In early September I’ll be leading a discussion session at my church’s annual retreat. I get to pick the material and topic (though the pastor has veto power), so I’ve been trying to narrow my options. This morning I was thumbing through a little discussion-friendly collection of sermons and essays by Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler, The Care of the Earth, and re-encountered this paragraph:
If the creation, including our fellow creatures, is impiously used apart from a gracious primeval joy in it the very richness of the creation becomes a judgment. This has a cleansing and orderly meaning for everything in the world of nature, from the sewage we dump into our streams to the cosmic sewage we dump into the fallout.
Abuse is use without grace; it is always a failure in the counterpoint of use and enjoyment. When things are not used in ways determined by joy in the things themselves, this violated potentiality of joy (timid as all things holy, but relentless and blunt in its reprisals) withdraws and leaves us, not perhaps with immediate positive damnations but with something much worse – the wan, ghastly, negative damnations of use without joy, stuff without grace, a busy, fabricating world with the shine gone off, personal relations for the nature of which we have invented the eloquent term, contacts, starting without beholding, even fornication without finding.*
Which reminds me… Hundreds of species of American birds and songbirds have declined by up 90 percent in the last 40 or so years, primarily due to habitat destruction. Of course, John Terborgh was sounding the alarm years ago.
(*”The Care of the Earth,” pages 59-60.)