I was in a Zoom gathering last night, during which a presenter suggested that one key to better Christian engagement with environmental and ecological concerns is the God-People-Land triangle present in (and presupposed by) the Bible (especially the Hebrew scriptures).
This is a good and helpful reminder–that a more just and healthy activism is aided by a spirituality that notices and names our shared ecological environment as part of our divine-human relationship. There is no spirituality without ecology, we might say. (And no ecology without spirituality!)
For us, on this site, the three dimensions of shalom (well-being, justice, and integrity) always includes four overlapping relationships–with God, with others, with nature, with ourselves. And any movement toward shalom, including environmental shalom, will be hindered if one of those relationships is left out or undeveloped. Conversely, movement toward shalom will be more rewarded if it includes robust engagement in each of these four relationships.
We could put this in an even stronger way: the very identity of God, people, and place, are wrapped up with one another. And this means, how we perceive, imagine, and describe ourselves, or the environment, or the divine will be partial (at best) and misleading (at worst) if we don’t attend to the relational connections among all three realities. In other words, we can’t just take any old conceptions of God, people, nature, and then connect them to one another, and think that this will lead to a better ecological practice. (The presenter certainly didn’t think this, by the way.)
What we need, then, is, after we’ve connected God, people, and place, perceiving their essential interrelatedness, we must then begin the hard work of reconsidering what “God” means, if God is essentially related to nature; what “nature” means if essential related to the divine; what “human being” mean if intrinsically related to both God and nature. This is the work of imaginatively and creatively re-working our inherited theological formulae.
Better Christian ecological practice will be helped by those Christians who wish to persist in traditional understandings of God, humanity, nature, making better connections among them, recognizing an important relationship within them. But it might be helped even more by a spiritual and theological “re-visioning” of God (away from a transcendent and transactional deity), humanity (away from the unencumbered and autonomous individual), and nature (away from the inert “stuff” that is to be extracted for human manipulation).