On Tree-hugging, Star-gazing, Dove-hunting And Sustainable Practice

I have always found curious, if not odd, the animosity shown to “tree huggers” by some conservative Christians. I was raised a very conservative Christian, and in many ways still think of myself as “conservative,” in the sense of wanting to conserve what is most important, central, and crucial to orthodox Christian faith. But my being raised that way, and my continuing to see myself in this way, was never something that stood in tension with tree hugging.

As a matter of fact, some of my finest days as a ten-year-old entailed hugging the long leaf pines. There was one such pine in particular, at the far end of our one-acre-plus yard, which I especially enjoyed climbing, sitting in its branches, taking in the rise and fall of the Appalachian foothills that extended down into that part of north-east-central Alabama. It was one of the finest specimens of “tree” I knew. Good for climbing, good for shade, and if it ever had to be, would have provided lots of good two-by-fours for shelter and domesticity.

And then there was the sight of the stars on clear Deep South nights. On a couple of occasions I weirded out college girlfriends whom I brought back home: I would ask them to lay down in the road and look up at the stars with me. Their understandable fear, as city girls, was getting run over by a car. But we were way out on the edge of a small town, and I knew better. I knew you could hear any traffic from a long ways away, so quiet was the hill on which we lived. Anyway, the road was the best place to peek around the pine trees to take in the spectacle of the Milky Way, spread before us like a sparkling tapestry woven with the most magnificent care.

That spectacular display had many times brought unbidden words of prayer or praise to my lips. My breath would often escape me, when I would go out by myself at night and take in the view. But this experience was nothing new. The very hymns we sang in church said so:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heav'n and earth are full of Thee; Heav'n and earth are praising Thee, O Lord Most High!

And yet more: I learned in the conservative South how the hunters cared deeply about a rightful and balanced and conserving care for the natural order. We never hunted much in our household, except during dove season. I was awfully pleased to receive my beautifully crafted twelve-gauge shotgun from my father as a twelve-year-old. I had worked my way up from a .410 to a twenty gauge single shot, to a sixteen gauge pump, to this sweet, five-shell 12 gauge. Something like an Alabama rite-of-passage I suppose.

The birds taken in the hunt always provided either dinner for us, or dinner for a poor woman we knew well. The first time I shot a bird, my dad showed me how I needed to wring its neck. It was the first time I felt warm blood trickle down the back of my hand. That warmth made me pay attention: one learns not to take so much for granted when one has felt the warm blood of a beautiful creature that has given its life to make food for oneself.

So I know no tension between caring for the creation and a serious Christian faith. Instead, I find it curious, if not odd, that one could do otherwise. It is, after all, says the text, God’s good creation, and not ours.

So, with all that said, I am particularly grateful for the work done by the Institute for Sustainable Practice under the direction of Dodd Galbreath at Lipscomb University. The Institute seeks to do good work, teaching us to care for, conserve, and cultivate the bounty and beauty of the good creation in which we have been given life. And we are grateful for their support of Tokens in 2012, especially as a Platinum Sponsor for our season opener: “Plenty: The Abundance of Simplicity.”

Learn more about their good work and more about the Sustainable Business Summit being held in conjunction with the March 27 Tokens show at http://www.lipscomb.edu/sustainability.

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