Exvangelical Musings: Tree-Huggers for Christ – An Ecocritical Bible Study

This is not the exvangelical musing that I intended to write this week. But let me tell you about a brief conversation that I overheard in the break room a few days ago, so you may understand why this particular topic was suddenly one that I simply couldn’t resist. Seriously, it was basically handed to me in a box with a Christmas bow on top. 

For the record, I never engage in any break room banter. When you spend your days doing puppet shows with kids, adult conversations are boring. That being said: I’m always listening – not least of all to remind myself why I prefer puppets and children over grown-ups. And here I rest my case: While making myself a cup of coffee, I quietly overheard two evangelical Biblical literalists laughing at the idea of Climate Change. Seems all of the overwhelming evidence is probably just God’s way of testing a true Christian’s faith while putting the rest of us atheist Satanists through increasingly intolerable living conditions.

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but bare with me as I process this conversation between these two sincere believers.

Forget the fact that temperatures here in Washington were triples digits this summer and so high that freeway concrete buckled and burst. Forget warming waters that are putting fisheries out of business and leaving countless people out of work, or the fires devastating what is left of our dwindling forests. Forget all the Satan-influenced reports released by scientists pointing out all the irrefutable evidence that it is basically too late to reverse the damage, and that now the best thing we can do is slow it down before our planet is rendered inhospitable. Forget that fact that the reason that America has barely done a damned thing about any of this is partly because evangelical leaders have convinced their base that either Climate Change simply isn’t real or is rather a natural part of the earth in its death throes before the Rapture.

The truth is this: Most Evangelical Christians will never, ever, ever believe in Climate Change, because they have been indoctrinated into believing it is a hoax. The evidence exists to be sidestepped and explained away as godless, liberal propaganda. Evangelicals won’t believe it when the polar ice caps melt and everyone in our coastal cities drown or evacuate. They won’t believe it when the global temperatures get so high that we will have to take constant shelter. They won’t believe it when the winds come down and the floods come up – except as Signs of the Times that confirm that Jesus is soon on his way. They’ve made their bed, and they are forcing us all to sleep in it. It is a bed made by political leaders whose constituents are fossil fuel industries who would be financially ruined if they stopped climate change; that party also happens to have the Evangelical Church convinced that their positions represent God’s opinions. Until that changes, the Evangelical community will simply not budge on this issue. It is their moral directive to pretend global warming doesn’t exist. 

So of course, I wasn’t shocked at all when I sipped my coffee and silently overheard my fellow employees gleefully discussing the absolute hoax that is Climate Change, and how what is God’s test of their faith is also Satan’s ruse to keep us distracted from the truth that is Jesus’s imminent return so that people will not accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. “When I head all this malarkey, I just want to cry,” one of these well-intentioned, honest souls lamented. “Can’t they see how much the world has deceived them?”

“Yeah, I can only pray for them,’ the other one answered, just as sincere. “I mean, just read your Bible, right? You’ll find the Truth is just staring right back at you.”

Challenge accepted.

What follows is an ecocritical reading of the teachings of Jesus Christ, placed into the wider context of the Hebrew culture’s beliefs about the sacredness of nature as a place to encounter God. What I’m going to do here is not particularly revolutionary and includes close readings of the Scriptures accepted by most theologians and Bible scholars – whom I will quote throughout this musing and cite at the end. Basically, this one is going to be a good old fashioned literary analysis, and it’s always a pleasure to brush off those skills – especially in service to an exvangelical Bible study! I don’t expect to change any evangelical minds (as much as that would bring me joy), but it is an exercise in the type of research-in-action that someone deconstructing can utilize to investigate multiple viewpoints of texts that they were told their whole lives only had one exact meaning.

Before I get started, allow me a few caveats: I’m going to write about things Jesus allegedly said throughout the four canonical Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – as if it is truly him being quoted. It’s just easier than having to keep repeating “according to this Gospel writer.” Understand that the historical Jesus is so lost in oral traditions that kept building off its own mythology before being written down decades after Jesus’s death and the rise of the Christian church (my works cited will provide additional resources on that front) that it is impossible to know with certainty what he may have actually said. 

