After that gentle blog (above) about claiming the green, now something a wee bit heavier, but, I hope, all the more liberating.
Classic Christian teaching frequently seems difficult to defend, possibly because it’s culturally easy to dissociate it from the expression of love, rather than the oppressive rules of a hierarchy of some kind, whether supported by law and violence, or self-deceiving pretensions to definitive and final authority. Or that’s the way it looks from the outside. That’s even expected.
But this is the first ‘hermeneutical’ principle in this exploration: “love is why we teach it.”
Following from that, the fresh look that an ecochaplain is obliged to take, (on the fringes of a cultural context which prizes re-use/repair/re-purpose/recycle as a prominent ethical value-cluster,) frequently ends up as an affirmation of Christian mainstream.
It’s nice that you’re often surprised. I’d prefer ‘delighted’. But hey….
One area of ‘marginalised orthodoxy’, (which probably sounds like a complete oxymoron to those whose experience of ‘orthodox’ goes with oppressive lovelessness), is the most distinctive teaching of Christianity, the idea of God as Holy Trinity.
The grotesque hierarchical depictions of the Holy Trinity which so totally negate the idea of the equal persons of the Creative Unity as to be characterised as ‘Spot the Pigeon’ (I’m quoting the most memorable bit of lectures by Prof Sara Coakley in Oxford in the early 90s) or ‘The Boss, the Bird, and the Junior’. (see above, Cologne Cathedral)
These depictions (or, strictly, what they imply) drive a coach and horses over the affirmation that the definitive and exemplary nature of God, as shown through Jesus, is as persons lovingly “coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial” .(Nicene Creed, some versions).
These pictures are markedly in contrast with the ‘Celtic Trinity ‘symbol, the ‘triquetra’ in which the three components form an ever-interlacing knot. Tellingly, this appears on notice-boards for recycling stations, (see above) and for a while, was adopted by DEFRA.
(I wrote to DEFRA at the time, disingenuously asking if they intended to use any other religious symbols on their letterheads. They wrote back, claiming they had no such intention).
In the Triquetra Trinity, the Three are equal, connected, dependent, distinct. It saves pages of theology. (And I have it tattooed on my shoulder, not that you need to know that).
It’s been in devotional use by Christians for a good 1400 years, and used by other faiths before and since.
I’d like to see a really convincing argument (and I don’t think there is one) to suggest that the feudal system, whose remnants we still cherish, has not skewed Christian devotional language in favour of kingship rather than any other model of leadership, and kings, having been absolute authorities, didn’t fit at all with the fundamentally collaborative Trinity.
And since, in the Old Testament, God is, demonstrably, far more a reshaper and recycler than Creator out of absolutely nothing, perhaps Christians need to recognise a greater holiness and dignity in ‘making all things new’ rather than ‘making new things.’ In all aspects of life and faith.
The ‘Boss, bird and junior’, which, staggeringly, often passes by unchallenged in our churches, is by contrast a ‘single-use model of God, allied to ecological devastation because it prioritises domination rather than (costly) partnership.
It sees no need to collaborate, or rethink, only to be obeyed. Vertical hierarchy, rather than collaboration, is a game of extinction. Unenriched by trinitarian theodiversity. Ever only upwards, like the idolatry of unlimited economic growth, which never pauses and re-makes.
And that’s not how to be Christlike. Not the model of the one who came that we should have life in abundance, and joy in fullnesss.
My hope is in the recycling and recycled God. Who calls us out to be recycled, repurposed, reinvigorated too.
Our world reflects what we believe.
Yep, it matters, this theology game.