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Gary's Faith Walk

The Green Bible

Our North Country is at last alive with the bursting of spring!  Moose nibble on the supple red shoots of mountain maple.  Swallows dart here and there in a frenzy of nest building.  Frogs along the creek banks are alive in a chorus of croaking and, well, reproduction.  Mosquitoes again buzz around our ears on evening walks.  And, the delicate umbrellas of early lupine foretell of beautiful blossoms which will delight us with color in a few short weeks.

Some human behavior even suggests spring-like renewal!  A new protected wilderness area, Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonlands, was signed into law in a March White House ceremony.  With a return to science-based decisions, the EPA has declared carbon dioxide and other green house gases, indeed, to be a danger to public health.  And, Earth Day activities across our region again heightened awareness of ways to live more gently on the planet.

My enthusiasm for this year’s spring is encouraged by a new bible.  Last year, Harper Collins released “The Green Bible,” a new imprint of the New Revised Standard Version.  Old and New Testament verses dealing with God’s creation (the earth, sea, and sky, animals, and flowers, etc.) are accented in green ink.   In addition to this visual emphasis, the bible is accompanied by essays from authors like St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, and quotes from Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Rick Warren, even Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and more.

Alternately reading bible verses and essays, a little piece by Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Tailor grabbed my attention.  So what does that “dominion” verse in Genesis really mean to me today?  The text is familiar, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’…And God saw that it was good.   Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to 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 wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:24-26)

Seems to me that one interpretation of that “dominion” word has gotten us into a whole lot of trouble over the centuries!  To “better” ourselves, we and our ancestors have regularly engaged in behaviors that made species extinct, pillaged the land, polluted air and water, and generally placed our long term survival at risk.  One writer suggested this interpretation of “dominion” taught people to view themselves as “superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim.”  Pretty damning stuff, in my view.

Things have softened a bit in the last few decades.  Now, we regularly employ an interpretation that uses the word “stewardship.”  “Stewardship” implies caring for God’s creation, protecting natural resources that are on loan to us.  All this is certainly a gentler approach, but it still suggests to me that nature and all its abundance are primarily for our use.

What then, as Taylor writes in her essay, if we understand dominion to mean “being in relationship to creation in the same way God is in relationship to creation?”  In my faith walk, she shares a new idea, “…we are here to preside over the dominion of love.  Made in the divine image, we are here to love as God loves.”  So, in this season of the earth’s renewal I’m looking a lot kinder on the moose, swallows, frogs, and flowers with whom I share this place.  Mosquitoes?  That’s tougher to handle, but I’m working on it!  


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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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