So when I quote Jesus, what I’m actually quoting are the gospel writers’ legendary accounts of Jesus’s words for whatever myth-making the theology-developing purposes that they intended. What Jesus the historical figure said or didn’t say is less important that what people believed about him – because it is that belief that has informed the last 2000 years of mythology and faith traditions built around him. Though I believe that all four gospels have very different agendas in their interpretations of the Jesus story, we can still consider them all together to get a basic understanding of how Jesus’s story evolved theologically and what common themes were retained. 

I’m also going to include some verses from the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, which is a collection of sayings discovered in  Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 without any narrative wrapped around them. Time estimations of its original authorship is still a matter of debate among Biblical scholars, but I believe that Elaine Pagels’s book BEYOND BELIEF makes the most compelling case for the dates of its composition – which actually places it as written before any of the gospels found in the official canon. Besides her strong argument that the writer of John’s Gospel used Thomas as a point of reference, Pagels’s most convincing evidence is that it appears as if Paul quotes Thomas in one of his epistles, which were written decades before any of the Biblical gospels (compare Thomas 17 to 1 Corinthians 2:9). Some scholars believe that Thomas may have actually quoted Paul, but I’m not convinced: Paul is known to have quoted many scriptures and proverbs throughout his letters, whereas Thomas doesn’t seem to share sources with any other known texts except the canonical Gospels. All this to say – when it comes to getting to the closest to penetrating the ethics and perspectives of the authentic Jesus, I believe we much take the Gospel of Thomas seriously. 

These academic clarifications made, here’s my thesis statement: In every single Gospel account, Jesus’s core message channels an ancient form of pre-Moses worship that was grounded in a profoundly protective loyalty and a deeply sacred reverence for the natural world – which ancient Hebrews believed was the most likely place to discover and engage with the Spirit of God. These days, it would not be unreasonable to call this kind reverence a sort of mystic environmentalism. 

Just a skim of all five Gospels reveals that throughout Jesus’ ministry, he had plenty to say concerning the forces of nature, what we could learn from them, and how we should relate to them. He frequently weaved ideas and images from the natural world into parables about the type of Kingdom of God that he envisioned for the earth. Indeed, by my own personal reading of the Gospels, I have found that over half of Jesus’ ethical teachings use nature as metaphor – certainly no coincidence from a man who claims that those who put his teachings into practice will “have life, and [… will] have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Matthew 7 elaborates on this claim, in one of Jesus’ most quoted sayings that utilizes nature to make his point:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (NIV, 24-27)

Keeping in mind that Jesus made such direct declarations about the effect of his teachings, the fact that he so often compared his ethical standard of living to the natural world cannot be overlooked. Jesus seemed to think that his listeners had a great deal to learn from the natural world if they truly wanted to connect to God and to one another – a notion often in conflict with the Hebrew traditions developing in  his culture, which seems to have neglected the natural world in anticipation of a pending act of supernatural judgment. Jesus seemingly believed in that that coming judgment as well, but he sought to redefine it by placing it in a Kingdom of God spread out upon the earth. 

So, the question remains: What exactly did Jesus have to say about the nature and humanity’s relationship to it?

First of all, let me make something absolutely clear: I intend to resist the temptation to consider the words of Jesus simply through a modern-day lens – even though certainly his meditations on peacemakers and loving our enemies harmonize quite nicely with much contemporary thought. To give into this enticement is to ignore a flaw that many progressive thinkers are quick to accuse today’s Evangelicals of doing in their own, legalistic readings of the Gospel texts. The modern evangelical strategy is to simply read English translations of the Bible, pick the verses that confirm their biases – then to read the entirety of the Scriptures through those filters without much concern for context or process. If I’m exploring Jesus’s teachings, I cannot fault Evangelicals for doing this while also doing it myself. 

In truth, the Bible isn’t one book but a series of smaller books, written by authors who had no idea that one day it would all be translated into oblivion and placed into a single volume to be read as one complete narrative. It doesn’t have a single view of God, but several – and they are constantly developing throughout the centuries as Hebrew culture and society continued to evolve. Therefore, to understand Jesus’s message, we cannot simply read it in English and assume that he was familiar with the way that the Bible would ultimately come together in today’s Evangelical-saturated world. He read the Scriptures very differently than we do now, and we must place Jesus’s teachings firmly within the historical context of his day if we are to truly understand his ideology. 

