Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Responding to Your Comments ...

... about the Christianity and Environment blogs

I recently published a somewhat longish and, I suppose, tedious blog titled Christianity and Evolution. Then, in Another Point of View, I quoted some of Sue Monk Kidd's thoughts (and not necessarily mine) on how Christianity tends to devalue nature. First, although neither garnered as many comments as my PANTing LEGacy, I would like to thank people for their contributions, a few of which deserve to be blogs in their own right. I would also like to respond, briefly at least, to some of the comments.

The point of both blogs was not to debate (see Anonymous comment on Another Point of Viewand please feel free to identify yourself; as long as people keep it civil and don't flame each other, you are welcome to say what you wish without fear of reprisal) whether lobsters, salamanders, or bugs should be considered to be equal with humans. Rather, I attempt to raise the general consciousness of the Christian community. I am addressing that fundamentally flawed view which so obviously misinterprets the Genesis account: that the earth is our gift to do with as we please. While I don't argue the gift part exactly, I find myself strenuously rejecting the historically typical Judeo-Christian notion that we should blindly do whatever it crosses out minds to do with this gift: ravage forests, degrade the soil, dump raw sewage into the sea, etc.

I rather like Powerdpuff's extension of my argument: that G-d created humans to tend the earth in His stead. We are to care for the planet as we think G-d would care for it. That's the real message of the Genesis account in her opinion and in mine. We don't have to debate whether squirrels, for example, are of equal value to man, but if we tend nature in a G-dly manner we will surely not consider it our domain to behave like this man:

... I was reminded of the time I stayed in a bed-and -breakfast owned by a retired couple. One morning as I strolled in the backyard gardens, I saw the man checking wire cages the size of shoe boxes, which were tucked discretely among the shrubs. Most of the cages, I noticed, were filled with squirrels. I watched horrified, as he carried the cages to the backyard pool, lowered them one by one into the water, and left them there until the squirrels' frantic little bodies stopped scrambling and they drowned. Then he disposed of the bodies and reset the traps.

That evening when the man left to go the church (that's right, church!), I went about the yard throwing open the cages and feeling the most delicious sense of glee as the squirrels shot out and up the trees, making riotous leaps through the branches (Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, 106).

Perhaps such accounts don't horrify you, but they do me. I am not upset by the man's wish to protect his garden from those pesky varmints, but I am profoundly disturbed by his most dreadful solution and by his cavalier attitude to creatures whose DNA are more like his than he would care to admit: "Mice and men share about 97.5 per cent of their working DNA, just one per cent less than chimps and humans. The new estimate is based on the comparison of mouse chromosome 16 with human DNA. Previous estimates had suggested mouse-human differences as high as 15 per cent." (http://www.vetscite.org/publish/items/000605/)

Katt believes that we should take Genesis with "a grain of salt," and I choose not to quibble with that either. My concern is not whether it is to be taken literally or with a grain of salt. My concern, rather, is that huge populations take it quite literally indeed, and I address myself to them. I contend that if you do take the Genesis account to be literal, then you have all the more reason to be very kindly disposed to the care of nature, for that is God's commission to you.

While speaking of Katt, I encourage you to visit her blog, The Far Horizon. Her most recent entry, The Forces of Nature, contains a plethora of quotes that are synchronous with this theme that I recently and somewhat surprisingly find myself dwelling on. She has also published two blogs on The Wisdom of Native Americans, part 1 and part 2 that I heartily recommend.

The Far Horizon is a unique blog. Katt primarily posts series of wonderful quotes on a given theme and usually blends them with exceptional, complementary images. I frequently find this thematic blending of images and quotes to be quite poignant and think that you might too. For the record, I am adding The Far Horizon to my blog links.

Once again, thanks for your comments. I consider this topic to be very important and thought that I should highlight and address some of the fine remarks that were posted and decided that, in this instance at least, I could better accomplish that in a regular blog entry rather than by replying in the Comments sections. I trust that no one finds my comments about comments to be offensive in any way.



-epm said...

