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Biblical-theological vision on the Integrity of Creation


My name is Anna. I am from the Marshall Islands. My people have traditionally treasured our lands and lagoons - sources of our food. My people are a sharing people who live in close interdependence, not only with one another, but also with our atoll homes. Now, however, we are troubled. Many of our young people see no future in life. Our land no longer feeds us. The more we eat of its fruit and the fish in our lagoons the sicker we become. What has happened to my people? What has happened to our land?

From 1946 to 1958 nuclear tests were held in our atolls. Some of these atolls have simply disappeared. Others are still slowly releasing radioactivity into our waters. While our older people are still suffering from radiation sickness, many of our children have genetic defects. We women feel this particularly; we think of our children.

More recently, we have been moved from some of our atolls and crowded together on Ebeye Atoll in order that our atolls could be testing grounds for advanced weapon systems. We have no traditional link with this new land; part of our identity has been taken away. Our dwelling place is overcrowded. We are poor. Our lagoon is a source of disease, not life. Yes, much has happened to our people. Much has happened to our land.

This story gives dramatic witness to the consequences of humanity's attempt to "master" creation: destruction of fisch forests and atolls; pollution of land and waterways; displacement of people from their sacred lands; injury, disease, suffering and death to innocent people. It also draws our attention to the interconnectedness of the issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. The story also shows the "structures of sin" that have assumed power over people and the whole of creation.

Throughout its history, humankind has known the tension between living in relation with creation and seeking to master it. However, in the modern era in Western civilization, and especially through the scientific revolution, the relationship to creation has fundamentally changed. Since the marriage of science and technology in the Industrial Revolution, Western culture has presumed "mastery" over creation as its God-given right and duty. Nurtured by the Englightenment, this presumed prerogative has radically transformed human life and culture and affected the rest of creation. At the most visible level, this transformation is evident in developments in such areas as transportation, various forms of energy, architecture, health care, technology, communication, fertilization, biochemistry, weaponry, the modern computer and much more. At more subtle, but no less important levels, the transformation is evident in ideas and ideologies that undergird political and economic systems, values and morality, relationships among and between cultures , relationships among and between nations, between people and the creation.'

To be sure, science and technology have done much to enhance the quality of life. However, many of these achievements have also seriously affected the earth's ecosphere, threatening its capacity to support life and have put God's creation in great periI.

The drive to have "mastery" over creation has resulted in the senseless exploitation of natural resources, the alienation of the land from people and the destruction of indigenous cultures. It ignores the experiences of oppressed peoples like the Blacks and women who suffer under its weight. It also undermines other highly developed systems of scientific, religious and philosophical thought. For example, Western medicine as it developed and spread over the world began to supplant indigenous systems of medicine which have a more holistic approach to health care and healing.

With the industrial mode has come a world view that looks on creation as manageable and at the disposal of human beings. It is a world view that does not respect humanity's dependence on the earth as mother and as the source of life and nourishment. Instead, it views the earth as something to be used and owned by a few, and "mastered" so as to maximize profits for a few. It is the power of ownership, the power to manipulate and control that is the basis of the industrial profit-centered mode of development. Earlier, Western science and technology with an industrial mindset made colonization possible, both internally and in relation to nations in the South. Now the mind-set of science and technology has become a universal mode, and has led to a militarization of the globe and a dangerous arms race that threatens many parts of the world.

Governments and ruling groups in the South have also adopted similiar views out of self-interest and to maximize their profits. Some of the consequences are the grabbing of land from and the denial of property rights to Indigenous Peoples; the control of educational and religious institutions to propagate an ideology of submission; and a relative disregard for human and all other created life.

The development of this universal industrial mindset must be seen in relation to the growth in Western culture of a philosophy of dualism, which affirms a radical divide between spirit and matter, soul and body, male and female.

Over the centuries, this dualistic philosophy has played a significant role in many Christian theologies, resulting in a belief in a hierarchy of values or in a theory of a chain-of-being that absolutizes human-centered and male-centered creation. The hierarchical view of creation puts women and the rest of creation in a position of powerlessness - to be owned, exploited and violated. Many churches and Christians also subscribe to this world view and uncritically support the economic and political forces which reinforce this world view.

Furthermore, the churches by their divisions reflect the brokenness of the creation. The churches have failed to uphold creation's integrity as a primary good and to reflect this unity within their own life. In our time, the church needs to discover its contemporary response as a co-creator with the transforming power of God in a covenant and commitment for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

Therefore, we celebrate at this time the actions of those who embrace wholeness, and mention the following as representative of many others:

  • We celebrate the life affirming actions of Christians who participate in movements for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
  • We celebrate the women and men who through symbolic actions, like the Day of the Tree celebrated in Benin, raise the awareness of their communities to the strength of united action.
  • We celebrate the Chipko and Apiko movements in India where women protect with their own bodies the trees that are to be cut down by logging companies.
  • We celebrate the actions of the Christians in the Philippines who hinder by protest actions the transportation of trees by logging companies exploiting the forest resources.
  • We celebrate the sharing and solidarity women experience in global ecumenical movements like the World Day of Prayer and the Fellowship of the Least Coin, in which they focus on issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation, and make networks of commitment to work for the wholeness of creation.
  • We celebrate the actions of church groups and other movements particularly in Europe and North America who have taken up the concern to reduce pollution and to care for the earth. In particular, we commend the efforts of those who seek the reduction of the causes of acid rain, the prevention of the poisoning of ground waters through chemical fertilization of farmlands, and the elimination of nuclear and other hazardous wastes.

The experiences of brokenness and yearnings for wholeness are evident everywhere. Perspectives from the experiences of women, Indigenous Peoples, the ecological struggle, the "second world" and Peoples of other Faiths are given both to show the pervasiveness of the concern for the integrity of creation and to indicate the variety of ways in which this concern is expressed.

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