Green Christianity

Green dimension of Christian message is an important one

Laurence Coupe                  Writer

 

Buxton Advertiser August 17 2023

Derbyshire Times August 24 2023

 

It was Joni Mitchell who reminded us: ‘We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.’  In order to emphasise her ‘green’ message she instinctively drew on Biblical imagery.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told repeatedly that as God systematically created the earth and all its glories he ‘saw that it was good’.

Then, in the second chapter, we learn that the first man, Adam, created by God to live in the Garden of Eden, is formed from the earth itself (Adamah). His role is essentially stewardship of the very earth from which he has arisen.

We all know what happens in the third chapter: Adam and his wife Eve are expelled from the Garden for disobeying God. Famously, St Augustine in the fifth century AD was prompted by this episode to formulate his theory of ‘Original Sin’: we have all inherited the offence committed by Adam and Eve.

But countering this is the theory formulated much more recently by the radical priest Matthew Fox – that of ‘Original Blessing’. This reminds us that God had seen his creation was ‘good’, and that we are invited both to serve it and to rejoice in it.

It’s noteworthy that Jesus in the Gospels consistently uses imagery which evokes the natural world. For example, he compares the Kingdom of God to ‘a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches’ (Luke 13: 18-19).

In the New Testament, we find Jesus being referred to as ‘the second Adam’ and ‘the son of Adam’.  Significantly, when he arises from his tomb in the garden, Mary Magdalene at first mistakes him for a gardener.  This might remind us that his concern is just as much for the earth as for heaven.

Indeed, Bishop James Jones, thinking of Jesus’s prayer – ‘Our Father … thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ – is prompted to coin a memorable phrase: ‘The consummation of the coming Kingdom is the earthing of heaven.’

Joni Mitchell may not have intended to say all this, but her ‘green’ message is all the more powerful given these Biblical connections. Conversely, the Christian faith only makes full sense when it takes on a ‘green’ dimension.