By Barbara Falconer Newhall
The Green Bible: Understand the Bible’s Powerful Message for the Earth, NRSV, Foreword by Desmond Tutu, HarperOne, 1312 pages, $29.95.
Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation, Lyndsay Moseley and the staff of Sierra Club Books, Sierra Club, 264 pages, $22.
If you or someone you know has any doubt that the Jewish and Christian traditions value the Earth with all its myriad flora and fauna, thumb through HarperOne’s Green Bible. Highlighted in green are the many passages calling upon humanity to respect and care for the Earth – even in times of war.
Check out Deuteronomy 20:19, for example. “If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them.”
Or Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving.”
For the most part, The Green Bible does not gloss over the Bible’s more difficult passages. Genesis 6:7 with all its divine anger is highlighted in green: “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
But it does let stand — in inconspicuous black type — the story of Jesus cursing the out-of-season fig tree. Mark 10:12-14: ” . . . When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.'”
Holy Ground, from the Sierra Club, celebrates the sacredness of creation with an interfaith collection of personal stories, sermons and essays from the likes of Pope Benedict VXI, Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry and Patriarch Bartholomew.
Open to page 239 and read Gary Snyder’s remarkable words on humanity’s place on the food chain. “Eating is a sacrament,” he writes. If we eat meat, “it is the life, the bounce, the swish, of a great alert being with keen ears and lovely eyes, with foursquare feet and a huge beating heart that we eat, let us not deceive ourselves.”
And don’t forget either, says Snyder, “We are all edible.” We too will be offerings some day, devoured most likely by very small critters.
Food for thought.