Going green with God's creation
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By the Rev. Chuck Freeman
"Could you just describe Chernobyl to us today. What is it like?"
"It's an area 30 kilometers in circumference that is totally out of bounds to humans. And no crops are grown there. Large areas of the earth have been scraped off, trees cut down. And all of that earth has been buried in trenches. They're finding high levels of radiation in the ground with machinery that was buried immediately in the area. There are graveyards with tanks, buses, machines, that are highly radioactive, that are just sitting out in the open air."
This distressing response is from Dr. Jeff Patterson, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility on the radio program, "Democracy Now." He has visited and monitored Chernobyl through the years.
Ironically, in the week that we celebrated Earth Day, we also marked two infamous anniversaries, Chernobyl's 25th and the BP oil spill's first. These deathdays (a more honest term than birthdays) are occurring in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power accident that occurred recently in Japan. It is one of only two nuclear accidents to ever receive a Level 7 classification (the highest danger level) on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Chernobyl is the other.
Why are these events of religious significance?
They are expressions of the character of our spiritual consciousness.
Our actions toward creation have flowed from the following core spiritual mind-set.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'
"God blessed them, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'" (Genesis 1:26-28)
We have taken this scripture as license to conquer and subjugate the Earth.
Dr. Calvin DeWitt, co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, writes that we have twisted the meaning of the Genesis creation story.
He cites the Genesis passage as the "Earthkeeping Principle."
He teaches, "Dominion is not domination. Quite the contrary, it is service. We humans are part of the great economy of creation. We are to safeguard the integrity of creation. To sustain and renew the life of the earth."
The most sacred and central religious value of the 21st century is to learn from, replicate and live in harmony with nature.
Architect William McDonough is "inspired by nature" in practicing his craft. He asserts, "Design is the first signal of human intentions."
McDonough then issues a profound religious challenge.
"Now that we are the dominant species what are our intentions?"
McDonough invites humanity to join in his architectural intention.
"Our vision of the future: a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world - with clean air, soil, water and power - economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed."
A 21st century life giving spiritual ethic echoes Yahweh's eternal challenge.
"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The Rev. Chuck Freeman ministers at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church of Cedar Park. He is a guest minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Victoria.