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Embracing Creation Theology

2011 April 7

Next week, on April 15, is the annual National Day of Silence, a day where students across America pledge to be silent for a day in order to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools. Sadly, but also obviously, it is a day not without controversy. I recall a parent of one of the kids in the youth group we led years ago complaining to me about the day and that her (high school) student had to be exposed to such an agenda. Basically she was offended that her son was forcefully made aware of the harassment of people she didn’t like.

I was reminded of that encounter this week as I was reading Rowan Williams’ essay “On Being Creatures.” The essay argues that only a belief that God created the world ex nihilo allows us to embrace our full dependence on God as the source of our identity and therefore stop competitively asserting ourselves over and against other people and the environment in futile attempts to define and create our own identity. For Williams, it is only in rooting ourselves in God that we can be fully human and live responsibly in the world. What most intrigued me though were his conclusions regarding the practical implications of what it would mean for us to trust so fully in God. He writes –

Both the rhetoric and the practice of our defence policies often seem to offend against the acknowledgment of creatureliness – in two respects, at least. First, there is the offence against any notion of ‘creaturely solidarity’ implied by the threat not only to obliterate large numbers of the human race … but to unleash what is acknowledged to be an uncontrollable and incalculable process of devastation in our material environment, an uncontainable injury to the ecology of the planet. Second, there is the extent to which our deterrent policies have become bound to a particular kind of technological confidence: somewhere in the not-so-distant future, it might be possible to construct a defensive or aggressive military system which will provide a final security against attack, a final defence against the pressure of the ‘other’. If I may repeat some words written in 1987 about the problems posed by the Strategic Defence Initiative, the Christian is bound to ask, ‘How far is the search for impregnability a withdrawal from the risks of conflict and change? A longing to block out the possibility of political repentance, drastic social criticism and reconstruction?’

Not embracing our identity as dependant creations of a loving God puts us at odds with the rest of creation. When we assume that our identity is shaped by something other than God, like our own efforts and resourcefulness, we live in competition and not solidarity with others. Others become not fellow image-bearers similarly in dependant relationships with God, but entities competing with us for power and limited resources. Instead of loving others, we set up defenses (or offenses) against the pressure of the other – even to the point that we arrange our world so that we don’t even have to acknowledge that the other exists.

We don’t want to know about starving children, or trafficked women, or ravaged countries if hearing about such things might upset us and demand something of us. We’d rather pretend that people we dislike don’t exist than have to encounter them and see them as human. So people try to ban days like the National Day of Silence. They pass laws prohibiting the construction of mosques in their community. They, as like with what happened to a pastor friend in Wheaton, spray-paint “Go home N***” on a black family’s garage door when that family moves into a white neighborhood. Instead of trusting in God and embracing a ‘creaturely solidarity’ because of that trust, defenses against having to respond to the other are continually built up. And as Williams so rightly points out, when we refuse to even engage the other by building up ultimate defenses against them, we shut down any possibility of being convicted of our sins. If we don’t have to engage the other, then how our actions affect them are above critique. If we’d rather pretend that LGBT people do not exist then we won’t listen to (or even allow) any dialogue regarding how they are treated. But we can never fight against injustice if we refuse to admit that injustice even exists. Liberation and reconciliation will never happen in this world if we refuse to even acknowledge voices different than our own.

But this isn’t what creation is supposed to be. We do not live ultimately in a competitive world, but we live in a world where everything is a gift from God. It is only when we can acknowledge God as creator and therefore trust in God that we can stop asserting ourselves over others and refusing to responsibly and lovingly see them as part of the community of the imago-dei. I appreciated Williams’ essay for reminding me of this practical importance of our beliefs. Our theology of creation matters. Not for some silly science vs. faith debate, but because it defines our very identity and how we live communally as the body of Christ in this world.


6 Responses leave one →
  1. Scooter permalink
    April 8, 2011

    Hi Julie, You present several interesting thoughts on how people need to see themselves as being in the image of God. Do you think it would be helpful to focus more clearly on the sin issue which has marred that image of God in all of us? I wonder as well, if the Lord would call Christians to a day of repentance much like we find in the writings of Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel and others in order to get back to the place where God would actuallyhear us rather than a day of silence which I suspect will accomplish very little in people and certainly nothing with God.

    • mike permalink
      April 9, 2011

      ..i was all ready to agree whole-heartedly with your comment which on first thought seemed to be the voice of wisdom..but as i about to type i realized that i would need be included amongst ‘those’ with an image problem due to sin issues..and always will be if the truth be known..i think its more about you accepting me as a fellow sinner..warts and we limp side by side on our way to the Throne of God to beg for mercy….”Lord Jesus Christ..Son of God..have mercy on me a sinner”

  2. April 8, 2011

    You have a good point with the whole identity issue thing. And the fact that it all starts with how we view how we ourselves started is also a good point. Nice work.

