Squabbling children 2 : Nature as troublesome sibling

In the previous post I ruminated about nature being humanity’s sibling. I think there are a lot of interesting ‘offshoots’ in thought that could come out of this.

I’ve often heard arguments for God expressed in the form of his ‘obvious’ presence in nature. So if we see a beautiful sunset we see the beauty of God or if we see a rather nice storm we talk of the power of God and so on. I think a lot of this kind of talk veers toward extreme sentimentality. Nature is seen as benign, full of goodness, full of harmony and balance, therefore obviously reflecting God.

A few hundred years ago the majority of humanity would have disagreed. Nature was frightening, full of disease, disaster and death. Nature had to be fought and resisted. I would contend that the language in the bible reflects this historical reality where the elements of nature are fearful and fearsome so much so that only God could control it. So in other words humanity is asking God to protect it from nature.

The philosopher Zizek uses the interesting phrase “Ecology: The New Opiate of the Masses“. He seems (one never knows!) to say that our very view of nature is flawed and too sentimental. He proposes that nature is just a series of catastrophes and there is no ‘harmonious state’ that we all have been told to fight for.

I don’t agree with his rather dark analysis but I think he is very right about our sentimental view especially in Christian circles about nature. It must be said that a society which has tamed nature sees God in it. If so a dog and god don’t make much difference. They’re both tame and so lovely! So if I was to go further along the thought of seeing nature as a sibling within the framework of biblical creation then it leads to some interesting possibilities.

As of now the main one that strikes me is that ‘natural’ disasters and disease can be seen as one part of creation hurting another. We have seen little children hurt one another sometimes with no consequence but occasionally with disastrous consequences. I’m also led to rethink how I should live responsibly alongside my sibling my environment and intriguingly ask ‘how do we proclaim the gospel to ends of the earth?’

 

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