During Lent, Christians remember and grieve Jesus’ death at the hands of a murderous system that included official representatives, religious collaborators, a public that could be manipulated, and friends who betrayed, denied, or abandoned him. We remember and grieve the countless others who have been executed over the years by similar systems of worldly power. Meanwhile, creation is being crucified as surely as Jesus was crucified on the cross.
This understanding has profound implications when we consider the harm being done to creation. Even though many of us as individuals try to treat the earth with the respect it deserves, the institutions and systems in which we participate are plundering the earth and leaving it despoiled and desecrated. This does not bode well for humans or the other life forms with whom we are interrelated and interconnected on this earth. The institutions and operating systems that support industrial civilization are destroying the ecosystems upon which all life depends! The insatiable appetite of the global system of wealth-driven corporate capitalism continues to devour the gifts of the earth, destroying the goodness of creation, destroying our non-human companions, destroying prospects for future generations, destroying our humanity.
Now the Trump Administration’s federal budget proposal includes cuts of 31% to the Environmental Protection Agency, which was formed in 1970 as the result of grassroots activism and widespread public concern. The very agency charged with protecting the environment is being cut more deeply than any other program.
The destruction continues and accelerates. Several climate change feedback loops have kicked in, making runaway climate change more likely each day. The Sixth Great Extinction is well underway, as the atmosphere and oceans heat up, as toxins become ubiquitous, and as diverse ecosystems are paved over, “developed,” or converted into monoculture crops. Humans suffer as air, land, and water are overused or contaminated, and as food prices rise. Fukishima continues spewing radioactive waste into the oceans as more nuclear power plants are built. Powerful nations wage resource wars and attempt to dominate the earth in an endless cycle of violence, employing drones and other high-tech weapons that kill civilians, obliterate communities, and create toxic wastelands.
No one on earth will be left untouched by the current system of death, for it is destroying life itself. The web of life is being unraveled. The air, water, land, and stable climate necessary for sustaining life are being destroyed by the institutional imperatives of today’s global corporate empire. The earth is dying—signs of death are all around. Creation itself is being crucified.
In this dying of Earth’s life systems, her children, both human and non-human, suffer. Songs of praise become cries of pain and lament, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” “God help us! Has God forsaken us? Where is God?”
But it is not God who has forsaken us, it is we who have forsaken God. God is right here in the midst of the persecuted and tortured earth, suffering in and with Earth’s creatures, including but not limited to humanity, experiencing forsakenness. God weeps for the harm done, because God experiences it all from the inside—the terror of the Polar Bear who discovers she cannot swim the distance to the next ice floe, the confusion of the Monarch butterfly whose migratory home has been destroyed, the loneliness of the last Golden Toad who croaks unceasingly for a mate. God experiences the alarm of people in island nations that are being subsumed by rising seas and the panic and grief of families whose crops fail and children die because of increasing drought. God experiences the “great loneliness of spirit” of the child who realizes that species are dying, and who wants a future of abundant life.
Where is there hope for new life? I see signs of resurrection in the rising up of people who are no longer willing to consent to the current global system of death and are rising up in nonviolent resistance and creative action. Surely God is on the side of those who love life and are willing to give themselves fully to the struggle out of love, as Jesus did. The compassion and passion that motivated Jesus may save us yet, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us. If we are willing, God will breathe new life into us, inspire us, empower us, and work through us to bring about healing and new life for all creation.
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