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Holy Water, Sacred Biodiversities, and Eco-Theology 
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Post Holy Water, Sacred Biodiversities, and Eco-Theology
This thread introduces the theme of biodiversity and social justice within the Bible. It highlights those elements of the Biblical narratives that locate what is most holy and sacred deep in the heart of our earthly ecosystem....in water.

..........................................................................

The Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament, for all their portrayal of a transcendent Creator and otherworldly salvation, abound in earthly metaphors and organic images of what is holy and sacred. Regarding water, Scripture is full of seas, rivers, ponds, pools, rain, streams, wells and fountains. Water is portrayed as a powerfully transformative substance, life-giving, rejuvenating, cleansing, healing and often the key metaphor for God's power to change the lives of humans and replenish Creation. Likewise, justice is deeply rooted in humanity's relation to water. How it is shared, distributed and protected is a crucial indicator for how righteous a society is. Finally, water is a key image in describing the symbolic flow, movement and vitalizing powers of a just God.

If we read the two Scriptures as Christians traditionally have, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, we discover that God begins and ends with water. Genesis 1 tells us that the spirit/breath of God hovered over the watery chaos, the source material for Creation, and from this brings all light and earthly biodiversity into wondrous existence. The book of Revelation, with all of its terrifying visions of a tortured and poisoned Creation (one not too different in substance to many contemporary ecological predictions), ends with a beautiful image of the 'water of life' river. In chapter 22:1-2, the angel shows the dreamer/author a crystal bright river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb- the ultimately regenerated and fully resurrected source and sustenance of all life. This life-bestowing river has the 'tree of life' planted on each side of it, and each tree produces twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit for each month. The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the Nations. (Scriptural references are from The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson. NavPress



Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:55 pm
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Post Re: Holy Water, Sacred Biodiversities, and Eco-Theology
An examination of the New Testament reveals many similar themes of elemental dependency upon water as life giving, transformative, justice-producing gift from God.

The Gospels point to a specific river, Jordan, as a sacred source for human conversion and opening up to the sweeping and revolutionary Reign of God. These stories tell us of throngs of people converging on the sacred water, confessing their sins and transgressions against God, humanity and Creation. With their submersion into the holy powers of the river, they arise cleansed, forgiven, free of their abusive histories, and now empowered to bring the gospel of God's reign to a fragile world, "...preach Good News to the poor...heal the brokenhearted...announce that the blind shall see, that captives shall be released and the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors " (Luke 4:18 ). Even Jesus undergoes this watery transformation, at the hands of John the Baptizer. Matthew describes a scene where God, humanity, animal life, water and sky are intimately bound, "The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God's spirit- it looked like a dove, descending and landing on him" (Matthew 3:16).

Paul explains this baptismal water immersion process as a radical reorientation and actual re-birth where "going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did in Christ" (Col 2:12; Rom 6: 3-4). Paul also connects this lifting out of death into new life and salvation to the liberation of the ancient Hebrews out of Egypt. Tying this life-changing baptism to a revolutionary exodus, he says "They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life" (1 Cor. 10:2).

In the Gospel of John, water is the essential metaphor for describing the salvific transformative powers of God in Christ. In one story, the writer places Jesus in a socially unsettling situation, in conversation with an outcast Samaritan woman at a water well. Here, while trying to quench thirst, the complex worlds of gender roles, social acceptance, political struggle, religious chauvinism, and the radical grace of a loving God are submerged in 'living water'. Much like the sacred vow made in Isaiah 44:3, Jesus promises a holy relationship that never ends, "The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life" (John 4:10-28 ). From perplexing wells, perpetually flowing springs, and living fountains to "rivers of living water that brim and spill over" (John 7:38 ), humanity is offered a sacred hope and salvation.

