The following, in fact, is less a review, and more a short rant, so you needn’t expect a lot of coherence. Lately, though, incoherence seems to be the name of the game where the Bible is concerned. Appeals to its authority appear grounded in a quasi-mystical idolatry. The Bible fell from heaven, apparently, to be mined for spiritual nuggets for pious individuals to save their souls and shore up their ideological positions. Or else it functions as a kind of giant literary reference point harboring the guarantee of ultimate meaning. Never mind that all of this is contrary to Scripture even in terms of its genre and production. I realize that this is not a universally applicable statement, of course. There are many both in an outside the Church with dedicated commitments to making sense of Scriptural authority in intelligible and complex ways. Nevertheless as a predominant condition of North Atlantic spirituality/reading habits, I find my complaint to be valid.
Equally problematic is the unintelligible rendering of what we might call the natural world, and particularly the human response to it. Particularly since a two-fold take-over of the colour green by commercial and political forces to the point that our environmental judgement can hardly be anything but nebulous. A few months ago I began working with a faith-based conservation organization. Of course, every one of those words is quite ambiguous, but we must bracket that for now. One of the books on the bookshelf was The Green Bible. Doubly suspicious I hesitated to take it off the shelf for quite some time. Today I finally did, and found it quite a welcome surprise.
Following the tradition of the red-letter text, the editors of this particular version took it upon themselves to draw attention to creation theology, a long neglected theme in Western Christianity. The green letters appear to highlight texts that deal explicitly with the created order. What this makes plain is that the abstraction of the Bible from land, people, animals, and heavens -what in fact perpetuates its properly non-sensical or insensible diffusion- is in fact anathema to the spirit of the text and its creation.
So far I have not begun the text itself, but I have read a number of the opening essays, all of which highlight, in vimarious aspects the damage done to the earth, including its human communities, by a careless treatment of the world perpetuated by an improper Christian understanding of the world as subject absolutely to destruction, while only the brilliant souls go on to live in eternity. The fact that this is a misreading of the Biblical texts, and that this misreading has justified gross defamations and violations of all the creatures of the earth, including perhaps especially the most vulnerable human beings, is painstakingly elucidated through careful readings by the various essayists. Much of the argument I had heard before and, at least cerebrally, agreed with.
Yet it is one thing to give assent to a proposition, and quite another to be struck and convicted. In my life I have not carefully cultivated my habitat, as though each aspect of life was something beautiful and integral. Something which lives into the hope of a future of redemption. That the whole earth might be transformed into a new creation mandates the practice of care, of thoughtfulness and responsibility now. The earth, in its groaning and travail, should be given the care we ourselves would wish to receive if we lay dying painfully. So too the art of reading should be undertaken, not to distill the text and leave it hollow and fragmented, but to serve it and preserve it- to cultivate for the harvest while not depleting the soil.