As theologian and Biblical historian John Shelby Spong notes: “Jesus was not born in a vacuum. He came out a very deep and rich Hebrew heritage. His life was shaped by the military, political, economic, and religious forces of his day. Those forces were the result of a long and noble history of the people in that region of the world. … I am personally convinced that our world will never see or understand this Jesus until he is placed deeply into his Hebrew frame of reference.” (77-8)

Only in light of Spong’s assertion can we begin to know the core of Jesus’ message: That the Kingdom of God is not a movement that will take place in a later age, but one that is already taking place in the world around us, deeply ingrained and apparent in the forces of nature. For Jesus, the Kingdom of God was a perspective, not an event. Many of his contemporaries could not make such a claim, which is why Jesus’ message remains so extraordinarily radical – both in his time and in our own.

To understand Jesus’ message, we must first understand that his “frame of reference” was one of political and social upheaval – a time when his people, the Hebrews, were living under Roman oppression. Rome was the latest in a string of conquering empires that had ruled over them for centuries. In order to maintain their ethnic identity in the face of changing times in which foreigners were allowed to desecrate their temples with images of their own gods, Hebrew religious teachers expected their followers to adhere to strict moral and social laws that clearly set them apart (and kept them separated) from all foreign neighbors and oppressors. 

These laws, found in the first five books of the Bible, “…were built around ceremonial purity so that the people of Israel would be clearly distinguished from the nations around them. Such rules were part of a complex system emphasizing lessons of symbolic wholeness, perfection, and being set apart. … There were detailed rules about ceremonially clean and unclean foods, about shaving, about tattooing. … The holiness code included rules about separating objects not considered to belong together.” (Myers, 89-90)

Such separate “objects” obviously included Israel itself from the changing and violent world around it. It is no coincidence that integrated in these ancient laws was a creation myth in which God first gave dominion over all the earth to man alone (Genesis 1:26-28), and then He placed the Hebrew people above all other people and tribes (Genesis 12:1-3). The point in this myth and the subsequent laws are clear: The Hebrew people were to be set apart from everyone else, because they were meant to have dominion over all the earth. And if they maintained their purity in the face of oppression, God would one day smile down on them and grant them authority over the earth again.

This Savior God is a concept that evolved over thousands of years. Before its takeover by various, competitive empires, the Hebrew faith was a simpler experience more grounded on the principles of the natural world. It is simply no coincidence that in the ancient stories, Biblical heroes were most likely to encounter God in the wilderness (as Jesus himself did when he wandered the desert for forty days after his baptism). It was in this anti-legalistic, ancient Hebrew mentality – that God’s chief dwelling place was in nature itself – that Jesus found his primary platform (Spong, 35). His views on God, people, and the world were not new ideas – they were simply forgotten ones that harkened back to the days before oppression, when Hebrew ethics encouraged foreigners to interact and participate in Hebrew culture, and when they drew their inspiration from foreign religious practices as well as their own.

Specifically, the principles that Jesus advocated for were the ancient Hebrew viewpoints of God working in all circumstances and history, with His spirit flowing through all people and things, both living and nonliving. This theological viewpoint represented a Hebrew spirituality that existed long before the oppressed nation of Israel felt the necessity to declare itself as the predestined ruler of the Earth (in fact, some of the additional myths collected around Adam and Eve that did not make the “cut” reveal humanity’s place as mere spectators in God’s creation instead of its dominators – see the Talmund, the Apocalypse of Moses, and the Gnostic text Apocalypse of Adam). Yahweh God as the Hebrews understood Him was really a construction that arose from the first five Old Testament books; before He was thus given His now human-like characteristics, God was more akin to animism – the personification and worship of nature. This older frame of reference depends upon the interchangeable nature of the words spirit and wind: 

“Hebrew has a single word for both […] – the word ruach. What is remarkable here is the evidence centrality of ruach, the spiritual wind, to early Hebraic religiosity. […] Breath … is the most intimate and elemental bond linking humans to the divine; it is that which flows most directly between God and man” (Abram, 239). 

