Like Joel Hunter, I was skeptical of the meeting on the “Green Gospels.” “Oh, no. Another group that believes all you have to do is convince Christians that the Bible says to care for creation, and they will do it.” I guess, after working in this field for the past decade, I was wary.
But the meeting was fascinating. Martin Palmer had convened a similar event earlier this year in the U.K. He invited atheists, non-believers, and others not familiar with the Bible. Apparently they were eager to explore what the gospels might reveal about our relationship with the natural world. It took them only 10 minutes to become immersed in the gospel of Mark, sifting out what it might have meant for Jesus to ride on an unbroken colt. It took us all morning to begin. Perhaps it is because we who are so steeped in the Bible, who have explored it for years, need more than inspiration. We need examples, to see that other people have put their beliefs into practice. One of the goals of the Green Gospels is to draw together these types of stories, both from 2000 years of Christian history, and modern efforts. It was amazing to seriously consider what the story of Jesus and the colt or Jesus and the fig tree say about Him, His relationship to the natural world, and how it affects us.
Martin Palmer surprised me with a comment that the U.K had experienced three environmental collapses within historical times. I usually think of these as future events we need to avoid. One collapse coincided with a huge volcanic eruption, blocking sunlight for several years. This was about the time the builders of Stonehenge stopped their work. The third event was the fall of the Roman Empire. The Benedictine Order of monks was active at this time. Benedict taught that a monk’s life had three priorities: prayer, study, and work. They were to go into the most wasted places and rebuild the ecology. They changed a devastated Europe by planting trees, digging new steams and lakes, restoring forests, composting and reviving the vitality of the soil. I looked around the table and there were modern Benedictines. Not monks, but people who were putting their beliefs into practice. Bring on the green gospels. We need these stories. We need to steep ourselves in scripture until it flows out into deeds.
Ginny Vroblesky is the former national coordinator of A Rocha USA.