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On Faith: Why I’m a Gaian Christian

Published: Monday, September 18, 2006

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

There are numerous titles and descriptions that may cause confusion or raise eyebrows when certain terms are combined. Conservative Democrat or liberal Republican, for example, instigates thoughts of either political betrayal or plain curiosity. The latter is very accurate when I acknowledge that I am, as I deem myself, a Gaian Christian.

What, doth the curious reader inquire, is a Gaian? Basically, it is a person who adheres to the hypothesis that the Earth is one massive homeostatic, or self-stabilizing, ecosystem that regulates itself and maintains comfortable conditions for its inhabitants, human and nonhuman. Dr. James Lovelock, a renowned chemist and inventor, wrote the controversial Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, which first introduced this theory to the public at large.

I am thus a Gaian because I believe the Earth is more than a conveniently placed “rock from the sun” that is lifeless. The ancient Greeks (who you hopefully recall from Western Civ) first conferred to our home the name of “Gaea,” their conscious goddess of the earth who nurtured the people in various ways. A peaceful walk through an unmolested forest provides us with signs of life. Trees are the natural homes for a multitude of creatures. New plants sprout from where decomposing trunks lay, which in turn provide fresh nutrients for the soil.

What was once mysterious to us has since been clarified by science. Trees, plants, and algae all absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, beneficial to our survival. I could continue on with proven facts about, let’s say, natural cycles, but it would belabor my point – there is definitely more to this planet than we have allowed, and thankfully we have the power of modern science to explore these events and open our minds.

So, how does the “Christian” aspect fit in with this green ideal? Simply put, my interest in the environment is not just a hobby, it’s a biblical vocation. The cosmos is the interconnected design and masterpiece of God, who, from a religious perspective, is undeniably holy. As Psalms 24 declares, “The Earth is the Lord’s; the world, and they that dwell wherein.” If you purchased an original Van Gogh, you would undoubtedly view that piece of art with a more reverential attitude than a cheap duplicate from Border’s.

In Genesis, God calls upon humans to be stewards of all Creation, that of the land and under the waters. Yes, I know that the specific word used is “dominion,” which gives the impression that we have the authority to steamroll over nature. However, reading through the text trounces that unfortunate opinion. Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 2:15, were placed in the Garden of Eden “to work and to keep it.” I flipped through dozens of verses, and I still happened upon passages that deal with maintaining and cultivating the Earth. Nothing, from what I noticed, encouraged wholesale destruction or abuse. If you find this too abstract, just reminisce about the times when your parents faithfully entrusted you with the keys to their very precious vehicle! ‘Nuff said.

This devotion for Mother Earth had not always been manifest in my thoughts. Though I grew up on the pristine Maine coast, surrounded by bountiful state parks and magnificent forests, I was never bothered by the site of forest clear-cutting or stream pollution. I was more interested in the indoors, video arcades, movies, and my oh-so-comfortable La-Z-Boy. A personal epiphany came about two years ago, when I visited the grand Red Woods in California. Surrounded by the colossal survivors of man’s conquest of the American continent, breathing the clean air in those serene woods, I came to think, as Thoreau once did, that “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Personally, I do not consider Gaian to be a distinct credo of belief, but a universal spiritual adjective. It is a proactive mindset that, for whoever applies it, can complement one’s notions of a Creator, but also further his or her understanding about the ancient world upon which we reside. There are pro-environment Christians, Muslims and Jews, as well as other religious activists who, despite dogmatic differences, work with concurrent beliefs that humans are stewards, not dictators, of creation, and that we have the ability to save this planet from our own detrimental actions. It has united people who were once fierce enemies, as well as brought into harmony competing ideologies.

In conclusion, I fervently hope that all people will one day cherish our precious ecosystems that the God of nature, however you may perceive him, has bestowed upon us. Even when I am old, I anticipate visiting natural locales and celebrating their inherent beauty. I fear that should current policies of unconscionable degradation persist, I will mourn for a lost love, in the manner of the exiled Jews in Psalms 137. “Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Zion.”

Do your part, and help preserve and restore the only physical home we have. Be a good steward.

On Faith is a continuing feature that allows you to tell UNCG about your faith or beliefs. Previous On Faith features have covered Christianity, Paganism, Satanism, atheism, Catholicism and many others. Submissions or ideas for On Faith can be submitted to: [email protected].

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