Remember that word “ruach,” because it sets the stage for the remainder of this musing. As a natural element, wind was the very Spirit of God set loose upon the earth – everything the wind touched was therefore blessed with God’s sacred spirit. And though Genesis was written down once God had been personified as Yahweh, it nevertheless draws heavily from these older traditions: In the first chapter of Genesis, which details the first of two creations myths found in the Bible (Spong, 19), we are introduced to ruach when God shapes Adam out of mud and then breathes His spirit into the sculpture, giving him life (verse 26). Wind and spirit, then, are revealed as transposable. Wherever there is wind, according to ancient Hebrew beliefs, present in that wind is their spirit-giving God.

Jesus, who called God “spirit” (John 4:44), doesn’t limit his ideas of God to simply spirit/wind – but he does frequently include these characteristics in his understanding of God’s nature. He certainly was channeling this ruach in John 20, when he “breathes” his spirit in a similar manner onto his disciples: “‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven’” (NIV, 22-23). For Jesus, the ancient Hebrew understanding of ruach was one of the key elements in his ministry – his “breath” delivers the Holy Spirit to his disciples and empowers them with the ability to forgive sins. As God’s spirit-wind brought life to Adam, Jesus sees his breath and the Holy Spirit as identical. Such interchangeability reveals Jesus’ understanding of the ancient Hebrew dogma of the wind as God’s earthly vehicle for empowerment of His will. It also challenges the strict laws concerning “holy” and “unholy” foods that the lawmakers encouraged Hebrews to obey – according to Jesus, a person’s true power was not what goes into him, but rather what comes out of him (Mark 7:15) – in this case, the breath of God.

Yet ancient Hebrew culture did not limit ruach to human beings. The breath of God literally flowed through all things that were alive, and anything that was not alive was sacred because of the potential to be made alive through the power of ruach. Simply put, “the sign of the presence of the spirit was the presence of life” (Spong, 19). Jesus confirms this ruach in the Gospel of Luke when he addresses teachers of the law who object to his followers actively and loudly worshiping God in the streets of Jerusalem: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (NIV, 19:40). He takes this notion a step further in the Gospel of Thomas, when he proclaims God’s spirit is found in every facet of the world: “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” (77). According to Jesus, his truth is found in both the living world (wood/trees) and the nonliving world (rocks). To silence the voice of man ultimately means very little, because God’s power is still found in the natural world, where all the elements of life praise God with or without man’s prompting or permission.

In fact, Jesus’ teachings are littered with imperatives that nature, with its special connection to God, is abundant in its ability to reveal a healthy standard of living. In his oft-quoted Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes very clear of the superior approach to life that the natural world holds over humans:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. […] Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (NIV, Matthew 6:26-30)

Read in light of the above passages in Luke and Thomas in which Jesus states that the natural world contains its own, unique spirit, it is hard to miss Jesus’ ultimate point in this passage: We have much to learn from nature about how to relate to God. If man ultimately reveals “little faith” in his constant worrying and fretting over material possessions such as food and clothes, then the natural world has the upper hand in its absence of concern. Man stores away his food in fear of famine; the birds reveal a greater faith by simply allowing God to provide for them. Similarly, the lily exists in a “splendor” greater than even the most lavish king in Hebrew myth, even though it knows that it will be uprooted and burned from one day to the next. It seems that mankind is unique in its tendency to complain and worry. If we are to live a life of peace and tranquility, Jesus claims, we had best learn to emulate life-forms as simple as birds and lilies. Jesus first introduces this concept in this passage; by frequently comparing the Kingdom of God to the natural world throughout his parabolic teachings (i.e. “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed,” Luke 13:18), Jesus constantly drove this perspective home.

Jesus’ theology, of course, challenged the idea of man’s dominion over the earth, because it suggested that the earth understood divine principles instinctively. Man, on the other hand, needed constant reminder. For Jesus, there was no greater truth than the need to worship God through serving one another (Mark 12:28-34), and these truths manifested themselves in nature’s ability to praise God in one spirit – something that Jesus considered humans seemingly incapable of accomplishing, as revealed in both the agitators of worship and Jesus’ response to them in Luke 19. 

