Repentance and Healing the Land
By Rev. Curt Karns
One of the Spirit’s movements of the past few years has been the linkage of ministry aimed at addressing the renunciation of the Doctrine of Discovery with ministry aimed at addressing climate change. In the Presbytery of Yukon, we have held three special events making that linkage. Many others are also engaged in that effort, including Presbyterians for Earth Care in their 2017 national conference, Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice and Healing for Our Watershed, held at Menucha Retreat Center.
Given all this coordinated action, it is important to show why repentance from the Doctrine of Discovery fits hand-in-hand with climate change ministry. For some, the connection will not be obvious. Yet, the two efforts are really the right and left hand of one, integrated focus for ministry. To begin making that point, let me lean on biblical scholar, M. R. Schlimm.
Schlimm points out that the Hebrew Bible connects repentance from moral sin with caring for the land.
(In the Hebrew Bible) Severe moral impurities contaminated both the sinner and the land itself. Leviticus 18 says that the land itself is sickened by such pollutions:
‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations, … otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people. So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God.’ (18:24-26, 28 NRSV, italics added)
In the Bible, the land is not a passive object that humans can simply manipulate. It is one of God’s agents in the world.