The Day after Earth Day

The day after Earth Day the world is returning to business-as-usual. Which opens the door to a commentary on the nature of the human species within the order of nature, and the way religion supports or belittles the Earth.

Two days ago we posted about a curious and rather humorous dream of Jesus as a patient in the hospital (Jesus in the Hospital).

Some readers likely stopped reading when they saw the name Jesus. Others like or are neutral about or curious to read the story. Yet another group is distraught or confused by the thought of Jesus as a patient in the hospital; it might be okay for him to appear in the dream as the doctor, but the thought of Jesus as a patient seems over the top.

The picture of Jesus in a hospital bed is a day-after-Earth-Day issue, an every day question of how we see ourselves, the world, and Eternity.

A Jesus who was never sick a day in his life, a Jesus without bodily functions, pains, and hungers, a Jesus who didn’t feel the hammer slam his thumb at his carpenter’s bench, is a not one of us. That Jesus is a figment of imagination.

The theological tradition of the church has always insisted on the full humanity of Jesus. His humanity was only half the Chaledonian Formula (fully divine-fully man), but Jesus’ humanity is the starting point for any claim to the formula’s other half: the divinity of Christ. From roughly 70 C.E. until now fanciful representations of Jesus have diminished Jesus’ humanity. The historical Jesus is, in effect, obliterated by a dualism that views spirit and matter as mutually exclusive, as are immortality and morality, eternity and finitude. Jesus wears flesh and blood the way an actor playing a part assumes a costume to draw an audience into the play. In these versions of Christian faith, the bodily Jesus is a disguise for God, but not fully human as we are.

According to Hebrew Scripture the human species is of the earth. The human being is named “adam” (Hebrew for “earthling”). We are one with the dirt, the earth, nature. Likewise, our end is dust. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes” we say at the end, as we do every Ash Wednesday to remind ourselves before the end.

Strangely, the dream I had the other night didn’t seem strange at the time. A friend who knows the Byron who appeared in the dream wrote that she laughed and laughed because “I could totally hear you and Byron having that conversation” about whether a member of the church staff had visited Jesus in the hospital and whether to announce his hospitalization from the pulpit and pray for Jesus in the morning prayers.

The day after Earth Day I still don’t know what prompted the dream. What I do know is that the dream wouldn’t have come without a deep sense of Jesus as flesh and blood, an “adam” like us.  Only a deeper appreciation of our complete oneness with nature will open our eyes to the real Jesus, the real us, and the sacredness of creation. Matter is not evil; matter is sacred.

Jesus in the hospital is a game changer – a view of human frailty and mutual dependence in a world that too often confuses the goal of religion as the escape from mortality, the soul’s release from the prison of material existence. This dualism is notably errant and it is dangerous to the planet.

Earth is in the hospital. Will we work and pray for healing – a kind of planetary resurrection? Or will we go back to a deadly dualism – business-as-usual – the day after Earth Day?

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2015.

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