This online Launch Day Event celebrating the release of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation, was hosted by Richenda Fairhurst on June 14 as part of the Multifaith Climate Cafe. This event focuses primarily on Chapter 4, “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth.” The host, Richenda Fairhurst, wrote an article and created video excerpts of our discussion, which begins as follows:
The story of the cross is at the center this new book, and of Christian faith and belief. From the beginning, there were many Christianities, many claiming to be the ‘only’ true faith. These many traditions reflect a garden of thought, love, and faithful expression. But there are also times when interpretations gain hold in ways that are violent and destructive. Theologies of empire, starting with Emperor Constantine, have historically taken us on paths of destruction. And today, as we see life destroyed where it should be flourishing, Rev. Delgado wants to call us back to the cross to try again to understand the deep revelation rising for this moment.
Rev. Delgado spoke about her love for creation as an essential reason for writing this book. But she also writes with a sense of grief and urgency. “I think, the final thing that got me to write [The Cross in the Midst of Creation] was the way that [the theology of the cross] was being distorted—the way the story of the cross is being misused.” It is deeply troubling to Rev. Delgado that “it’s been used in that way to promote the very values that Jesus rejected, the values of status, wealth, and worldly power—the opposite values of Jesus.”
“The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you, Halleluiah. God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah.” — Hymn by Jim and Jeanne Strathdee
This post is an excerpt from “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth,” which is Chapter 4 of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation. This book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as powers similar to the ones that crucified Jesus are at work today harming human lives and destroying creation, and that the resurrection is ongoing as people of every faith and philosophical conviction rise in courage in the struggle for a transformed world. The Multifaith Climate Cafe is hosting a Book Launch Event on Tuesday, June 14, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, during which time I will speak about this chapter.
Western civilization, including Western Christianity, has been built upon an anthropocentric worldview that has enabled the plundering and despoiling of God’s world. An example for today comes from megachurch conservative pastor and bestselling author John McArthur. In a sermon refuting global warming and supporting the idea of stewardship for the purpose of extracting everything we can for use by human beings, he said, “God intended us to use this planet, to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was it intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that.” 1
If we see the natural world as intended simply for human use and consumption, we lose sight of the interrelationships with the rest of creation that make us human and deny the spirit of God within us and within all. By discarding our privileged and outdated anthropocentric perspective, we may recognize creation’s intrinsic value and the presence of God in all parts of creation. One way of expressing this is through the concept of deep incarnation.
Many Scriptures point to the reality of an inner dimension of nature in which all creatures participate. Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Job said, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7– 9). Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt 10:29). These passages point to a God who is intimately present throughout creation, not solely to human beings, but to other-than-human beings as well.
Understanding God as immanent within creation is not the same as pantheism, for it also acknowledges the transcendent aspect of God. The spirit of God is deeply present throughout creation but is not confined within creation. In fact, it’s just the opposite, for “in [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This way of understanding the relationship between God and the physical universe has been called panentheism, which is differentiated from pantheism as follows: “In panentheism, the universal spirit is present everywhere, which at the same time ‘transcends’ all things created. While pantheism asserts that ‘all is God,’ panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe.” The Strathdee hymn quoted above that proclaims “God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah” applies not only to us but to all parts of creation. This is a view of God as all in all, as Ground of Being, Ultimate Reality, Unfathomable Love, not exclusive to any religion. John Wesley referred to this “omnipresent” God as “the Soul of the universe.”2
The astounding claim of Christianity is that this God, who both transcends and is immanent within creation, was made known to us in a unique way in Jesus. “God was in Christ,” living a Spirit- infused life, suffering and dying at the hands of the powers, raised to new life by God. The Gospel of John refers to the concept of incarnation when it announces, “The Word became flesh [sarx in Greek] and lived among us” (John 1:14). This emphasizes the coming of God to us in human form in a way that we humans can comprehend. The revelation of Jesus Christ created a paradigm shift in our understanding of divine- human relationships by revealing the all- encompassing love and eternal presence of Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matt 1:23).
The concept of deep incarnation expands on this understanding to encompass all creation as the dwelling place of God. Elizabeth A. Johnson explains, “Deep incarnation understands John’s gospel to be saying that the sarx [flesh] that the Word of God became not only weds Jesus Christ to other human beings in the human species; it also reaches beyond us to join the incarnate one to the whole evolving biological world of living creatures and the cosmic dust of which they are composed.”3 This idea corrects the misunderstanding that human beings are isolated individuals and reconnects us to the network of interrelationships that make us human. Not even Jesus was separate from the web of relationships that constitute human and all other life on planet earth, the very web that is being undone today.
