Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Mid-Michigan Advent: Only a Week Away

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, 'Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.' -- Revelation 4:8

A healthy amount of ink has been devoted, I'm sure, over the years to a discussion of what the "living creatures" in Revelation represent. An interpretation that resonates with me is that they indeed creatures; the created world.

We have a soft spot in our hearts for other living creatures around here. We feed the birds. We chuckle at the individual idiosyncracies of our neighborhood deer herd, and worry about the two late-season runts who were still in spots when the leaves began turning color.  We try, each year -- albeit with minimal success -- to enliven the ecoystem of our backyard pond. We take personal responsibility for two four-legged creatures in our own household, and have been friends to others in our neighborhood (rest in peace Charlie, our neighbors' geriatric pointer, who wore a track through our yard on his multiple daily treks to our patio door for biscuits).

To us, making our designated space on the planet a healthy, welcoming place for other created things isn't an option; it's something we do. It makes us feel good, but not in a self-serving way; it feels good because it is good; it's making something right within our little scope of influence, and it's respecting the right of other living things to live here with us in this place.

I'd like to think that this is just a basic Christian environmental ethic. But I've met more than my fair share of Christians whose terror of "paganism" (as if they have an inkling of what this even means) is so deep and gripping that they are afraid to love the nature around them. Their theology offers the false dichotomy of nature worship or Gnostic disdain for nature as nothing more than, at best, an interesting backdrop to the human drama.

Well, I'm not buying it. Nor do I buy C.S. Lewis' argument that our animal friends' lives have individual meaning only insofar as we individual humans assign it to them. That's hubris I'm not willing to assume. I'd rather choose to see "all my relations" in the vision of John of Patmos, their lives in everlasting song to the Creator.

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