"I" is for isolation

Christians to the right of me, Christians to the left of me ... watch out!

by Robert Nanninga
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 everything."
(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 unwanted children.
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.