Flourish magazine, Spring 2011
What do we miss when creation goes missing?
As wealthy (on a global scale) moderns in a frenetic, violent world, we have been taught, implicitly and explicitly, to ignore creation. We quickly learn that the sphere of influence and importance is the system of concrete and asphalt that carries us through each day; the invisible networks that inform us, entertain us, and dissatisfy us so we want more; the stone and steel structures we live in, work in, and drive; and the scraps of paper and metal that determine our worth.
The natural world is at best a playground or a collection of utilitarian resources; at worst, it is just scenery.
So what does it matter when that natural world disappears from view—whether through actual disappearance (as in the loss of 150-200 species a day), or because it is hidden from view (like egg-laying hens confined away from any natural light), or because we ignore its existence (Americans’ use of the National Parks System has declined by as much as 25% since 1987)?
According to Nathan Foster, interviewed in this issue of Flourish, such a loss hamstrings our
What do we miss when creation goes missing?
knowledge of God and, by extension, our evangelism. Nathan, son of Richard Foster, whose 1978 book Celebration of Discipline has enhanced the discipleship of countless Christians, wrote his 2010 book, Wisdom Chaser, about climbing Colorado’s highest peaks with his famous dad. Outdoorsmanship is something Nathan also pursued with at-risk youth he took on wilderness treks. Those trips got sad and aggressive teens asking questions about their lives and the One who gives life. Given experiences like these, Nathan says, “We need to preserve areas so that generations in the future are able to learn about God by being in his creation . . . Supporting environmental efforts is a form of evangelism.”
When creation goes missing from our view, our development as the people God intended us to be is also imperiled. In a unique look at what animals, in particular, teach us, Karen Swallow Prior, Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Liberty University, shows that our favorite literary animal heroes (Black Beauty, Charlotte and Wilbur, the Black Stallion) don’t exist simply for their cuteness factor. The inclusion of animals into much great literature has been for the purpose of encouraging compassion in its readers. Poet Abigail Carroll elicits a more ineffable sense of animals’ value in one of her two poems here, “The Honor of Animals.”
This issue’s “Global Community” column, on the work of the Luke Society in Nicaragua, explores the changes in public health that can occur when the value of a healthy creation is recognized and encouraged. The empowerment of rural Nicaraguan leaders, such as Doña Fabia in this story, strengthens communities through wise ecological stewardship. The work of Hope CSA, highlighted in this issue’s “Where We Live” column, strengthens communities of faith as their leaders rest and grow in their ministry through the unique work of a special family farm.
The world may devalue the development of compassion, the health of communities, and the need to know God better, but as Christians we are not of the world, and we do care about these concerns. Our very lives ought to be different to reflect priorities like these, which is what Jan Johnson emphasizes in “Coping with Plenty,” excerpted here from her forthcoming book, Abundant Simplicity. Johnson hones in on self-indulgence as the destructive force that makes us miss—and eventually destroys—what is most important. She then provides a grace-filled, practical approach to employing the antidote to self-indulgence: simplicity in our daily lives. Simplicity, she argues, opens our lives to what we have been missing.
Our hope is that through Flourish magazine and the Flourish blog, your spirit is regularly opened and made more receptive to God through time spent in and caring for his creation. But Flourish is one of the many endangered species out there: a resource that could easily go missing.
As a staff we have sacrificed a lot to bring some of the best Christian thinking on creation care to this website,
Flourish is one of the many endangered species out there. Help keep it going through 2011.
including writing by Wendell Berry, Lisa Graham McMinn, Fred Bahnson, Margaret Feinberg, Steven Bouma-Prediger, Luci Shaw, and David P. Gushee. Nowhere else are Christians being encouraged to engage with environmental issues as critically or as hopefully.
There is so much more we want to do. But we can’t do it without your help. To learn more about our plans for Flourish’s future—and to help make sure we have a future!—view our latest fundraising letter and sign up to keep in touch via our monthly newsletter. Please donate today to keep Flourish going through 2011.
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