My husband took a power saw to our old snow shovel in early March. I’ll confess, it was my idea. I needed a rod for some physio exercises. And who could have predicted 10 cm of snow delivered by a polar vortex in April in Southern Ontario? After all, I rode my bike at Christmas. Trumpet vines by the porch produced premature leaves in February.
Blame climate change. Even if disagreement prevails about the causes of changing weather patterns, the impact of global warming seemed undeniable this winter anywhere in Canada.
Hope springs eternal when Canadians flip the calendar to May. We tend to forget about nasty environmental issues. Hardy Northerners feel invigorated by longer days, sunshine and the abundance of creation. Who can lose trust in God’s bountiful generosity as we rejoice about garden daffodils and woodland wildflowers?
Please do praise our Creator this spring, but also say a prayer. Actually, why not make a commitment to continuously pray until June when the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church deliberates the findings of the Doctrine of Discovery Task Force?
This task force came to be after delegates of Synod 2012, in Iowa, accepted all recommendations presented by the Synodical working group that reviewed a report prepared by the Creation Stewardship Task Force. (In fact, the recommendation to launch a study around the Doctrine of Christian Discovery was unanimously supported after a passionate plea from the floor by an Aboriginal delegate.)
Both task forces struggled with a painful piece of history. It is this: sketchy Christian interpretations and medieval papal statements provided European Christians permission – some argue encouragement – to damage creation and the peoples who tended the earth in lands other than their own. I don’t feel very good writing this and, I imagine, most readers don’t like reading such a blatant, sweeping statement. The truth can hurt.
One of the reports states, “We know that discord in society and over land has a long history, beginning already in the garden when Adam decided to violate his God-given stewardship. Much of it comes from humans’ striving to claim the garden, claim the earth, claim creation – for themselves.”
Unfortunately, for those of us with European roots, too much of this human striving was our own. We tested God’s generosity and Mother Earth’s ability to absorb relentless attacks on her ability to restore herself. Europeans traveled the seas, claimed title to foreign lands and too often subjugated the peoples they encountered.
The Doctrine of Discovery provided the underpinning to a worldview that encouraged Europeans to proclaim God’s infinite love for all his image bearers while ignoring his commands to love our neighbours as ourselves (as equals) and be careful stewards of creation.
As one task force participant observes, “It’s really easy for churches to lean on the noble intentions of missions” and refuse to acknowledge injustices caused along the way. European Christians can’t reverse our past.
Some may feel it’s unfair to blame this current generation for the sins of our forefathers. But, as one Lakota Elder says in Kent Nerburn’s The Wolf at Twilight, “I’m not saying any of this is your fault or even that your grandparents did any of it. I’m saying it happened, and it happened on your people’s watch. You’re the one who benefited from it. It doesn’t matter that you’re way downstream from the actual events. You’re still drinking the water.”
While you watch spring rains feed your plants, take some time to read the excellent resources made available by the Christian Reformed Church. Synod mandated the amazing people on the task forces about creation and discovery to study stories Christians love to bury – deeply. We owe it to them, but more importantly ourselves, to listen to what they have to tell us. This includes Aboriginal leaders who participated in these studies and point out in love the great injustices committed to their Peoples.
Let’s face it, many hate long reports and some feel sceptical that the only thing institutional churches excel in is exactly this – producing good reports. If delving through reports isn’t on your wish list, I suggest a chat with your pastor. (After all, you’re paying for his or her salary to do some of the tough slogging!) Ask if your church can participate in a Blanket Exercise (kairosblanketexercise.org) or set up an adult education group. Also remind Christian professors and teachers that they have fiduciary responsibilities to teach history lessons that reveal gross injustices committed to Aboriginal Peoples and to the creation.
Meantime, as you plant your annuals and dahlias, rejoice in God’s grace and the promise of a New Creation.
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