The Word became not only human flesh but all flesh and dwelt not only among human beings but among all parts of creation not just since the time of Jesus of Nazareth but eternally, throughout all time and space. This expanded view reveals the presence of the universal Spirit in the depths of matter, the love that exists at the heart of the universe, the divine presence in all creation, and the love of God that even death cannot conquer. This idea that God is made flesh in myriad forms affirms the intrinsic value of creation as a dwelling place for God.
Paul Braterman, “God Intended It as a Disposable Planet: Meet the US Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial,” The Conversation, October 12, 2020, https:// theconversation .com/ god -intended -it -as -a -disposable -planet -meet -the -us -pastor -preaching -climate -change -denial -147712.
Because the Café focuses on faith perspectives on climate change, this conversation will center around Chapter 4, “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth.” I will present some of the key themes of this chapter, including reconciliation of all creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18), deep incarnation, the existential significance of our time, ecocide (“undoing creation”), the passion of the earth, why a theology of creation and a theology of the cross must go together, and new creation. I plan to present these ideas briefly so that we can enjoy an interactive discussion that will stimulate our ongoing growth in sensitivity, understanding, and motivation for action for our beloved creation (which includes our human family).
Overall, this book addresses the multiple challenges facing our world today from a progressive Christian perspective. It explores confusion and disagreement among Christians about the meaning of the cross, the primary symbol of Christian faith. It links a theology of creation with a theology of the cross and argues that for Christians these two aspects of faith need to be integrated into the heart of the Christian gospel. The book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as institutionalized powers like the ones that put Jesus to death are still at work today in the violence and injustice perpetrated against our human family and creation itself. At the same time, the resurrection is ongoing as people from varied spiritual and philosophical perspectives rise in courage and move in the direction of God’s intended world. Other themes include: a critique of Christian nationalism and the “theological cruelty” that makes it possible, a survey of biblically based views of the cross that focus on the God of love who was revealed in Jesus (not just in his death and resurrection but also in his life and teachings), what it means to live in the presence of the Risen Christ today and to follow Jesus into the heart of the struggle for a transformed world.
Several other book launch events will follow the one on June 14, as well as book studies and action opportunities. To stay connected, follow me on Facebook or sign up to follow my blog. You can contact me here to order signed or bulk copies of my books, to ask me a question, or to just say “hi.”
Humanity is facing a code red alert because of how much and how fast the planet is heating up, and most of the warming is unequivocally the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the message from the latest scientific report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All over the world, extreme weather-related disasters are shattering all records. Here it has been heat waves, droughts, and wildfires.
The recent fires have been traumatic for our community. They started during Pastor Gail’s first month here! She had been preaching a four-part sermon series on the mission of Nevada City United Methodist Church, “the light at the top of Broad Street.” She hadn’t even fully unpacked when the sky filled with smoke and evacuations began. Initiation into our community by fire! That’s when Pastor Gail invited me to preach today about climate change.
Hold this image in your mind: our church at night, in the dark of winter, during Victorian Christmas, with all the lights shining. Solar panels on the roof now power those lights. The mortgage was paid off recently and our energy bills are much reduced. It’s a beautiful image—a solar-powered beacon at the top of Broad Street. It’s a sign of our church’s willingness to act on climate and a witness to the God of Love who cares for all creation. It’s a way to let our light shine so that others may our good works and give glory to God. We care. God cares.
One of the most important things we can do as a church in this time of climate change is to help change the values and metaphors and assumptions of the dominant culture. That’s what Jesus did. This passage comes right after Jesus’s teachings on wealth. He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” but rather, “in heaven.” “You cannot serve both God and wealth,” or “You can’t serve both God and money.”
“Therefore, he says, “do not worry” or (in some versions) “do not be anxious” about food or drink or clothes or tomorrow or even your own life. Rather, live simply, trusting God. This has been called “the most radiant passage on Christian simplicity in the Bible.” It is an antidote to our culture of instant gratification, overconsumption, overuse and misuse of the gifts of the earth.
