Cursing the Darkness

BeeNovember 30th is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. This evening, once again in Brighton, as in many other places around the world, there will be a procession and ritual to mourn the loss of animals and plants that have become extinct. We are in the 6th Mass Extinction Event in the Earth’s history and it is a tragedy for all life on Earth.

In this culture of progress, it is unfashionable, perhaps even subversive, to dwell on the dark side of things. We are supposed to be optimistic and believe that we will be clever enough to find a fix for every and any problem. Cancer, climate change, extinction – they will all be fixed – stop being so gloomy and join the party. Light a candle if you must, it’s better than cursing the darkness.

I think it’s time to do some cursing. The dark is dark and we need to say so, not least because living beings are suffering injustice, violence and death on the dark side of progress and shouldn’t their voice be heard?

Lament is an uncomfortable form of poetry. It screams in pain and curses the darkness. It is hard to hear. In the bible, lament is a kind of rogue genre, questioning the conventions of religion and challenging the way the world is. I think we would benefit from recovering the power of lament, because I think it is a lever that can change the world.

Last year I wrote a little about the Remembrance Day for Lost Species, in a post called ‘Loss‘. This year, I have written more. In fact, I’ve written a longish paper on the theme of Lament and why I think it could be important for us in these dark days – for the sake of endangered animals and plants and all victims of injustice, greed and complacency. Click here to read it, or use the Articles menu above. As always, I welcome constructive comments.

Psalm 147 – Bringing everything together

This is just to flag up, for those of you who like such things, that I’ve posted a new Creation Psalm bible reflection.

Psalm 147 brings several things together, including Catholics and Protestants. Impossible, do I hear you say? Well – have a look and see how the psalmist managed to do what the ecumenical movement has so far failed to do, and how they managed to do it hundreds of years before there even were such things as Catholics and Protestants. I make other points as well, about creation and salvation, time and space and… well, why not just click here and read it?

Noah

For those of you who like bible studies, I’ve written a new one about the end of the story of Noah. Click on the link here – Noah After The Flood – or use the menu. It’s developed from an older study and explores the darker side of the story and its challenges for these days of extinction and rising seas.

For those of you who don’t like bible studies, I’ll be writing something else soon!

 

Creation Psalms

I am about two-thirds of the way through a sabbatical, in which I’ve been exploring connections with nature. There are a few posts here on the blog about this, but a new project that’s emerging from this period of focused study and prayer is a website called Creation Psalms. I’m writing some reflections on some of the psalms that deal with nature/creation, incorporating some of the insights I’ve been getting from staring at trees and reading the occasional book.

It won’t appeal to everyone, but here you are, if you’re interested:

http:\\creationpsalms.wordpress.com

 

Moses the Eco-Warrior

A couple of things I’ve read recently have mentioned the Exodus story in relation to climate change.  Move over Genesis – you’re just too clichéd, with your garden and your God saying creation is good and, by the way, let’s not mention filling the earth and having mastery over it.  We need liberation songs.  We need stories of freedom for captives.  We need Exodus to take us through the desert to a land flowing with beer and chocolate (or whatever passes for milk and honey in your imagination).

Michael Meacher MP, writing in Resurgence Magazine (March/April 2014), refers to the part of the Exodus story where Pharaoh’s heart is repeatedly hardened (by God, somewhat embarrassingly – ahem, move on).  Meacher describes how Pharaoh “will not give up the way of life to which he is addicted”, i.e. a life that relies on a nation of slaves.  Today, the rich world’s addiction to stuff requires us to harden our hearts to the poor who are suffering most because of our way of life.  We know about slavery, plantations, loss of habitats, deforestation, tar sands, intensive industrial farming, flooding, species loss, refugees, and so on.  Yet we have to harden our hearts to it all because otherwise we would have to change beyond imagination.  We dare not set God’s people free.

In the same article, Meacher refers to the story of the Golden Calf, cast by Moses’ brother, Aaron, while Moses is up the mountain receiving the law from God.  Much of that law addressed how the Israelites could live together in such a way that all could thrive – a combination of instructions about worship and justice that Jesus (amongst others) later summed up as “Love God” and “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  Instead, the people worshipped a golden calf.  Meacher says, “The threat to religion doesn’t come from the likes of Richard Dawkins, but from out-of-town hypermarkets … The poverty of affluence has left a profound spiritual void in the West, and this remains an emptiness we all need to be awakened from.”

I have just started reading Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill’s book, ‘Enough is Enough’ (and, yes, I do have that song running in my head).  Outlining their case for a Steady State Economy, as opposed to one based on endless growth, the book is subtitled, “Building a sustainable economy in a world of finite resources.”  Sounds good.  In his foreword, Herman Daly refers to the provision of manna to the Israelites in the desert.  In the Exodus story, each morning (except for the Sabbath), the Israelites found a wafer-like substance lying on the ground, and this provided their basic food for forty years of desert wandering.  They called the substance, Manna. Exodus 16.18 says that when they measured it out, “Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage.”  Each had gathered enough for that day.  If anyone tried to keep some over, it spoiled overnight.  The exception was the day before the Sabbath, when they gathered enough for two days and it didn’t spoil.  God provided enough.  It wasn’t a luxury diet, but it was enough.  No one could sell an excess and get rich, and no one starved.  There was enough for everyone.

We need to learn how to be content with enough, and build that ‘enough’ into our economics and our culture.  In order to do that, we need to be set free from our addiction to ever more stuff.  Perhaps the path to our freedom lies through the desert, learning to trust God, learning to love with softened hearts, and learning to be happy with little (but enough).

Welcome to Lent.