God Stages an Ecological Intervention

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A male polar bear kills a cub despite the best efforts of its mother to protect it. A landslide wipes out another village in Guatemala, while a tsunami devastates coastal villages in Thailand. Refugees swarm borders in Europe as they flee carnage in Syria and Iraq. Can we really say that creation reflects a loving God? At best we can say, “only in part.” I think God would agree with this assessment. To my way of thinking, that’s why he staged an intervention.*

When we think of interventions, we think of relatives or friends swooping up a loved one oppressed by drugs, taking them to a rehab center, and dropping them off hoping the people there can turn their loved one around. However, when God stages an intervention, God enters rehab for them.

Why would God do that? It has to do with the nature of God. From the Christian perspective we might best understand God as a set of three dynamic relationships, three relationships between dancers or jazz musicians who riff off of one so effortlessly that they have become a single entity onto themselves – a trio. How do they pull this off? By giving themselves totally to one another and by responding to each other with no holding back.

When we think about it, each of the members of this community is at home. When we truly are at home, our household helps us become who we are. Rather than force us into some image of what they want us to be, they give us the freedom to discover who we are and to blossom into it. Children who are at home never have to leave it because they never are forced to stay. They take their web of supportive relationships with them wherever they go, just as a hermit crab never leaves its shell behind.

I like to call the trio we call God “the Godhome” (instead of the Godhead) because the members of the trio are totally at home with one another. It’s in their nature. And, when they create, it’s in their nature to want their creations to be at home with them and with one another.

Any parent knows that their children don’t always reflect the dreams and goals they have for them. They also know that if they try to force their children to be something they aren’t, then they love the idea of their children more than the children themselves. Love requires giving children the freedom to develop along their own paths and to be their own persons.

God doesn’t force creation into some mold either. God delights in creation and loves it, even when it fails to reflect her love and compassion. But, God really doesn’t like suffering, misery, and the resulting death. So, that’s why God decided to stage an intervention by becoming part of creation and going through rehab for it.

To me this is the meaning of part of the Godhome becoming human in Jesus and allowing creation to torture and kill him. God took on all that it means to be human – its joys along with its suffering, destruction, oppression, and injustice. Rather than force creation into God’s mold, God joined creation and walked with it – suffering, dying, and then coming back to life. God changed the very nature of nature, so that death and suffering no longer has the last word. God changed the rules of the game, starting a process by which ultimately the lion will lie down with the lamb and the child will play with the adder.

Because Christianity grew out of Judaism, historically Christians have called Jesus’ death the “atonement,” meaning that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for humanity’s turning away from God. I prefer instead to think of his incarnation and death as the “at-one-ment,” whereby Jesus made possible our becoming one with God, of joining in the dance. Or, we might think of it as the “at-home-ment.”

I’m not very interested in God “saving my soul” so I can “go to heaven.” I get really turned on, however, when I remember that God wants to save all of me – body, mind and spirit – and everything else around me. God wants nothing more than to transform the entire world, for it to be at home. That’s a project I get excited about.

How God will bring about this transformation God isn’t saying. God has, however, made two things clear. One, he’s serious about doing it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble. And two, she needs a few good men and women to sign up. I, for one, am in.

*I will use both feminine and masculine terms to refer to God because God is neither one – God reflects both. It takes both male and female humans to help us understand the nature of God.

More about this author
Certificate in Contemplation and Creation Care
Center for Religion and Environment at Sewanee: The University of the South

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Author: Robert "Robin" Gottfried

Director, Center for Religion and Environment at Sewanee: The University of the South, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Sewanee. Contemplative Christian, musician, blogger for the Huffington Post on religion and environment, and hiker living on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee.

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