Since Earth Day was last week, I thought I’d do a belated Earth Day-edition Moltmann Monday for you, from this fantastic little section in Moltmann’s newest book, The Fullness of Life. If you want a quick, succinct description of a whole-earth Christian ecology, he gives you one in 5 pages. Just put it on your tab. You’re welcome. :)
Ever since the beginning of modern times the earth has been viewed as a conglomerate of matter and energy so that its mineral sources could be exploited and its energies put to use. The earth has been viewed as human territory and the spirits and myths that were part of the old world picture have been stripped from it and have lost their magic. The positive result was the construction of the modern global world, the negative ones the climate catastrophes and the spread of the deserts. The more humanity expands, the more uninhabitable wide areas of the earth become. Because the modern world’s religion was dominated by the one-sided use of the biblical creation story, the more a theological about-turn at this point is necessary…
Ok quick interlude here…If you want a much longer account of Moltmann’s take on where that biblical creation story has gone wrong and how he approaches it differently, he wrote an entire book on it called God in Creation. The high points? Humans act like we are the crown of creation, but actually, we’re not. The Sabbath is. And on that day of rest, the earth is rejuvenated to continue to do what it does best- bring forth life. The same is true for us. Ok back to the passage.
Human beings only exist because of all the other created things and their earthly community. They can all live without human beings, and have done so for millions of years, but human beings cannot live without them. So human beings are only one link in the community of earthly created beings…
Participation in the life of the earth leads to a feeling for universal life. This new earthly spirituality awakens cosmic humility, which takes the place of the modern arrogance of power, and which is reflected in the dominance over nature. Every serious scientist knows this cosmic humility in astonishment over the unexplored mysteries of nature. Another characteristic is cosmic love, which the Starez Sosima expresses in Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov:
Love the whole creation, all of it and every grain of sand. Love every little leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love every single thing. If you love every single thing, then God’s mystery in them will be revealed to you. Once it is revealed to you, then you will perceive it more and more every day. And in the end you will love the whole universe with an all-comprehensive love.
That last section by Dostoyevsky is the goal, the center. When we seek to love the earth instead of act over and against it, our entire posture changes. The earth isn’t to be dominated. How can we dominate earth, when earth is greater than us, when earth can and will live on even if humanity dies out? The biblical call is not to domination but dominion, which is a call to stewardship and care and relational leadership. We are called to lead by example in the way we love the earth.
We are deeply dependent upon the earth. It is our home, but it’s more than that, which is why I think many of us have found such resonance with the metaphor of earth as mother. We receive life from earth’s womb, because God has designed it that way. The earth brings forth life, and humanity is to till and keep that life going. I fear what we have done instead in the modern era is forget that the earth is even a living organism at all, and have simply pillaged it like apathetic looters. It’s time to wake up and realize we are in a deep relationship with the earth, one that we depend upon far more than earth depends upon us, and we have been acting like negligent family members. It’s time to return home, and return to love. When we are in right relationship with the earth, life flourishes. And we find our relationship with God strengthens as well.