Spring Rushing Waters Moon
Artemis honey, 2013
When I set out, long ago, on my forever not done task of reimagining faith, I didn’t want to reimagine Christianity. My goal was to focus on faith itself. Why and how. Was there a way to refocus at least part of that faith muscle in our psyche and point it toward Mother Earth? That was my impetus, Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our civilization, creating a sustainable human presence on this, our only planet, shared by and necessary to all.
In the process I discovered I was not a good systematic thinker. To my chagrin. Thought I was, or could be. Turns out I’m a creative thinker, but lack something to parse things out page after page. Not a bad thing at all, but not how I’d read myself.
The idea was to create, or better, evoke, an ur-faith, one that could slide under Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, even under atheism and take just a sliver of faith and focus it on loving and believing in and actively caring this miracle that sustains us. Still seems like a good idea.
What do you love about mother earth? The snow, perhaps. Or, the beach. The ocean. The mountains. Spring flowers. New leaves. That first onion or tomato in your garden. A puppy. A kitten. She gives them all to us. Each living thing began from one single-celled creature sparked into life somehow, a sacred moment for all of us who move, who draw our sustenance from the world.
This is Easter morning. Last night Kate and I went to the community seder for Beth Evergreen. When I think of barriers to a reimagined faith, a reconstructed element of our sense of wonder and hope, I think first of dogma and tradition. Yesterday Nicholas Kristof, an NYT columnist, had another in a continuing occasional series in which he asks Christian leaders if he’s a Christian though he doesn’t believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, or the miracles of Jesus?
The Reverend Serene Jones, the first woman president of Union Seminary in New York City, doesn’t either, she says. She finds the virgin birth a bizarre claim that makes sense only if you consider a woman’s body sinful, only pure if untouched. She notes that the gospel of Mark has no resurrection story, ends with an empty tomb. The resurrection she says is a story of love triumphing over hate. The crucifixion is like a lynching in her view and the resurgence of Jesus’ followers after his death overcomes its power.
At first I got kind of excited about this way of understanding some of the core tenets of Christianity, reimagining the dogma. Then, I thought, wait. Why do I need a 2,000 year old story about a person who may or may not have existed to tell me that love triumphs over hate? That oppression and political executions are wrong? That the virgin birth involves projecting back into a significant individual’s life story something to explain his wonder.
by the firepit, Andover
Oh, yeah. Dogma. I don’t need to wrestle with it to know that the fields of the Midwest, of the Ukraine, of northern and western China, of Argentina give us food. Food that our bodies evolved over millions of years to find nourishing of life. I don’t need to redefine these encrusted barnacles of too much thought. Not when I can see Black Mountain in the sunrise every morning. Not when I can reach down and pet Kep, Rigel, Gertie and see them wag their tales. Not when I could go out in June in our Andover garden and pluck fresh garlic cloves from the soil. Later on Honeycrisp apples from the tree, honey from our partnership with colonies of bees. No, the crucifixion is not necessary. That’s all.
That doesn’t mean that the narrative of love conquering hate is unimportant, hardly. Nor does it mean that the Passover story of liberation from oppression is unimportant either. We need liberation and love in our human contexts where our cupidity grinds away at both of them. But, important as liberation and love are for humankind, animals, too, without a planet to sustain us they won’t matter. The energy we spend redefining and rethinking dogma and tradition is, like money and status and power, a diversion from the central, Great, work of our time, healing our grievous wounds to this planet. Talk about a crucifixion.
Gifts of our mother
In a supreme irony we must turn our attention to ourselves in order to ensure that our mother, this earth, can still be our home. We and our dogmas, our traditions, are the Romans, each of us a Pontius Pilate. We are the Egyptians who hold the Hebrews in slavery. We have already consigned our atmosphere, our oceans, our climate to a new balance, one they will be able to negotiate over time, though a renegotiation we may not survive as a species. Thousands of species have already gone extinct in the rebalancing phase under way right now.
On this great wakin’ up morning, after the night when the angel of death passed over the Hebrew first born, take what sustenance you can from these tales, but leave enough credulity over to consider the extinction level myth of a species that came to love its own sparkly things over the song of the robin, the bleating of a lamb, the crash of a waterfall, the sough of the wind through a grove of redwoods. Leave some of your faith over for our mother. If only you can.