It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

Even God, it seems, is going Green: Harper Collins has recently published the first edition of a “Green Bible,” a New Revised Standard Version of the Bible printed on recycled paper with soy ink.  The Bible’s distinctive features include a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and “verses and passages that speak to God’s care for creation highlighted in green.”

Green Bible

Now, for those of us concerned with things like science and—god forbid—the comparative study of religions, this idea is a no-brainer (if a little overly commercial and cheesy.)  There may be no denying that we are currently in a state of environmental crisis, due in no small part to the consequences of human activity.  If the role of religion is to transform the hearts and minds of its communities of followers to become more humble, spiritually aware and morally reflective agents of the eternal process of creation, then surely an environmental movement within the most dominant religious system in the world is an idea whose time has come.

Unfortunately, this bit of wisdom is lost on many Christians.  As news sources all over are reporting, the Green Bible is quite controversial among American evangelicals.  The criticisms I’ve heard range from a self-serving interpretation of God’s charge in Genesis 1:28 to “subdue” (Hebrew kabash) the earth to the nutty Left Behind-esque millenialism that charges that environmentalism is pointless—evidence of a lack of faith, even!—because of the impending Rapture.  I grew up in Texas, so I’m quite familiar with the latter position; indeed, as a passionate student of the entire history of human faith I still find it to be one of the ugliest, most crippled contortions of belief our species has ever had the misfortune of producing.

Charles Anderson. The Rapture. 1983.

Charles Anderson. The Rapture. 1983.

This resistance to environmentalism is nothing new.  As Richard Rodriguez pointed out in his lucid essay on the ecology of the Judeo-Christian god in the January 2008 issue of Harper’s, Western monotheism has historically been remarkable for its antagonism toward the natural world. This antagonism is a symptom of a perennial pathology within Western faith: namely the failure to identify the substance of creator and creation as one and the same.  Eastern religions generally do not have this problem. Neither do the religions of the human beings who lived in relative harmony with the North American landscape for centuries before they were conquered by Europeans whose technological prowess was eclipsed only by their cultural chauvinism.  Indeed, today’s American evangelicals, the cultural heirs of Manifest Destiny, still overwhelmingly favor a reading of the Bible that sanctions their darkest, most destructive and—oh, I’ll go there—sinful desires.

That said, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I would like as much as anyone for forward-thinking Christians to find a way to steer their religion’s enormous power and influence toward being a positive force in American society, which I don’t believe it has done in awhile.  This transformation needs to happen from within.  And if sipping organic free-trade lattes while wielding a recycled Bible helps facilitate this much-needed change, I’m all for it.  (They’ll just have to work on freeing themselves from their achingly paradoxical consumer-driven lifestyle another day.)

~ by emilypothast on January 3, 2009.

3 Responses to “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”

  1. Even belief in the rapture shouldn’t lead to a “screw the planet” mentality. We are to be good stweards of all we have been given, from our finances to the very land, water and air we all share in order to survive. It is clear that early in Paul’s ministry he beleived Christ would return during his lifetime. The very first Christians did not understand the end was happening right away. Even if one’s faith teaches that Christ will return to rapture the church, it also teaches that we do not know the day nor hour. If we live likes there’s no tomorrow AND THERE IS, our children and grandchildren may have to spend most of their lives in biohazard suits. Believing in the rapture is no excuse to do a lousy job taken care of what God has left in our care, namely the earth and all its creatures.

  2. […] have just read about the Green Bible courtesy of  Emily’s blog.  The Green Bible is an environmentally produced bible (e.g. mixed sources, FSC, recyled paper […]

  3. That Charles Anderson painting is simply Too Real for words.

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