Wendell Berry on the christian religion

In one of his (sadly copyrighted) books of essays this Wendell Berry tries to move christianity towards a more ecological and less destructive self-interpretation:

our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into his face, as of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them. To Dante, “despising Nature and her gifts” was a violence against God. We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it. We have the right to use the gifts of Nature, but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need, but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property. The usurer, Dante said, “condemns Nature. . . for he puts his hope elsewhere.”

This is very good and should very much be preached accross the USA. Of course, this is quickly becoming the very essence of european christianity and has been an inherent part of it for quite some time.

I don’t know if this is enough though. Of course, we can re-interpret our current religions so as to hear them telling us what we know they should be saying. And, as in this case, the case can actually be quite convincing. However, it must be recognized that the texts are very easy to interpret in any number of good and bod directions. In the end, Berry is subjugating religion to the reigning ethics, which is by no means a bad thing to do (it is probably the only responsible thing to do with religion at the moment), but it does not work through the core of religion and will not be able to transform it, only modify it. It is the former that is required now.

Via Ed. Thanks!

Update: corrected the Barries into Berries (certainly sounds better).

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3 Comments to “Wendell Berry on the christian religion”

  1. For those interested in finding his writings, his Name is spelled Wendell Berry.

    Isn’t transform another way of saying drastic modification?… a matter of degree? Are you suggesting throwing out all the old forms?

  2. ill admit that ‘transform’ and ‘modify’ are too similar of terms to uphold my distiction. What i meant was that Berry is just fixing christianity to make it look like the currently accepted ethics of the world. That does not do justice to the deapths of christian intuition (though it is certainly not bad). I would rather see christianity re-worked from the bottom up, see if we can’t say what it says and do what it would have us do (among other things, keep the planet healthy) without having to presuppose all the nonesense about resurrections, etc. that gets the atheists all riled up.

  3. I agree, get rid of the nonsense… it’s deceptive marketing for an essential positive energy.
    I’m not so sure what he wrote/said (about 10-15 years ago in a speech in a seminary) is yet the accepted ethics of the world… the environmental paradigm is just beginning to enter the mainstream and that stream is being fouled with much greater volumes of poison… it may be too late to turn it around sufficiently

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