My religious tradition suggests God said we could "run" the store... not "ruin" the store. Somewhere along the line someone added an 'i'.

I suspect a disgruntled monk with a wicked sense of humor. :)

kathy said...

Anvilcloud...im stunned and speechless :-) I love my collection of quotes...and finding some of the pictures at "Allposters.com" gives me lots of pleasure, and it makes me really happy that others enjoy them as well! its what i was hoping for. Thanks for the compliments.

what -epm just wrote was really good...i put it in my quote collection, i just might add it to one of my themes in future quote post blogging.

Christi said...

Why on earth would someone do that to squirrels? I never even realized they were pesky! How heinous!

blue2go said...

Sadly, people do it all the time. And to the mice and moles that come into their houses, too. These little rodents are not only cute, but have individual personalities. We live trap them and keep until spring comes and it warms up outside. We get so fond of them that we hate to see them go! But no matter how "tame" they have gotten over the winter, they want their freedom.

Jennifer Swanepoel said...

AC, you've hit on a fantastic topic here! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anvilcloud - thanks for your comments on comments! I share your feelings that these issues are important (i.e. religious interpretation of social activist movements like environmentalism). Your citation presented in this entry ignites another very interesting topic - the complex intersection between religion and medical ethics. As bizarre as the save-the-squirrels anecdote may seem, this issue is repeatedly addressed in bioethics, namely, animal (and human for that matter) experiments for medical research. Of course, out of context, the "squirrel guy" appears to have no legitimate justification for drowning the furry critters, but there are also many examples of medical experiments performed on animals that may also seem (to some) to have ill justifications. It would be interesting to examine what various religious doctrines and/or ideologies say regarding bioethical guidelines for invasive medical research involving animal subjects. I have participated in some engaging discussions on religious medical ethics, but none that questioned the implicit (or explicit - as one might interpret from Genesis) assumption of human welfare as taking all precedence over the welfare of animals. Not even to say that animals are more or less valued than humans - but the greater contested issue is where do we draw the line? Or rather, to what extent should we sacrifice the welfare of animals in order to better our own?

Thanks for the thought-provoking entries! Looking forward to more! ;)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again (I will, for now, continue not identify myself-- but thanks for the invite to take off my cloak and hood)... I can truly appreciate AC's perspective, and I agree with it, for the most part. I believe that people in general-- not only Christians who have read the Bible-- rape and pillage the earth. AC's example of pouring raw sewage into the ocean is heinous, and certainly is not respectful of the one earth that we have to nurture and enjoy and sustain and then pass onto the next generation. However, my comments made earlier (on your other post on this topic) were not so much in response to AC's comments directly, as much as to Katt's comments (the first of the 4 comments where mine are found). With all due respect to Katt (and I truly do not intend this to be a flame in any way, simply a different point of view), this is the portion I was responding to:

"...If I'm alive and a tree is alive...why should i assume that I'm more Important? (or anything alive, like a bug)i think it is just human egos that need to feel that they are above nature and are the only ones with a soul. We are all the same. we all will die. nothing lives forever. because humans believe that they are above nature and are the only ones with souls...is the very reason why they have destroyed our planet the way they have, raping the rain forest and poluting the air."

Contrary to Katt, I do believe humans have souls and other living beings do not... but that is actually, for me, the exact reason to NOT injure other life forms or do damage to the earth. I will be held accountable for how I have treated others, humans and other life forms, and I think of Jesus' words, "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to Me" (my paraphrase) as my guide for treating others with respect. It is as though I am treating Jesus Himself with disrespect or contempt if I choose to injure an animal. I view the earth as a gift to humans, as well as a responsibility to humans to maintain and protect and develop. On a much larger scale, that is what children are to their parents as well—- gifts as well as a responsibility. And I think God cares very much about how we treat the earth and its inhabitants. So in the end, I think we all agree on the outcome, although I think we have pretty different ways of arriving there. By the way, dont' worry, AC-- I don’t take offense at your “comments on comments”… I really do believe we are all entitled to our own perspective, as well as the opportunity to disagree (whether in great or small degree) from each other. :-)