Certainly nature as active participants in God’s creation is not an idea that was unfamiliar to the Hebrew people of Jesus’ age; the Old Testament reveals God’s manipulation of nature through plagues, famines, droughts, and natural disasters in order to bring the astray Hebrew people back into his fold and to punish them for the sins of their forefathers. But Jesus rejected the notion of God punishing sins in such ways (see John 9:1-3; Jesus’ rebuff of this belief is also reinforced by his aforementioned suggestion to imitate the birds and not be concerned about famines from God); for him, “the function of [ruach was] to make vital, to call into being, to free, to make whole, to establish community based on life” (Spong, 21). Nature was not a springboard to issue punishment to Israel, but was rather a location in which to find and understand God. The world itself – indeed, everything in it, including all life-forms and elements – were literally one, unified creation under God, and all its inhabitants were on equal terms with one another. 

As Spong notes: “If I could draw a diagram that would adequately depict for me [the ancient] Hebrew view of reality, I would draw two circles: a smaller one within a larger one. The smaller circle would represent the world; the larger circle would represent God. To [Jesus], God and the world were not antithetical, nor were they identical. God was the creator; the world was the creature. God was bigger than creation, but the creation revealed God’s glory. […] God was totally responsible for the material physical stuff of life. God made it all, and when it was complete God surveyed it and pronounced it good indeed. […] The world was good; it was the object of the divine love and was therefore meant to be engaged. With great joy the Hebrews could sing of God’s world and God’s creation.” (33)

As Spong eloquently asserts, God’s natural world is one that reveals the love of God, similar to the descriptions found in Isaiah 55: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (NIV, 12). It is difficult to imagine that Jesus did not directly consider this passage when he made such declarations of rocks and trees revealing God’s presence. To Jesus, as with the ancient Hebrew traditions, man could not claim dominion over the earth; rather, “all things” of the earth was one “creature,” meant to engage with one another as it engaged with God. For a relatively new, legalistic Hebrew religion that believed the Kingdom of God would soon establish itself on Earth and ascend the Hebrew nation to the status of Lord, a cohesive Earth in which all of creation was One was neither a popular nor a patriotic idea. On the other hand, Jesus preferred to believe that “the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth” (Thomas 113). It was “within you and … outside you” and included the sky, the birds, the sea, and the fish just as much as it included humanity and, specifically, Israel (Thomas 3).

It is noteworthy and ironic that this ancient Hebrew idea of the earth as one “creature” resonates within second-century Gnostic traditions, which their contemporary Hebrew and Christian contemporaries deemed heretical (Pagels, 84). The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in particular seems to channel the very theology that Jesus apparently embraced. Consider:

“All nature, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone. […] That is why the Good came into your midst, to the essence of every nature in order to restore it to its root. […] Matter gave birth to a passion that has no equal, which proceeded from something contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in the whole body.” (Mary 4:22-23, 27, 30)

The metaphor here is God as “the Root” from which “all nature, all formations, all creatures” spring. Everything is connected to this Root; the sin of man is that he looked over this creation and deemed himself master over it, instead of seeing himself as a participant in the creation. It is impossible not to see such theology as a clear critique of the Hebrew creation myth that was created in the country’s exile in order to keep themselves pure and isolated from the rest of the world – a myth that post-Jesus Christianity continued (and for the most part still continues) to embrace. 

Certainly Mary’s gospel teaches principles not far removed from Jesus’ own views of God and His all-encompassing ruach; ironic that his later followers did not grasp this and continued to quarrel bitterly with Gnosticism as it spread throughout Christendom. In THIS HEBREW LORD, Spong blames the later, Greek-influenced emphasis on heavenly reward as the cause of Christianity’s gradual shift away from Jesus’ original message of earthly unity (31-56). By the time the Gnostics made their appearance, the promise of the afterlife was already a cherished Christian staple and the Kingdom of Heaven was thus interpreted through this filter. See also Pagels aforementioned book on Thomas’s Gospel for an overview of the formation of the Nicean Creeds that all but eradicated the Gnostic traditions in favor of a more militant theology better suited for empire building. 

