I am really trying to cut and cut and cut these quotations sections. I guess I’m just more ruthful than ruthless. Please forgive, and scan as you wish. Recommendations and Final Thoughts are below.
I have discovered, during the last ten years in Vancouver, Canada, a vibrant and dynamic spiritual community composed of New Agers, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, and Sufis, to name a few. But without question it is the Christians who are most deeply distrusted and discounted among these spiritually inclined people.
There are ways to update our faith, of course, but unfortunately these can’t be downloaded directly to our neocortex. Updates in the life of the Christian tend to be far more unsettling. (Note – the riddle of time, always, when trying to facilitate change. Will technology actually help us change more quickly, do you think?)
For Jesus, taking a rain check really wasn’t an option.
To follow Jesus is to follow not just his first-century teachings, but also his pattern of updating his tradition. (Note – Jesus 2.0!, or Jesus Beta!)
The DNA of the church contains the sacred gift of our tradition. Going forward we will need both a healthy DNA and a resilient membrane in order to contain the new wine of God’s future.
The “laws” of nature may be more like cosmic habits. (Note – I do like this. It feels more accurate and removes the prescription/ordination ideas behind the word ‘law’)
Any good gardener knows that there is a genius particular to each piece of land, which determines what will flourish. Unilaterally imposing our will upon the landscape will lead to disappointment. Our best gardeners operate not as masters over the garden, but as one intelligent source of creativity among other centers of creative intelligence, the plants.
Order and chaos are flip sides of the same coin. There is no external agent acting on a system to bring order to it. The order emerges from within. (Note – this may be in part an allusion to the start of Genesis, but for me it reveals something much more about how the term ‘agency’ gets used)
Rabbi Abraham Heschel:
Forfeit awe and the world becomes a marketplace.
Ancient chants have been replaced with corporate jingles.
… when science and engineering are dissociated from spirit, morality, and ethics, the important questions don’t get asked. What ends are we serving with this technology? What is the cost to the planet, and to human and non-human life forms, and who is benefiting from this technology?
In a postmodernist worldview, my meaning, a white, heterosexual, middle-class, university-educated, prairie-raised, Christian male, cannot be imposed as authoritative for anybody else. No single meaning can prevail as “the truth.” (Note – this made me think of a potential book title – “The End of Authority”)
… it is reasonable to talk about science’s version of the creation story as a modern myth. In a thousand years, scientists will read with profound interest, but perhaps amusement, how their earlier colleagues cam up with the evidence for their version of the story. Our scientific version of the story is based on a solid and growing body of evidence. Still, it is undoubtedly partial. Evolution in human consciousness means that we will never stop discovering more comprehensive contexts and perspectives from which we do our science.
… scientists have discovered that the descendants of our primal bacterial cousins constitute 90 percent of our cellular structure; only 10 percent of our cells are distinctly human. The myth of the rugged individualist simply does not hold up in the new cosmology.
How then, are we to understand an evolutionary God? This God would need to be immanent in the process of evolution, not as a controlling presence but as the cosmic urge to self-transcendence. This God would be the hidden wholeness, the non-coercive intelligence nudging hydrogen and helium molecules to organize into galaxies to birth solar systems; and cells to cluster together in formations of increasing elegance, beauty, and diversity. (Note – and so the concept of God becomes all the more complex. Just how complicated does our concept of the inconceivable have to get before it bursts upon our expectations?)
We can literally re-member ourselves; we can locate ourselves as members, not as rulers, of a great procession of life.
… scripture, like nature, reflects an evolutionary dynamic. (Note – I do appreciate the honesty in this.)
Creating zoos to make sure animals don’t go extinct while we decimate their habitat, is a symptom of our profound dissociation from the earth.
If habitat conversion continues at present rates, half the species on the planet will be gone by the end of our century. Climate change alone will wipe out one-quarter of the species. (Note – Just as an aside, I think Wilson is quoted by Nicholas Wade as well in the Faith Instinct)
It is one of the greatest ironies of history that the predominant meaning of Jesus’ death on a cross in our age is precisely the one he most opposed. Like the Jewish prophets 600 years before him, Jesus railed against the priestly meaning of religious sacrifice.
