Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability
2013-2014 Faculty

Dr. Wes Howard-Brook

  • How the Creation-Centered, Anti-imperial Gospel of Jesus was Betrayed by the Emergence of Imperial Christianity 

    image Howard Brook

    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 respect?  

    The message and life of Jesus affirmed the ancient, indigenous traditions of his ancestral, earth-based tribes. He experienced—and led his followers to experience—the divine Presence in rivers, on mountains, and in the wilderness. He saw lessons in the practices of birds and flowers. He taught on mountaintops and broke bread on hillsides. 


    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.