Jesus instructs his followers to consider how God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Sadly, such reflections on creation can bring us face to face with our deep anxiety about the worrisome loss of species and humanity’s impact on the planet. We experience not only the glory of creation but also its pain. But as we move out of denial and face our feelings, we allow space for the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and for all creation, with sighs too deep for words. And we find a deeper peace, the peace of Christ that passes understanding.
In Matthew 10 Jesus assures us that not one sparrow “will fall to the ground outside of God’s care,” and says, “even the hairs of our head are all numbered.” God’s loving care extends to us and to all parts of creation. We are creatures, part of God’s creation, dependent on God for life and breath and all things, and interdependent with the whole community of life. In John Wesley’s words, “God is the soul of the universe.”
This passage will inform us as we consider how our church can respond to climate change, in addition to solar panels. We’ll look at relief, resilience, and mitigation.
First, relief. When fires threaten and smoke fills the skies, we can offer immediate relief to people who are impacted by climate related disasters. Our church is good at giving to those who are in need… through our Christmas and Thanksgiving outreach, our regular work with Hospitality House, our organized support for Interfaith Food Ministry, and in many other ways.
During the recent fires and even now in the aftermath, our whole community responded with generosity, raising money, offering food and clothes and shelter for evacuees, even space for people who lost homes. Many of us helped out.
One thing we could do as a church is to organize in advance disasters. We could support members of our church and community in becoming fire safe and fire ready. We could even offer our church as a resource and become a hub in the community’s disaster response network.
Second, resilience. Immediate disaster relief is not enough. How can we be a light at the top of Broad Street when the smoke settles? One way is by joining with other groups and individuals to help build a resilient community that can adapt to future changes that we know are coming.
Building a resilient community would include working for food security by supporting local small farms and local businesses. It would mean holding local officials accountable in protecting our soil, air quality, and water and in conserving energy and moving to renewable power. Building a resilient community would also mean fostering just relations for all of God’s people. Our work on behalf of racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion can’t be ignored. No one can be left behind. All these things will be important in adapting as a community as the climate warms.
Third, mitigation. In climate change lingo, this means reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Even as the smoke clears, the impacts of climate change will continue. Scientists make clear that the magnitude of the problem is beyond the scope of any individual solutions. We need bold policies to reduce emissions now.
Working toward mitigation means advocating for an immediate transition away from fossil fuels to just and sustainably sourced forms of renewable power, advocating for policies that would keep fossil fuels in the ground without harming the poor. But this advocacy can only be successful if we join others in building a movement for climate justice that is strong enough to pressure the powers that be to make it happen. Fortunately, there is such a movement… it is strong, it’s growing, and it is global, on every continent. Its slogan is “another world is possible.”
None of this sounds easy. So let’s turn again today’s passage from Matthew six. Note that Jesus is not just saying “don’t worry, be happy,” as the song goes, or “relax and take it easy, and leave everything up to God.” Not at all. Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
But just what does this mean? The proclamation of the kingdom of God (or the kingdom of heaven) was central to Jesus’s ministry. He talked about it in different ways. It’s like a small seed that grows into a big tree. It’s like a treasure buried in a field or a pearl of great price that is worth everything we have. He talked about it as a present reality: “The kingdom of God is within you” and “The kingdom of God is among you.” At the same time, he talked about the coming of the kingdom of God, and he called people to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Jesus is talking about a reality that is already present, but not yet fully revealed. He tells his followers to strive for God’s kingdom and teaches us to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” These are two ways of praying for the same thing. For when God’s will is done on earth, God’s kingdom is revealed.
Biblical scholars and theologians refer to it in different ways, as “God’s intended world” or “God’s dream, ” or God’s Domination-Free order. It’s been called “Love’s Domain,” or “Love’s Rule,” because “the Kingdom of God is where the God who is Love rules.” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s term “The Beloved Community” is another way of talking about the compassionate and inclusive community that Jesus proclaimed and created when he walked on earth. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann refers to this understanding when he says that Christian hope is “hope that the world can be different.” Or in secular terms, “Another world is possible.”
We are called to pray and strive for the coming of God’s reign here on earth, even in the midst of climate change. That’s what it means to follow Jesus. As the light at the top of Broad Street, we point not to ourselves but beyond ourselves to Jesus, doing our small part to be faithful in a time of climate change. Our mission is to be a faith community that prays for and strives for vision of the world as God intends for it to be, for God’s reign of compassion and justice for all creation, for God’s will, God’s dream, Love’s domain. And we reflect that vision as best we can to our community and world.