The sun burns four million tons of hydrogen every second in the service of life. The sun dies and is reborn in a caribou, in the smile of a toddler, and in the passionate embrace of lovers. Plants capture the light of the sun, and for millions of years human beings have been feasting on converted solar energy, in wheat and corn, and in the animals that feast on these. Every meal we ingest is a solar sacrifice.
The spiritual life is not about what we accumulate, but rather about what we allocate. It’s about divestment, a stripping down of ego, not a fortifying of it.
To be a servant of God is to repent of the ethic of domination.
If you’re a peasant, when the Bible speaks about the poor it’s talking about physical poverty, not spiritual impoverishment.
… the kingdom of God is an oppositional metaphor. It gets at the truth of things by intentionally setting itself up alongside the dominant cultural metaphor of the day, and by shocking listeners out of their allegiance to it.
The metaphor of kin-dom is a family metaphor. To be kin is to belong, no questions asked. In an evolutionary universe, I’m interested in kin as a metaphor that includes “all of us”, not just “us”.
Insects, with their puny brains, annually outsmart our brightest chemists.
Our dignity as an honoured species has been compromised.
Given the imminent danger global warming presents, and the degradation of our biosystems, we who have showed up late at the evolutionary party and yet have assumed the seat of honour, may indeed find ourselves displaced by lowly bacteria… The survival of the planet takes precedence over human egos. God may act through bacteria to usher a new creation should we destroy this one. The meek may indeed inherit the earth.
A re-writing of the Lord’s Prayer:
luminous in all creation,
hallowed by your name.
Thy kin-dom come.
May we reflect on earth the yielding perfection of the heavens.
Help us to receive an illumined measure from the earth this day.
Forgive us when we trespass against others, human and other-than-human,
as we forgive others who trespass against us.
Keep us on the path of wisdom when we are tempted to take the selfish path.
May it be your rule we follow, your power we exercise,
and your radiance that endures.
May this be the truth that guides our lives,
the ground from which our future will grow,
until we meet again.
How we conceive of God will define what matters most to us, who we think we are, and what in the world we think we’re suppose to be doing. Our images and metaphors do concretize reality for us. (Note – there is a kind of religious honesty in this statement that seemed worth examining. This is the inevitable problem when combining a literary source and a literal mind.)
God as a male authority figure has had a good 10,000 years now to sort things out. Perhaps it’s time we give Sophia a shot.
God is not an individual being, but rather Being itself in mutual relation. (Note – Wow! Not even the Ground of All Being anymore, but instead the relationship we have with things like the ground and each other?)
Reality is relationship.
Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers:
Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate.
Remembering is an act of salvation.
Our ego is quite attached to the version of reality it has helped us construct.
It’s impossible to dump raw sewage into a river or an ocean if the river or the ocean is a source of wonder and inspiration for us. (Note – true, maybe to a point. Depends on what is being inspired in us I think.)
To really listen to Jesus is to walk the path of the banana peel, never knowing when we are going to lose our footing on his subversive wisdom. (Note — a fun new way to look at the fall?)
Creation is waiting for all of us to show up, ready and willing by the grace of Sophia, to set creation free. (Note – does this mean we are maybe setting Sophia free from us as well?)
Recommendations and Final Thoughts
Christians looking for an introduction to an ecological dressing upon their faith might find this book very useful. Sanguin’s final suggestions for change don’t necessarily change very much though, and so this is a call for a shift in attitude and interpretation first more than behaviour or belief. He makes a justification for meditation, sacred community ritual and Sabbath-keeping which are parts of the Christian tradition already. He offers the idea that Christians can look to the natural world as well as the Bible for sacred information, but he doesn’t seem very worried about how conflicting these two sources can be. He is willing to even see one of the Genesis creation myths as no longer redeemable. However, I sense there is still lot of work to do in the minds of the congregation in terms of facing the consequences of such statements.
To an extent, he is taking the tough material of some contemporary scientific dialogue and trying to shape it into a narrative that will be accessible or understood by people who may otherwise have no exposure or care for such ideas. It’s the delicate work of the preacher, after all, to inspire and guide the growth of the community while not getting in the way too much, right? To make available what may not be known or looked for.
If Christians need to put God in something in order to respect it, then Sanguin’s ideas may very well be what the people in the pews need to hear. I personally welcome any source that fosters the growth of respect towards the connections of all things of this world. But at the same time, I do worry about the time and the reworkings needed to present and re-present information that is meant to encourage change.