Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

The good Creation

19 February 2021

"Few of world's rivers are undamaged by humans" - a headline in today's Guardian. It's a sad reflection on the ease with which we treat this planet. I was tempted to use the word 'contempt', because we're all coming to realise that we don't automatically consider the planet when we're about our usual business. The world we inhabit is simply lodging while we're alive. It's a given, we don't need to wonder at it - it's just there.

Today is our bin day, and if I were to look hard at everything we've discarded, I would probably end up feeling guilty of carelessness. It's not that I wilfully throw stuff away that could possibly be recycled or reused - it's more that I don't actually think twice before opening the bin lid. It's carelessness rather than wilfulness.

There's quite a lot of argument in our region about the proposed deep coal mine near Whitehaven, with the opposition to the project focusing on the UK's commitment to cut back on damage to the environment. Compared with some of the emissions in other countries, this might seem just a small addition - but it's still on the wrong side of attempts to deal with climate change.

Do you remember that wonderful photograph of our "blue planet" taken from space? Such a beautiful image - just hanging in vast nothingness. It's only when you get closer that you see the damage that millennia of human activity has wrought. It's a good planet, worthy of all our care and consideration.

And that's the message behind the creation myths in Genesis. Genesis 1 and 2 don't tell us anything about how the planet came to be. That's the wrong question. The Genesis creation myths are stories that tried to express a fundamental assertion - that the world was born of love, not of violence.

There were many creation myths circulating in those long-distant times, simply because human beings wanted - needed - to know where human beings had come from. Without science as we know it, all they had was informed imagination. Just google "creation myths" to see how many such stories there have been. One of them, the Babylonian Enūma Eliš, describes in seven tablets the battle between the gods for supremacy, in which Tiamat, the embodiment of primordial chaos, was slain by the storm-god Marduk, and from her divided body were created the heavens and the earth. Chaos and cruelty, emanating from the gods themselves, are intrinsic to the world of humans, according to this myth.

The imaginative Hebrew story is the complete opposite. Instead of a creation born of violence, the story is of a garden, of the first humans in loving relationship, of God walking in the garden and conversing with the first humans. Adam and Eve were not tourists, however - they were gardeners, caring for the garden and ensuring its wellbeing. And that is our challenge in these trying times - to be careful of our planet and to preserve all living things in peace and harmony. We are gift to each other.

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