The conservative evangelical movement in the United States is having a conniption fit these days because the underlying tenets of free market, libertarian capitalism are being called out as false doctrines antithetical to the message of Jesus by the leader of the planet’s largest Christian denomination, Pope Francis. For decades now, right wing ideology has co-opted Christianity in a truly perverse way and turned it into a belief system that promotes war, greed, inequality, ecological degradation, obsessive nationalism, hyper judgmentalism, and an US versus THEM mentality. To serve that “love of money” philosophy, they must deny climate change as a man made phenomena despite the overwhelming evidence that it most certainly IS man made and IS happening right now with extreme consequences for human life. Some Republican politicians, who seemingly claim a direct line to God’s ear while campaigning, are now calling the Pope a “leftist politician”, which begs the question, “Have they ever actually read about Jesus?” Apparently not, because Jesus was a straight up radical who was clearly in favor of wealth redistribution (see Matthew 19:21)!
When one compares Jesus’ teachings on peace, feeding the poor, maintaining the commons and loving one’s fellow human beings through his sermons, parables, and the actions of his earliest followers (who lived communally and shared all they had) in the Book of Acts, it is abundantly clear that the “Right Wing Jesus” espoused by “conservative Christian” politicians, is a false teacher radically opposed to Christian theology. Yet somehow, people keep falling for their lies and obtuseness, feigned or otherwise. By writing and speaking out about climate change as a moral issue (which it most certainly is) and the global capitalism that fuels it, Pope Francis (who is a scientist as well as pontiff) is exposing the falseness of these ostensibly Christian “teachings” that worship the Golden Calf while profiting from environmental destruction and gross human suffering. Better late than never for the Catholic Church. Hopefully the Protestant evangelical movement will catch on BEFORE it is too late for the Earth and our billions of neighbors.
Jesus was undeniably a radical. That is powerfully apparent in the Gospel texts. He was a religious rebel who broke Jewish laws to make his points, a political rebel teaching that all people had the right to food at a time when “the commons” (places once free for anyone to use, like the Sea of Galilee) were being commercialized by Herod, and a philosophical rebel who renounced teachings claiming the violent retribution of a punishing God in favor of peace, forgiveness, non-violence and ethnic harmony. In short, he was pushing a lot of peoples’ buttons during his time on Earth and it got him killed. In preparation for his ministry , we are told that Jesus went to fast and pray in the wilderness while being tempted to disavow his calling for a life of separation, luxury and the comparative ease of being “King”.
The permaculture movement is one that I think Jesus would be fully on board with. Permaculture has been called “a revolution disguised as organic gardening” because its practitioners seek to design a world that works with nature instead of trying to subjugate and extract everything from it regardless of ecological or human consequences. A well designed permaculture site can provide healthful, organic, nutrient dense food freely for people as well as fuel for cooking, fiber for clothing, and an engaged community of people who nurture and support one another. Diversity is fostered amongst not only people but other species of flora and fauna. Permaculture design regenerates the ecology that makes up the site and supports an abundance of life that can be likened to the Garden of Eden. Jesus as we have seen was a revolutionary and he was apparently close to nature, or else why go to fast and pray in the wilderness or make his home “by the sea” (Matthew 4:13). He was we are told, so immersed in the natural world that he could alter the weather, attract fish to nets, and even walk on water! To practice permaculture and to design sites well, one must observe interact with nature as well as care for one’s neighbor. If fundamentalist Christians would go to fast and pray in the wilderness in order to truly get to know God, I imagine their hearts and minds would change radically!
We are not separate from the natural world (Ecclesiastes 3:16-22). We live within and are wholly dependent upon it for all of our sustenance. Every other human being on the planet is as well. Every other human being on the planet is according to Jesus, “our neighbor”, and anyone who claims to follow Jesus is commanded to LOVE them. Right now we can love them by changing our political and spiritual directions towards more inclusivity, peace, forgiveness, non-violence, AND taking care of the poor. We must eschew those politicians and their policies which destroy the natural systems we rely on and those policies which intentionally manufacture poverty or war. Often this destruction takes place in areas of very poor people or people on the margins, the people Jesus described as “the least of these”. We must reject those politicians who act like the priests and Pharisees that Jesus condemned for making a “show of their faith” as they denounce certain types of people (Muslims, gays, transgenedered, “foreigners”) on one hand and then vote for war, and legislate for the benefit of the rich on the other.
In permaculture we seek to integrate rather than segregate and to increase the edge (or margins) in order to create niches for more abundant biological diversity. Jesus likewise sought to include the poor in the kingdom of God WHILE providing for them while on Earth. He called people to serve others. Permaculture design and other systems of ecological regeneration are great strategies to do serve humanity by empowering people to grow their own food, be in true community with one another, and to be in right relationship with God’s creation.
If we continue to maintain the capitalistic, war mongering, “lesser of two evils” status quo however, we are most likely collectively in a lot of trouble. Let us turn to the Earth, work with it, toil together in community for our food and other necessaries of life, and build a just, sustainable world, where people of all ethnicities, creeds, religions, or sexual orientations are included and loved unconditionally.
12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
16Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. 17I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. 18I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. 19For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. 20All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? 22So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?