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Spiritual Temperaments – Activists energised by struggling for justice (5 of 9)

April 20, 2010
 
“Activists serve a God of justice, and their favourite Scripture is often the account of Jesus cleansing the temple…Activists may adopt either social or evangelistic causes, but they find their home in the rough-and-tumble world of confrontation. They are energised more by interaction with others, even in conflict, than by being alone or in small groups.”
 
Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas, Page 26 

 

When I think of activists, I think of the charities and social campaign groups, such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, The Children’s Society, Christian Aid, (C.A.P.) Christians Against Poverty, Amnesty International etc. The people who work for these organisations are tireless in campaigning for social and/or environmental justice in our country, but also in other nations across the globe.

Greenpeace is one charitable organisation that often makes me think and question the selfishness of my  21st Century consumer-driven lifestyle. These environmental activists campaign for ordinary people, politicians and big-businesses to stop abusing the natural world and to take better care of the living organisms of the earth’s bio-sphere.

Deforestation in Amazon rainforest

Recently they campaigned against Nestle using palm oil in their chocolate bars, such as Kit Kat. It took the careful attention, boundless energy and concerted efforts of activists at Greenpeace to highlight for the public the devastatingly negative consequences of a large chocolate manufacturer purchasing palm oil from South East Asia, where rainforests are being torn down to grow featureless miles upon miles of palm oil plants. As a consequence, the natural inhabitants of the rainforests such as Orangutans are being slaughtered through the deforestation process. It’s a chilling connection, which few of us would make where it not for the efforts of Greenpeace and other environmentalists’ activism.

Environmental activism is just one form of campaigning which those people who have an activist spiritual temperament might participate in. For me, although organisations such as Greenpeace have no particular religious affiliation, their dedicated work to alerting peoples’ attentions to the cruelty of modern exploitative, ‘developmental’ processes towards many animals, fish, sea mammals, birds, plants and other natural creatures is part of God’s mandate to humanity, as recorded at the beginning of the Bible:

Genesis 1 (The Message)

Heaven and Earth

 1-2First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

 3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
      And light appeared.
   God saw that light was good
      and separated light from dark.
   God named the light Day,
      he named the dark Night.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day One.

 6-8 God spoke: “Sky! In the middle of the waters;
      separate water from water!”
   God made sky.
   He separated the water under sky
      from the water above sky.
   And there it was:
      he named sky the Heavens;
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Two.

 9-10 God spoke: “Separate!
      Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
   Land, appear!”
      And there it was.
   God named the land Earth.
      He named the pooled water Ocean.
   God saw that it was good.

 

 

 11-13 God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
      of seed-bearing plants,
   Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
      And there it was.
   Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
      all varieties,
   And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
      God saw that it was good.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Three.

 14-15 God spoke: “Lights! Come out!
      Shine in Heaven’s sky!
   Separate Day from Night.
      Mark seasons and days and years,
   Lights in Heaven’s sky to give light to Earth.”
      And there it was.

 16-19 God made two big lights, the larger
      to take charge of Day,
   The smaller to be in charge of Night;
      and he made the stars.
   God placed them in the heavenly sky
      to light up Earth
   And oversee Day and Night,
      to separate light and dark.
   God saw that it was good.
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Four.

 20-23 God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!
      Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!”
   God created the huge whales,
      all the swarm of life in the waters,
   And every kind and species of flying birds.
      God saw that it was good.
   God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Ocean!
      Birds, reproduce on Earth!”
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Five.

 24-25 God spoke: “Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind:
      cattle and reptiles and wild animals—all kinds.”
   And there it was:
      wild animals of every kind,
   Cattle of all kinds, every sort of reptile and bug.
      God saw that it was good.

 26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
      reflecting our nature
   So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
      the birds in the air, the cattle,
   And, yes, Earth itself,
      and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
   God created human beings;
      he created them godlike,
   Reflecting God’s nature.
      He created them male and female.
   God blessed them:
      “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
   
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
      for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

 29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
      every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
   And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
      given them to you for food.
   To all animals and all birds,
      everything that moves and breathes,
   I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
      And there it was.

 31 God looked over everything he had made;
      it was so good, so very good!
   It was evening, it was morning—
   Day Six.
 

I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of this ancient, ancient passage of the Bible from the beginnings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Peterson channels something of the creative energy and joy that Jews, Christians, Muslims especially believe took place at the beginnings of the Universe and formation of the Earth, so many eons ago.

Peterson is also careful to translate the word which for hundreds of years was translated as ‘have dominion over’ in the King James Version of the Bible, as ‘be responsible for’. Some may argue over the linguistic accuracy, yet from what we know now from science and environmental studies that humanity has used the mandate to have dominion over nature purely to exploit and capitalise upon it, bringing the planet ever closer to complete destruction that surely God’s intention was for human beings to care and steward for nature, not rape it for personal profit.

Activists may often make us feel unease in our comfortable lifestyles, when they draw our attentions off material gain and succeeding according to society’s materialistic goals, and instead point to the needless suffering and agony in the world due to humanity’s inherent selfishness and greed. However, they are some of the prophets of our generation and their sobering message is a very much-needed in a culture of ‘me’ orientated hedonism.

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