Returning to Revelation, the Christian New Testament uses images of water to testify to the unlimited powers of God for the radically utopian project of a fulfilled humanity and healed Creation. In the closing verses of this alarming book, the source and goal of all biodiversity and existence {God}, employs water as the soothing and satiating substance for bestowing eternal life. "I am the A to Z. I'm the beginning and the conclusion. From 'water-of-life' well I give freely to the thirsty" (Rev 21:6). This sacred interconnectedness of all that exists is exquisitely irrigated by a gracious thirst-quenching river that never spoils or runs dry, and relates to Creation by way of an invitation. "Come! Is anyone thirsty? Come! All who will, come and drink, drink freely of the water of life!" (Rev 22:17).




Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:58 pm
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Post Re: Holy Water, Sacred Biodiversities, and Eco-Theology
Below is an excerpt from the Biblical book Job, chapter 38 . It is a Creation narrative but much different from the two we find in Genesis 1-3 (which are also different from each other). The Job narrative seems to confront any notion of Creationism, offering instead a littany of questions that expose how little humans understand regarding the origins of existence. The explicitly uncontrollable creation narrative in Job seems to be in conflict with the straightforward one-at-a-time process found in Genesis.

I've not discovered many Creationists who have seriously considered the opening question delivered from the sacred tempest, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation...."


Quote:
4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?
12 "Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 "What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22 "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?
34 "Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?
36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind ?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39 "Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?


I think this piece from Job, like the first two posts in this thread, describes a God who is intimately related to the earth and all of its interconnected ecosystems: not some removed, distant, detatched, absent, merely transcendent sky or mountain deity....but an immanent force of fecundity that fuels every element of existence.




Thu Oct 12, 2006 4:14 pm
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Post Scientist and Creationist: Comrades for the Earth
I think an important element of this discussion is one that is almost entirely left out via the Creationist vs Evolutionist impasse: that is the shared need by all sides to revaluate our relationship to the biosphere and how we engage our earth's ecosystems.

National Medal of Science winner and Harvard professor E.O Wilson has recently published The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth as a letter to an imaginary Baptist minister in hopes of bridging their differences towards a shared responsibility for the earth.

Vandana Shiva, who is Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy; as well as a leader of the International Forum on Globalization and winner of the Alternative Noble Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award) in 1993 describes the more fundamental debate in her small bookWater Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profitas:

Quote:
A culture that sees water as sacred and treats its provision as a duty for the preservation of life; and another which sees water as a commodity, and its ownership and trade as fundamental corporate rights. The culture of commodification is at war with diverse cultures of sharing, receiving and giving water as a free gift. The non-sustainable, non-renewable, and polluting plastic culture is at war with civilizations based on soil and mud and the cultures of renewal and rejuvenation....(S)acred sites like sacred forests and rivers are examples of resources that have a very high value but no price. Protection of vital resources cannot be ensured through market logic alone. It demands a recovery of the sacred and a recovery of the commons; and more fundamentally, identifying the value of water not in terms of its market price but in terms of its spiritual worth.


Roger Gottlieb has written A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future as a powerfully compelling argument for the role of religious traditions and eco-theology in supporting environmentalist movements to protect and properly steward the earth. His book also includes scores of examples of Roman Catholic, Progressive Protestant, Evangelical Christian, Mahayanist Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, African Muslim, Indigenous American communities who are actively confronting and healing social/political/economic and religious systems that are devastating their surrounding environments.

I don't think berating the Creationist into abandoning their religious heritage; or condemning the secular humanist to hell and damnation...are terribly frutiful approaches to our contemporary world's most pressing concerns.

I do think the secular humanist can travel a good distance with the biblical creationist as comrades protecting the earth and its terribly endagered biosphere. Both can approach it in awe and wonder and with an ethical imperative to nurture and tend it well. They can also critically examine those political and economic structures and systems which make proper care of the earth impossible, and perhaps they can work together as fellow citizens to remedy the damage already done.




Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:55 am
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Post Re: Scientist and Creationist: Comrades for the Earth
Are you reading this book, Dissident?




Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Scientist and Creationist: Comrades for the Earth
Patiently awaiting the arrival any day now.




Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:24 pm
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Post Re: Scientist and Creationist: Comrades for the Earth
Awesome. I think you'll love the book.




Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:27 pm
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