Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day: LGBTQ theologians join in protecting the environment

Kittredge Cherry visits a green-cross sculpture honoring the early environmental movement

Protection of the environment is celebrated today on Earth Day (April 22) by people around the world, including queer theologians.

LGBT Christians are transforming the larger church with a message of inclusion and embodiment, showing that God’s all-inclusive love goes beyond traditional categories to welcome every sexual orientation and gender expression. A few pioneering LGBTQ green theologians are taking the next step to extend the church’s welcome to the earth itself.

“My passion for the Earth came with the recognition of queer Christian inclusion and the radical inclusive mission of Jesus,” says Robert Shore-Goss, a theologian and pastor who brings together queer and green spiritualities.

He wrote a comprehensive chapter called “Grace is Green: Incarnational Inclusivities” in the 2013 book that he co-edited, “Queering Christianity: Finding a Place at the Table for LGBTQI Christians.”

“Christian blood atonement theologies have historically been violent, if not bloodthirsty -- scapegoating Jews, women, Muslims, indigenous peoples, non-Christian religions, and LGBT folks,” he writes in the chapter. By contrast, he says, “The green cross includes all life everywhere.”

Shore-Goss puts queer green theology into practice as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church / United Church of Christ in the Valley in North Hollywood, California. His mostly LGBT congregation installed solar panels, jack-hammered an asphalt area to make a garden on their property, and found many ways to cut their church’s use of energy and water. As described on his website, water conservation became a spiritual discipline for Lent and gardening was an Easter practice.

“We understood the Earth as a living being, producing and evolving diverse life forms,” he wrote in his chapter. “We made the Earth a member of the church on one Earth Day Sunday to symbolize the great commandment that loving God and loving our neighbor included loving the Earth and taking responsibility for diversity of life.”

Green spirituality has been explored by many people, from ecofeminists to radical faeries, but Shore-Goss is among only a handful of theologians who have written about the connections between ecology and Christianity from a LGBTQ perspective. Others include:

* Kathy Rudy, lesbian feminist activist and associate professor of ethics and women’s studies at Duke University, applies her experience of the LGBT liberation movement to animal rights in her book “Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy.”

* John Michael Clark, who taught English and religious studies at various colleges in Atlanta, shows the contribution that the LGBT liberation movement makes in an eclectic ecological vision with his book“Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective.”

* Daniel T. Spencer, who teaches environmental studies at the University of Montana, weaves together gay and ecological perspectives to build a solid Christian ethic in his book “Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic.”

The photo at the top of this post shows Jesus in Love founder Kittredge Cherry with a monument honoring the early environmental movement. A female Christ figure stands in front of a green cross with arms outstretched over a pile of tree stumps and sawed-off logs. Her plea is stated on the pedestal: “Help save our trees.”

“Miss American Green Cross” was sculpted in 1928 by artist Frederick Willard Potter for the Green Cross Society, an ecology group based in Glendale, California. According to press reports, “It is the first of dozens of statues to be erected all over America as part of the doctrine of saving the nation’s forests.” The organization disbanded in the 1930s, but the statue and its strikingly contemporary message remain.

Some have mistaken the mysterious Miss American Green Cross for Joan of Arc about to be burned at the stake. But this goddess-like bronze figure appears to be a female Christ, embodiment of Holy Wisdom (Sophia). She seems to express the theology of the green cross described by Shore-Goss and others, drawing parallels between the destruction of forests and the crucifixion of Jesus. The sculpture is located at the Brand Library in Glendale. The photographer was Audrey Lockwood.

Cherry, a lesbian author ordained by MCC, wrote an animal blessing in the book she co-edited, “Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies and Celebrations.”Here is an excerpt:

Animals are important in the lives of many lesbian and gay people. Cats and dogs often become surrogate children for same-sex couples…. The discrimination faced by lesbian and gay people is linked to attitudes that devalue animals and the rest of nature. Western thought sets up dualities in which spirit is better than body, male is better than female, human is better than animal, intellectual is better than sexual -- and sexuality defines gays and lesbians in this way of thinking. Gays and lesbians, like nature itself, are seen as something that must be controlled. The result is a sterile, exclusive church and a polluted earth. Many lesbians and gay men seek to remedy this situation by healing the spirit-body split in Christianity. For all these reasons, it is appropriate to bless animals in the context of lesbian and gay spirituality….

May we remember that humanity is but one small, fragile strand in the interdependent web of life.

May we remember that we human beings are not the only ones created to look at flowers, to taste cool water, to listen to the wind, and to feel the earth beneath our feet.

May we remember that what befalls the earth befalls all who live on her lovely shores.

May we never forget that to harm the Earth is to scorn the Creator.

We pray for the animals who are our companions.

We pray for the wildlife displaced as we develop land for human use.

We pray for the animals who work for us, including the seeing-eye dog, the carriage horse, and the laboratory rat.

We pray for animals who are bought and sold, animals who live in cages, and animals who live free.

We pray for animals indigenous to this particular place, including [name a few species].

We pray for the animals who have made our lives possible by becoming food and clothing for us.

We pray for endangered species, including the giant panda and the California condor, and we remember the dinosaurs, passenger pigeons, and other extinct species.

We pray for all human beings who have felt degraded by being compared to animals.

God, we know that you hear all or prayers, those spoken and those that we hold silently in our hearts. We claim your loving presence with us now.

Related links:
Pope Francis Steps Up Campaign on Climate Change, to Conservatives’ Alarm (New York Times

This post is part of the LGBT Calendar series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. The series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people of faith and our allies.

Copyright © Kittredge Cherry. All rights reserved.
Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts


susan pastorek said...

wonderful, thank-you, happy earth day, the whole earth is sacred, I know that in my soul, in my heart, in every breath I take. Holy Mother, holy earth!

James Martinez said...

God bless you and thank you for writing this piece I'm sure it'll inspire many. Grace and peace to you my friend.

James Martinez