In light of Jesus’ convictions regarding the “oneness” of nature through the ruach of God, it is appropriate that I conclude this musing by briefly examining his apocalyptic teachings. Of course, there were plenty of apocalyptic prophets in Jesus’ day, and in many ways his prophecies mirror the jargon of his contemporaries. The key difference is that, following suite with their interpretation of a coming Kingdom in which God would overthrow all the non-Hebrew people of the earth in a “cosmic act of judgment” (Erhman, 3), most of the prophets depicted startling and violent images of their Deity destroying Hebrew’s enemies with wars, plagues, famines, and other familiar Old Testament misgivings. 

Jesus’ apocalyptic teachings differed in that he saw this judgment as a warning instead of as something to celebrate and look forward to: In his interpretation of the end of the world, it is mankind that destroys itself rather than God, and the only way the people of the earth can save themselves from destruction is to put his words and principles into practice – including, certainly, his prominent teachings on ruach and the togetherness of nature. In Jesus’ rather bleak opinion,

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, […] the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. […] Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. […] How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now – and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive.” (NIV, Mark 13:7-8, 12, 17-20)

As Jesus preached of learning God’s peace through the examples and the ruach found in nature, and as he considered these ethics to be means to avoid such terrible earthly torment and desolation, I cannot help but be reminded of similar warnings found in writings today, from modern day prophets just as apocalyptic and just as concerned with the well-being of the planet:

“The earth’s life support systems [are] under stress [… with] oil spills, lead and asbestos poisoning, toxic waste contamination, extinction of species at unprecedented rate, battles over public land use, protests over nuclear waste dumps, a loss of topsoil, destruction of the tropical rain forest, controversy the Spotted Owl in the Pacific Northwest, a wildfire in Yellowstone Park, medical syringes washing onto the shores of Atlantic beaches, boycotts on tuna, overtapped aquifers in the West, illegal dumping in the East, a nuclear reactor disaster in Chenobyl, […] famines, droughts, floods, hurricanes.” (Glotfelty, xvi)

The ecological concerns of today certainly hearken to Jesus’ own apocalyptic prophecies. Here was a man arguing for a Heavenly Kingdom that included all creatures of the earth, and indeed the earth itself, in the spectrum of God’s community. That our ecological fears today echo, and in many ways replicate, his own, we are forced to give pause and reconsider Jesus’ position and his legacy. Is it possible that the true successors to his platform are not religious evangelists, but rather our ecologists and ecocritics, who fight daily to combat man’s conviction of his dominion over the earth? 

When I was growing up in the Church, evangelicals used to walk around with these little bracelets with the inscription WWJD. It was short, of course, for What Would Jesus Do – a question meant to inspire us to work on building the Heavenly kingdom and save souls. After actually opening the Bible and reading it, I’m more convinced now than ever that perhaps what Jesus would actually do is hug a tree while being appalled at the conversation I overheard in my break room (he’d also probably prefer Arbor Day over his own birthday celebrations, which cuts down trees for celebration). But for what it’s worth – this was fun, and I hope it inspires my readers on an exvangelical path to actually investigate the Bible as a source of both wisdom and inspiration. There’s some beautiful stuff in there if you know how to look. It’s a lesson evangelicals could learn. 

I love you. Thanks for reading. 

Works Cited:

Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Vintage, 1996.

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” The

Ecocritical Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Harold Fromm and Cheryll

Glotfelty. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. Xv-xxxvii.

Meyer, Marvin and Stephen Patterson, Eds. “The Scholars Translation of the Gospel of


Myers, David G. and Letha Scanonzi. What God Has Joined Together? A Christian Case for Gay

Marriage. New York: Harper, 2003.

The NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Pagels, Elaine H. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Random House, 2003.

Rheinhardt, Carl, ed. “The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene.” The Gnostic Society Library.

⁹Spong, John Shelby. This Hebrew Lord: A Bishop’s Search for the Authentic Jesus. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993.

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