Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What does an Ecological Hermeneutic look like? The Earth Bible

When I reflect on the deepest meaning of Rabbi'l 'Alamin (Lord and Sustainer of all the Worlds), I have to ask myself, as a Depth Psychologist, what aspects of our Human Existence are we unconscious of when we pray al-Fatiha? Surely when we recite "All Praise is due to Allah" that such praise does not originate solely from the human species. Is it not with the entirety of Creation which we join as humans that we surrender in Praise of Allah? Are we not praying on behalf of all species and all beings, and for all species and all beings in the Universe, not just on this planet Earth? The notion that such praise is due only from humans is an anthropocentric bias in the interpretation and understanding of al-Fatiha. An ecological hermeneutic would follow in the footprints of those who are attempting an ecological hermeneutic of the other Scriptures, and this has resulted in the Earth Bible. Here is a template of what an Ecological Hermeneutic looks like in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, and a review by Peter Lockwood. My next post will more specifically outline the work of Norman Habel in this field.

Selection from the Foreward by Desmond Tutu

"It is significant that the Earth Bible project has chosen to take the Earth crisis seriously and to re-read our biblical heritage in the light of this crisis. The Earth Bible team has listened closely to ecologists and developed a set of principles to re-read the biblical text from an Ecojustice perspective. The concern of Earth Bible writers is not to defend the biblical text blindly, but to identify those passages which may have contributed to the crisis and to uncover those traditions which have valued Earth but been suppressed.

I commend the Earth Bible team for including representative writers from around the globe, including the Southern hemisphere. I commend the writers for confronting the biblical tradition honestly and openly in dialogue with ecologists. And, in particular, I commend the writers for daring to read the biblical text afresh from the perspective of Earth. Feminists have forced us to confront the patriarchal orientation of much of the biblical text. Earth Bible writers are now confronting us with the anthropocentric nature of much of the biblical text. We now ask: does the text de-value Earth by making the self-interest of humans its dominant concern?

I recommend you read the Earth Bible series with a critical but empathetic eye. As a critical reader you will want to assess whether writers make their case for or against their interpretation of the text in terms of the principles employed. As an empathetic reader, however, you will need to identify with Earth and the suffering Earth community as you read the text."

Selection from Review by Peter Lockwood

"Ecojustice Bible readings cannot come soon enough. It has been argued, implicitly here, explicitly there, that if humans have been made in God’s image with authority to rule, in fact to subdue, the Earth, and if heaven and earth are bound to pass away at the final consummation, surely the Earth stands at the disposal of humans, to be devalued, exploited and oppressed to our heart’s content. Such opinions cannot go unchecked. Environmental degradation has reached crisis proportions, and the future of planet Earth is in serious danger. Has the Bible itself contributed to the crisis, or is it simply misguided interpretations of the Bible? By re-reading the text from the perspective of the oppressed Earth, it is the Earth Bible team’s fervent desire that they will do far more than assist at the birth of an additional method of reading the Bible, destined to take its rightful place in the complete Bible scholar’s exegetical repertoire. In Habel’s words, they are intent on making a contribution to resolving a crisis that affects all members of the Earth community’ (Volume 1:27).

Following a series of consultations between biblical scholars and environmental scientist, six principles were formulated for reading texts from the perspective of Ecojustice. They are the principles of intrinsic worth, interconnectedness, voice, purpose, mutual custodianship, and resistance (Volume 1, chapter 2). Those who embrace Ecojustice principles will no longer regard Earth as an object of human gratification, or a resource for people to exploit, but as living and life-giving, possessed or her own intrinsic value and the right to be regarded as a subject that can celebrate and suffer alike.

Feminism has given rise to feminist readings of the Bible (and The Women’s Bible), sociology and political science have given rise to socio-political readings of the Bible, and the environmental movement has been the driving force behind Earth, or Ecojustice, readings of the text (and now The Earth Bible). Each approach is liberationist in that its exponents read and reflect on biblical texts in the light of questions addressed to it from the perspective of women, the oppressed, and the Earth, whose stories and voices have been silenced, or at best marginalised.

The prime mover behind the Earth Bible project is Norman Habel. With his unflagging imagination, courage and energy, Norm initiated the interdisciplinary conversation between Bible scholars and ecologists, and between students drawn from both disciplines. Norm has kept the discussion alive at successive meetings of the American Society for Biblical Literature and the Australian and New Zealand Society of Theological Studies. With the other contributors, Norm invites us to readjust our angle of vision, address a totally new set of questions to the text, and thereby discover the remarkable new vistas opened up on Earth when viewed through the lens that the Ecojustice readings apply."

~ Excerpted from

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