How the Creation-Centered, Anti-imperial Gospel of Jesus was Betrayed by the Emergence of Imperial Christianity
At the root of environmental justice is the question of how
we envision creation. When we look out across a forest, do we see “natural
resources” or the possibility of sacred encounter? Are other creatures here for
our use, or are they “good” for their own sakes and worthy of holy honor and
This earth-affirming vision and practice, however, was
quickly engulfed by the urban, imperial context of the Greco-Roman writers
known as “the Church Fathers.” The invitation to sacred encounter shifted from
mountains and rivers to gold-glittered buildings. Imperial Christianity abandoned
the power of immediate communion with creation that was so central to Jesus.
This tragic turn presaged the Western Christian world’s
crushing of earth-based indigenous wisdom and practice in the centuries that
followed. We are the inheritors of this legacy, experienced daily in the devastating
destruction of soil, water, air and created diversity in the name of “economic
development.” Only by understanding the ancient roots of our current situation
can we be empowered to transform it toward environmental justice and sustainability.