Monday, May 15, 2006
The Wild God's Grace
A nice piece I found in some old papers today while looking for something else. This article appeared in SUNSTONE, August, 1990. It's written by an old acquaintence, Levi S. Peterson, and was presented at the 1990 Washington D.C. Symposium.
A MORMON EVOLUTIONIST AND THE WILD GOD'S GRACE
...Prairie dogs are rodents which live in burrows. In prehistoric America their subterranean dwellings covered hundreds of miles of grassy plains. Viewing them, I thought of the birds to whom St. Francis of Assisi preached, for these prairie dogs seemed like a congregation of worshipers--curious, attentive, and devout. I join St. Francis in declaring the plants and animals of the earth to be my closest brothers and sisters. I rely on my mute intuitions to inform me that the impulse to to live I find everywhere on this fecund earth, in grasses and algae and pine trees as well as in prairie dogs and human beings is godly. This inorganic planet of magma, rock, water and air, is divine; but even more divine is the life that has occupied it and made it home. I love the wild world because it is so replete with an unapologetic impulse to live. The plants and animals claim their birthright. They do not agonize over duty; they listen to an inner commandment and strive to exist. And in their presence I worship, for God has spoken them, and they are his Word.
...I do not limit culpability among animals to the carnivores, for herbivores are guilty of maiming and killing plant life. For that matter, plants too participate in evil as they ingest, inhibit, and kill other plants or animals. It is the inborn curse of the mortal order whereby all living things are under the grim necessity of devouring other life. To achieve the goodness of developing my own life and the lives of other human beings and the lives of the plants and animals I choose to favor, I must sacrifice innumerable other plants and animals.
...I do not try to clear God of complicity in this tragic state of affairs. It was God who ordained that the original protoplasm from which life has evolved should be mortal. So on Judgement Day, if there is to be a Judgement Day, God will stand indicted under a law of his own devising. On that day I will be ready to forgive God, as I hope he will forgive me. I will forgive him because I do not believe he can intervene in the natural order he has established. My only certitude regarding God is this: he is the creative force of the cosmos which expresses itself in natural law. But of course, I am pleased to imagine, to hope, he is much more as well. I hope God is the guarantor of certain outrageous miracles, one of which is the immortality of individual human beings...I hope he is the supernatural destiny toward which consciousness and spirit in the natural world are tending.
...Each Sunday as I partake of the sacrament, I devote a portion of my meditation to a prayer for pardon. I do not ask Christ to forgive me, because I do not believe he has ever condemned me...I must forgive myself, over and over for failing to be a saint. I affirm that the best and purest expression of God in this wide universe is in the imperative of the human conscience toward self-sacrifice in behalf of others. "If any man will come after me," said Jesus, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me...." The cross of our new ecologically oriented age is vaster, weightier, more hopeless of being borne than the old cross of earlier ages. We are asked to be eco-saints. Though our duty to our own kind is in nothing diminished, we are now asked to love and cherish the wild world as well. We are asked to covenant ourselves to the cause of clean air, pure water, and natural soil. We are asked to engage ourselves in behalf of snails, meadowlarks, kelp, moths, and earthworms, too. The living world is our temple and we are asked to keep it holy."
(It's LONG but it's worth it.)