|by Tom Bohache|
|Notes from CambridgePart 2
Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a perfect venue in which to consider the topics of my two courses this semester"God and Creation" and "Feminist Theories and Theologizing"for Cambridge is both stunningly beautiful as regards nature and also a place rich in political and sexual consciousness. When I selected these two classes I did not think that they would necessarily fit together; rather, I chose them because their subjects interested me as I envisioned my overall educational program. Nevertheless, as I have embarked upon mountains of reading, the two topics have become intertwined in my mind and spirit.
"Creation" has been narrowly construed in Western consciousness as a stage upon which the drama of humanity unfolds. An anthropocentric reading of Judeo-Christian scripture has seen nature as provided by the Divine for the comfort of humankind. The human creature was given "dominion" over the land, its plant-life, and non-human animals; this dominion has been interpreted as exclusive use which often results in abuse and exhaustion of the earth and its resources. This Western view is in stark contrast to views of nature found in Eastern and indigenous traditions, in which the earth and non-human life is visualized in partnership with humankind: A Chinese etching my professor showed our class portrays this difference in perspective quite graphically by depicting the mountains and the clouds as the largest parts of creation, while the male and female figures are the smallest; Native American creation myths feature the animal kingdom co-creating the world with the Divine.
In the West, Greek philosophical dualisms have been superimposed upon our interpretations of divinity, humanity, and nature. Thus, we see a hierarchy of polarities used to express relationships: divine vs. human, human vs. non-human, spirit vs. matter, mind vs. body, male vs. female, heterosexual vs. homosexualwith the second part of the pair usually seen as the inferior of the two. A reclaiming of non-Western categories and a critique of traditional theology and anthropology can result in a more holistic view of the world. We can be "holy" and "whole" if we are willing to re-imagine the links between creator and creation, physical and spiritual, and masculine and feminine; when we realize that each of these categories has been created or affected by culture, we are able to mend our stance toward persons and nature by dispensing with false essentialism and universality. We then can embrace naturehumankind and otherkind, male and female, straight and gayin all of its diversity, appreciating that these categories are not necessarily fixed, but are fluid and open to interpretation. When we do so, we will realize that our interconnection with everything and everyone else allows us to change what we don't like and create other opportunities for holiness and wholeness besides those we already experience. When we see our world in this waynon-static, forever changing, and open to possibilitieswe will realize that it is never too late to start fresh, never too late to fulfill a dream, never too late to alter what troubles us.
Moreover, a non-static view of creation can make a powerful political contribution to today's world. If we are willing to acknowledge that human categories of male and female, masculine and feminine, and heterosexual and homosexual are artificially constructed by human beings, we will be able to see that our physical realities (for example, a white, straight, man; a black, lesbian, woman; or a biracial, bisexual, transgendered person) need not determine our destinies. We are not locked in to a certain set of rules or behaviors or beliefs simply by virtue of our social location. Just because our creation myths talk about "Adam and Eve" does not mean that there is no room for "Adam and Steve" and "Amy and Eve." Just because civilizations have heretofore recognized and blessed certain types of unions does not mean that there are not other types to be included and celebrated. Just because culture has enthroned a personal, theistic god does not mean that there is no room for non-theistic ways of approaching the sacred.
In other words, when we envision creation as unlimited, we find that both the creature and the creator are unlimited as well; and when we begin to inform our everyday decisions and ways of life by means of this mindset, we begin to recast our political world, our culture, and our civilization according to a model of radical openness and creativity. Blessed be!
Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. H. Paul Santmire, The Travail of Nature: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985.
The Rev. Tom Bohache has pastored the Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth for seven years. Currently on a three-month sabbatical, Tom has just begun a doctoral program at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He receives email at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 14 October 14, 2005