So don’t worry. Turn your worry into prayer. God’s got us. We’ve got each other.
To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.
Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.
Hi Friends, I published this post to support our local struggle to keep from reopening a gold mine in Grass Valley:
As we residents of Nevada County struggle to adapt to extreme drought, heat waves, water shortages, periodic power outages, and threat of forest fires, Rise Gold is trying to persuade us that reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine would do us good. Yet regardless of its recent flawed and deceptive survey, the mine would negatively affect the community in many ways, including in our ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In June, our region got a taste of a record-shattering heat wave which, further north, led to many deaths. We are in a historic “severe to exceptional drought,” resulting in depleted reservoirs and mandatory water restrictions. Fire insurance rates are skyrocketing and policies are being cancelled as fire season extends to almost year-round and as wildfires become ever-more ferocious, burning more acres. Even as we pack our go-bags and create fire safe spaces around our homes, we know that catastrophic forest fires could come at any time. Reopening the mine would only make these climate-related impacts worse.
The leaked report of the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of “progressively serious, centuries’ long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences” that will impact people around the world with multiple climate calamities at once: drought, heatwaves, cyclones, wildfires and flooding, leading to widespread hunger and disease. So far, the earth’s average global temperature has risen slightly over 1 degree Celsius, which is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Just imagine what it will be like if it rises to 3 or 4 degrees Celsius! The IPCC report warns, “Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems… humans cannot.”
Nevada County has had the foresight to respond proactively by adopting the Nevada County Energy Action Plan, which was developed by the Sierra Business Council, with support from PG&E, in collaboration with Nevada County and community members. The plan, based on scientific climate forecasts in the context of our region, states: “From record temperatures to proliferating wildfires and changing precipitation patterns, climate change poses an immediate and escalating threat to the region’s environment, economic strength, and public health.”
The plan is intended to “guide local government decisions that will help achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs, and demonstrate the County’s commitment to energy independence and community resilience” and to “inspire residents, businesses, and other public agencies in Nevada County to participate in community efforts and maximize energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water efficiency.”
This plan should guide analysis and decision-making about the mine as it relates to climate. It points to goals, strategies, and ways to implement policies that will enable us, as a community, to adapt to projected climatic changes and mitigate harm by lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But reopening the mine would take us in the opposite direction.
Adapting to climate change means developing resiliency so that we human beings, our fellow creatures, and coming generations can survive and thrive as much as possible. This means carefully preserving our region’s air, land, and water. The mine would further pollute our air, replace life-sustaining ecosystems with mine waste, and deplete our precious groundwater, putting wells at risk and sending millions of gallons of treated wastewater daily down Wolf Creek. Adaptation means generating sustainable forms of livelihood, housing, education, business, agriculture, and more—locally-based as much as possible—and moving away from fossil fuels to justly-sourced renewable power. Many community members, local businesses, and local nonprofits are working to attain just such a vision. Rise Gold’s extractive business model does not align with these goals.
Because it is a global problem, we must also do our part to mitigate the harm of climate change by reducing our regional carbon footprint. The Nevada County Energy Action Plan calls for gradually reducing annual residential electric use by 12 percent. Rise Gold’s projected electrical use would cancel out this goal by annually using electricity equivalent to 5,000 new homes and could strain our already overburdened power grid.
Even more significant would be the massive carbon emissions caused by diesel-powered heavy equipment used for: constant construction during the first year and half; ongoing continuous excavating, underground blasting, drilling, rock crushing, loading, hauling, unloading, spreading, and compacting to create engineered fill up to seven stories tall; continuous mine de-watering by pumping, treating, and sending millions of gallons of wastewater down Wolf Creek; increased new diesel truck traffic (up to 100 round trips a day, seven days a week, sixteen hours a day). This would result in significant increases of GHG emissions rather than decreases as outlined in the County’s Energy Action Plan.
Please, let’s put this debate to rest once and for all and not waste everyone’s time and energy by pretending we should seriously consider reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine every time another penny-stock company comes along to propose it. The County has taken a proactive approach with its plan to foster resiliency and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Let’s not turn back now.
To receive an email notification each time Sharon posts to her blog, click the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right.