Friday, April 22, 2011

An Earth Day Good Friday

I remember seeing on my calendar a few weeks ago that Earth Day and Good Friday coincided on the same day. Yesterday in the office, a co-worker commented on the overlap, not remembering a time when the two were celebrated the same day. Tongue-in-cheek, I said that anyone celebrating Earth Day was probably not celebrating Good Friday and vice-versa.

Full-disclosure, I am an Oregonian. I have probably celebrated more Earth Days than I have Good Fridays (coming from a non-liturgical tradition). I remember a day in middle school where a substitute teacher took us outside to the parking lot and we had to ask permission from the grass to step on it. I have listened to a tree tell me it's life story. I have replanted deforested areas and slug dead salmon into creekbeds to replenish the nutrients of a watershed.

Full disclosure, I am a Christian. I believe that there is creative entity behind the universe and that this entity is possible to understand as a personage and not an impersonal "force". I believe that this entity desires to live in relationship with what has been created and will do what is necessary to make that happen. I believe that this entity is most visible in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. his life is described in the four gospels of the New Testament and the life of the communities of his earliest followers is described in the remainder of the epistles.

Good Friday is a day of remembrance to acknowledge the execution of Jesus at the collusion of a Roman provincial governor and Jewish societal religious leaders.

The execution of Jesus is a defining moment in Christian understanding, as it represents the sacrifice with which humanity's evil is purged and there is the potential for relationship with a pure and good God. This is typically interpreted to be meant for personal salvation and invitation to become adopted into the family of God (to use a familial metaphor).

For the moment, personal salvation must be scrutinized. Only for a minority of human history has individualism been valued. For most cultures (sans post-Enlightenment Europe and post-industrial European North America), the role of the community is valued over the desire of the individual.

This is where Earth Day runs headlong into the Western interpretation of Good Friday. Earth Day is the one day of the year where we in the West are forced to think about how we, individually, fit into the global ecology. Images are brought to mind about how our actions-- both positive (planting trees) and negative (using styrofoam)-- have ramifications for someone besides ourselves.

So what does Good Friday have to do for the community, rather than the individual?

A tenet of the Christian faith is that humanity has wandered from relationship with God and, in doing so, has taken creation along paths of destruction. In bridging the spiritual gap with humanity, Christ is also redeeming the future of creation, as its health is intrinsically tied to the relational-ethical aspects of human relationships which are renewed along with the spiritual.

The act of Jesus death on the cross, and more significantly, his resurrection which Easter celebrates are moments which have profound ramifications cosmologically, not simply in the inner-being of a single person. The universe is, essentially, turned back right-side up and given the chance to live as it was intended. All people are given access to relationship with God and the ties between God, communities (consisting of individuals), and creation are restored in grace.

Care for the created order is one area in which people who would have no religious affiliation or negative Christian experience may be acting in accordance with what God would desire. This is a moment of hope for those who would be serving God without acknowledging him. Matthew 25:40 is speaking of a future kingdom, saying, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ "

In a world in which environmental degradation is accelerating at alarming rate, is there the possibility to consider "Mother Nature" a vulnerable child of God?

This thought is cross-posted at our blog project, Orthodaxis

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