creation, and his people, is. And sustainable living, to keep it as it was meant to be, even with great simplicity, and doing with less use of energy, is right with God.

  • http://abideinme.net/index.html Wes Howard-Brook

    I’m coming late to the discussion, but want to respond a little to the question of Leviticus and jubilee. First, great, provocative, piece, Ric. Thanks for asking the hard questions and generating an interesting and necessary conversation.

    People often take Lev 25-26 out of its narrative context in the whole book of Leviticus, because they either are bored by or don’t understand the connection between sabbatical/jubilee and the commandments about sacrifices and such. But as I noted in “Come Out, My People!”, Mary Douglas’ brilliant interpretation of the book of Leviticus (in her own book, “Jacob’s Tears”), shows how tightly structured the entire work is, as a “microcosm” of the Temple and several other elements of Judahite society. The bottom line is that the sabbatical/jubilee chapters culminate a consistent ethos that integrates worship and social justice, from the smallest to the largest practices. The doom pronounced in Lev 26 comes not simply as a result of failing to practice jubilee in itself, but failing to live the entire fabric of covenant life laid out in the whole book.

    I think the implication supports Ric’s idea that “creation care” in itself is not the point. Rather, caring for creation is part of an integrated ethic of care for ALL life-as-sacred. The authors, writing from exile, knew the cost of a society coming apart at the seams. They developed this book as a visionary response to that experience, in the hope that future generations might learn from their mistakes.

    • richudgens

      Thx Wes. This is an important addendum. I can just anticipate institutions of Sabbath/Jubilee legislation that would fall into the same trap as “creation care”. Sabbath (and Jubilee) are not “spiritual technologies” that we can use to “fix” things. The emphasis upon the “the entire fabric of covenant life” and the “integrated ethic of care” are where its at. That supplements my unspoken point that if American Christians are to really take the implications of “creation care” seriously it will require a radical confrontation with the underlying economic, social, and political structures of globalization.

  • Jacob Michael

    The land will have its rest but the comments shall not.

  • http://darrellcreswell.wordpress.com/ Dadwcr

    Definitely interesting read…I enjoyed it Thanks Darrell

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