So are you.
03.09.2012 - 22.09.2012
So I’ve been here a month. Strange—it feels like a week has gone by. I must have thrown my clock out the window because time is flying. Sorry—bad joke. Moving on. God and Nature finished up last Friday, and it was truly a wonderful class. Our professor was a man from Calvin College, Uko Zylstra. He truly has a passion for God’s Creation.
We talked much about the world (the earth) as being kin to the human species. We are kin in the sense that we were both lovingly created by God. In fact, human beings were created out of the earth. Genesis 2:7 reads like this; “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man become a living being” (NIV). Many people have this idea that the human being is a soul with a body wrapped around it. This could not be farther from the truth. Wendell Berry puts it plainly:
The formula given in Genesis 2:7 is not man = body + soul; the formula there is soul = dust + breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; then, by breathing his breath into it, He made the dust live.
There is often a false sense of separation between man and earth that permeates the human mind-set, and it is compounded because, as a culture, we (Americans) have removed ourselves from the land. In the 1920s, something like forty percent of the American people were farmers. Now, our farmers make up less than two percent of the population. According to Genesis, I am animated dust. Even more, Genesis gives us a clear indication as to why God put us on this earth. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (2:15). We were intended, from the very beginning, to tend to the earth—to be gardeners.
This does not mean that we were put here to merely harvest what the earth offers us. Because we are intelligent, creative beings, and because God put us here to “take care of it” also, we are to help the earth to flourish. One of the two books we read for class was called Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture, written by Ellen Davis. She explores the role that the earth played in the lives, political and religious, of the Israelites of the Old Testament era. She also introduces a way of reading the Bible that I had never encountered—an agrarian one. The religious and cultural sensibilities that influenced much of the writing of the Old Testament were agrarian. The blessing of the “everlasting covenant” that God made with Noah (and with his descendants, and with every living creature that was with him) is contingent upon Noah’s obedience to his end of the bargain to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 9:7). In class, we explored what it means to be fruitful.
The “success” that is implied in fruitfulness has more to do with our intended purpose here than anything we can conjure up for ourselves. That purpose is to tend the Garden. If we disobey that, which is exactly what we are doing by exploiting the earth’s resources, we have disobeyed our mandate to tend the garden. Literally, the fruitfulness of the earth is directly connected to our fruitfulness simply because our job is to tend it. One of the most misinterpreted verses in the bible is Genesis 1:28 in which God gives Adam the instruction to have dominion of the earth and “subdue it”. If we are made in the image of God, who rules with love, justice and righteousness, doesn’t it make sense that we rule in the same way? Jesus, God made man, also showed us how to rule. When he came to establish his Kingdom on earth, he set himself up as a king who rules in servanthood and sacrifice. He was the Good Shepherd, not a domineering dictator.
So anyway, that was God and Nature. We talked a lot about farming, including the industrial food system and the opposite (the agrarian food system). I encourage anyone who wants to live well to educate themselves about where their food comes from. Some good starting points are movies like; Food, Inc., The Future of Food, King Corn, and Fast Food Nation. Also, I am currently reading a book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It is a great summary of the state of the Food System of the United States—read it! We tend not to care where our food comes from, which has enormous economic, political and moral implications that stretch across the world. Not only does our food’s origin have to do with our health, but it also affects the health of the earth and, whether we knot it our not, our spiritual health. Eating is an essential part of life, and Ellen Davis, the author of one of my new favorite books (Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture) says that eating is an act that, whether we know it or not, explicitly expresses our moral and religious sensibilities. I would strongly agree.
This week I had Stream Ecology, the first of three units of our Tropical Ecosystems class. The last time I took a real science class was 11th grade-4 years ago! There is less to report about this class, unless everyone wants me to go on rambling about the invertebrate life of tropical streams. It was useful to understand the way water connects and gives life to people around the world. Our professor was Bill Deutsch, a professor at Auburn University. His work around the world with a group called Alabama Water Watch has had such a wonderful impact on the world’s understanding of the effects of our actions to the water of the world.
Next week is a reading week in preparation for the Environmental Literature class. I plan to take a few trips since we don’t have to be on campus. I also intend to make more of an effort to post more frequently, since reporting on three weeks of goings on is be pretty tough. I didn’t even talk about my home stay in a neighboring village called Succotz. I’ll post pictures, though. One thing to note is that the house I stayed in didn’t have electricity. Some of you ask, “How do they live?!” I would contend that the de la Fuente family was just fine with their lifestyle, even happier than many people I know at home who are so wrapped up in power cables they don’t seem to be living at all.
Write me letters!