Remember That You are Soil
Without planning it, a common theme ran through two classes I taught at Trinity this past week. On Sunday I led the weekly bible study on the Old Testament, where we looked at Kings and Kingdoms: the period of monarchy that included Saul, David, and Solomon, followed by centuries of division between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The monarchy began to fray under Solomon who, according to Walter Brueggemann, had become intoxicated with the idea of exceptionalism.
On Wednesday evening, we had a completely different class with Professor Timothy Beal who spoke about his book, When Time is Short: Finding our Way in the Anthropocene, on how we find hope even after climate change has begun to take effect. Beal spoke of the origins of the ecological crisis, which emerge from a deep sense of human exceptionalism: that we are somehow above all other God’s creatures, and that natural resources exist solely for our use.
In both cases, the human drive to exceptionalism led to the fracturing of the related community or ecosystem. This is hard news.
Yet, seeing it clearly helps us to see a way forward. Professor Beal suggested that we can find hope in cultivating what he calls “earth creatureliness”. The idea is that remembering we are a part of an ecosystem that was here before us – and will be here after us – can situate us in a healthier relationship with God and neighbor.
As we witness the tragedies of warfare abroad and a rising sense of nationalism at home, it can be easy to feel hopeless. The gifts of God continue to be all around us, though, and Beal’s invitation to remember that we are creatures of God, just as our neighbors are, calls us to find hope that emerges from our own humility.
The Very. Rev Bernard J Owens.