"I" is for isolation
by Robert Nanninga
Christians to the right of me, Christians to the left of me ... watch
he foundation for this column is my belief that organized
Christianity has failed the environment, America, and even Christians themselves.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don't have any answers;
what I do know is that neither does anyone else.
From the very beginning, Christianity has made a point
to tell everyone else that their's was the one true faith. Early Christians
weren't fed to the lions because they tasted good. They were persecuted
because they continually condemned the faith of all others. By setting themselves
apart, they defined their relationship with the world as one of conflict:
man against nature, man against man, and man against himself.
Most Christians believe in the theory of Creation. Poof!
I give you Man in my own image (we're lucky God wasn't a vulture). So now
we're in the Garden Of Eden, living in harmony with the lion and the lamb,
completely naked, oblivious to the concepts of right and wrong. Then temptation
rears its ugly head and the whole apple incident occurs: an example of man
against himself. Because Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the
Tree of Knowledge, they were banished from the garden.
I believe this is why Christians consider themselves
to be outside of the natural order of things. In Genesis, God conveniently
gave them the job to rule over the fish of the seas, the birds of the air
and all the creatures that move along the ground. Also, on the sixth day
God told man that "everything that has the breath of life in it, I
give every green plant for food." (I always knew that vegetarians were
responding to their true self.)
Next, fast forward to Noah and his Ark. According to
Genesis 9:1, after the flood receded from the Earth, God told Noah, "Be
fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of
you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the
air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish
of the sea, they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves
will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you
(Regarding the fear and dread part: should someone have
informed the dodo bird that it was supposed to be afraid before it was beaten
into extinction? Notice I didn't say hunted. The dodo just stood there,
not knowing it was supposed to run.)
So to review: animals fear man, man fears God and God
fears nothing. That part about "increase in number and fill the earth"
I don't think was supposed to be taken literally.
Throughout the ensuing history, mankind - and the Christian
church in particular - has deemed it necessary to destroy anything they
do not understand, anything that conflicts with what they know to be true,
or anything they can't control. As Christianity set about subduing the indigenous
people of Northern Europe, it built churches in its wake. The very idea
of a deity that forced people indoors and away from the earth, which was
the center of their lives, was as foreign as the invaders themselves. The
Druids, who had the earth as their spiritual compass and guide, were put
to the sword by men who saw them as evil heathens. The invading Christians
could not accept a faith that included sex as ritual and women as equal.
Knowing that oak trees were sacred to the Druids, the Christians cut down
the trees as a way to demoralize those they were trying to convert.
The Christian church also set about destroying traditional
medicine. Midwives and healers were labeled witches and burned at the stake.
Using herbs that had sustained people for centuries was now considered the
devil's work, as was all ritual.
Late in the 17th century, a group of Puritans deemed
the church of England too controlling and sought religious freedom in the
new world. To them, this meant saving the Native Americans from their wicked
ways, and if that didn't work, to kill them. The colonials were determined
to have one nation under God - their God, to be exact. This meant making
room by clearing the Eastern seaboard of forests and the animals that lived
within them. It also meant plundering all the natural resources it could
to sell to European markets.
After winning our freedom from King George, we were
more than content to let the enslavement of Africans make us rich. Not only
did Christians consider themselves superior to animals, they also considered
people of color as beasts of burden to be sold at will. The tragedy is that
these slave owners sat in church on Sundays, secure in the fact that they
were doing God's work. Having slaves work the land and themselves to death
for the production of cotton and tobacco seemed perfectly reasonable.
Over the years, our God-fearing nation has waged war
on the heathen tribes of Native America, decimated wildlife populations,
and plowed everything in its wake. Rivers were dammed, mountains were mined
and forests felled, all in the name of taming the wild frontier. And profit,
let's not forget profit. If you doubt that, just remember that every piece
of American currency carries the mantra "In God We Trust."
Where has that agenda left us? It has left us with a Christian minority
in Congress deciding it is a God-given right to fill in wetlands if there
is a profit to be made from it. That agenda supports the belief that man
can drive other species to extinction if protecting biodiversity is considered
"not cost effective." It has left us with a church that opposes
birth control in the face of overpopulation, and advocates the birth of
I'm not saying all Christians are bad - some of my best
friends sit in church every Sunday before going out to plant a tree. However,
the collective soul of the Christian Church must come down to Earth and
join the rest of us. The real revelations are not in the back of a dusty
book but in the heart of the garden they feel too blessed to enter.
Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and
active member of the Green and environmental community.