The process has taught me patience and perseverance. The soil needed to be reworked, the seeds needed time to sprout, the sprouts needed time to establish, and the seedlings needed time to mature – all before moving outside. Never mind that I ignored the cardinal rule of gardening in Colorado (that being, never plant before mother’s day). I decided the weather was good enough and subsequently froze several plants. All of this has brought me to a place of better understanding with things like the biblical command to subdue (steward) the earth (the ground). For certain, far too many read the text as authorizing conquest, but the stories of the bible lead to one thing – the land belongs to God, and people turn violent when they try to play the part of landowners rather than stewards.
I was pleasantly surprised then to pick up Grounded by Diana Butler Bass. Subtitled finding God in the world, it is not until the pages are opened that you’ll find exactly what the author is getting at. With one part mysticism, one part theology, and one part ecology, each chapter takes us from a theologically sound understanding of the sacred nature of the natural world to a mystical understanding of tending that world, then to well thought out, well written sections on real crises in our world, ecologically and economically speaking.
The chapters are aptly titled Dirt, Water, Sky, Roots, home, Neighborhood, Commons, Revelation – and each contains a balanced blend of education, inspiration and thought. Poignant insights throughout had me reaching for my pen to make notes for future reference. From Dirt, the author remarks:
FOR MILLENNIA, THE ANCIENTS LOOKED TO THE HEAVENS, TO THE LIGHT OF MILLIONS OF STARS ABOVE, TO FIND GOD. ALTHOUGH THE STARS STILL MOVE US TO WONDER, CONTEMPORARY PEOPLE ARE LEARNING THAT THE SOIL BENEATH OUR FEET IS AS MYSTERIOUS, COMPLEX, AND AWE-INSPIRING AS GAZING INTO THE NIGHT SKY.
Much of our propensity toward violence lies in the misunderstanding we have about the land. In our efforts to bolster a particular political or economic stance, we’ve claimed the land as our own, thus creating property and disagreement. With that comes economic segregation, and eventually, economic injustice. It is this exact injustice Amos cries out against (also brought in a wonderful way by Bass in the next chapter) with his call “Let justice roll on like a river”.
A right understanding of justice entails a reclaiming of a vision of the land, specifically that we tend it for another, and as such have no “rights” to it save one – to preserve it. Many have left their traditional places of worship and begun finding God in the poor, the outcast, the broken and the unchurched.
Marcus Borg once said “I have a theology of creation, that is – the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof”, this may be our point of relaunch then. Quite possibly the first step is to amend our understanding of the earth.