  3. Jenna permalink
    April 8, 2011

    This was very interesting to read. It makes me think about how we use blame and dogma to comfort ourselves. The more uncomfortable we feel in our vulnerabilities the more we need to shift our pain unto others. We want to make them the problem. The Lord has been showing me that I have a propensity to be apathetic (or downright mean) towards homeless people. My husband has worked and ministered to homeless people for several years now, which has really tried my heart. I have a deep need to believe that people end up homeless due to their own wrong doing. Every homeless drug addict confirms my need and I feel relief. Every homeless person that is not addicted, makes me feel deeply unsettled. My heart has been examined and it shows that I am afraid…afraid that it could happen to me. I for some reason or another am terrified of being homeless. Christians fear The National Day of Silence. They are terrified that their sons and daughter might grow up to be gay. We all are afraid that our life won’t turn out the way we want it to. Where is the sovereignty of God in this? Where’s the child-like trust in God the Father?

  4. April 15, 2011

    I know this is an entirely different issue, and I apologise for going so far off-topic, but among my own online and offline circle, the issues surrounding the National Day of Silence isn’t about homophobes not wanting to acknowledge that the painful harrassment (and high suicide rates) of GLBT teens exist/not wanting to let others speak out against GLBT bullying, but more, “what about me”?
    GLBT bullying deserves special mention and attention- while no ‘form’ of bullying is acceptable, ever, there is such an extraordinarily high correlation between being GLBT-identified ( or being suspected of being gay) and bullying– and suicide resulting from GLBT bullying. if a gay teen is in the closet (which is very likely), they would feel far less able than other teens who have been bullied go to anyone for help, advice or encouragement. They’d be far less likely to go home and talk to their parents about it. And being part of a group that society has deemed acceptable to bully and marginalise for so long doesn’t help either.

    That said, among my non-GLBT friends that have been severely bullied in their lifetime-the sentiment seems to be one of ” Was it more acceptable that I was bullied to the brink of suicide because I was overweight/ugly/nerdy/somehow deemed annoying?”

    It’s a sentiment that homophobes have exploited in their crusade against the National Day of Silence, but listening to others who have experienced the pain of persistent, severe bullying, I believe that it deserves to be addressed.

    One thing that the National Day of Silence teaches is the acceptance of difference, of diversity; the acceptance of different sexual orientations or gender identities. GLBT people should not be bullied or harrassed, because there’s nothing bad or wrong about being gay.
    But is there something unacceptable about being fat? Expressing your own sexual/gender identity is a healthy expression of self. But what’s healthy about being obese? I’ve read through so many views online that pretty much sanctions the bullying of overweight/obese kids. Because 1) being overweight/obese is something you can change, unlike sexual orientation 2) being overweight/obese isn’t good or healthy, therefore it’s somehow the victim’s fault for being bullied since they chose to stuff their face. The same argument applies for the many kids who are bullied for completely arbitrary reasons, or maybe the kid who is shy or lacking social skills or street smarts. You must have done something, or presented yourself in some way that makes you a target. You could have changed the way you dressed, the way you talked, your weight or the way you wore your hair– but you didn’t. Therefore, it’s your fault.

    Don’t get me wrong- like I said, I believe GLBT bullying deserves special attention. Far too many gay kids out there are taking their lives. But I hope that the message sent out applies to everyone. Not just that you don’t deserve to be bullied, because there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” about you–but because every child (or adult), no matter how skinny, fat, clumsy, socially awkward, unattractive, unintentionally annoying or weird they are– is an individual worthy of love. No one deserves to be bullied. Ever.

  5. Mick permalink
    April 15, 2011

    Shall we have a day of silence for those who will never have the opportunity to voice an opinion that agrees or disagrees with Miss Clawson ? Because regardless , God is the creator of all life . To harm it by bullying before or after birth , for whatever reason .

    Some use the bullying of those who are weaker and defenseless from only their own world view . They attempt to then use strawman arguments to bully others who may disagree from remianing silent . Calling them bigots . Hateful.
    Unfortunately many non Christian groups have used the Day of Silence as a day to teach lessons about homosexuality that perhaps even Ms Clawson would disagree with . Interesting if she did , how would she like her comments all being generically stated to seem to all come from one hate full group instead of from her personal opinion .

    In fact any parent should be involved in knowing about the curricullum being used with such matters. my wife has two gay parents come to her day care , it is a Christian day Care . Obviously the respect that that Day care gives does not align with Ms Clawson , but interestingly there are gay parents who may even disagree with the day of silence . One wide view is that bullies do attack those who are different and appear weaker . Unfortunately the Day of Silence focuses on one group , enlarging the target for bullies of all kinds . In a day and age when homosexual rights and views are so widely accepted in our schools , the amount of gay bullying has increased . Ever consider it was the constant focus ?

    Obviously we would not want Ms Clawsons views and steretypical depictions of those who have honest disagreements based in respect and concern that she maligns here being taught in a public school . They might believe that only bigots disagree with ms Clawson . How sad .

    I happen to support the GSA , but not all organizations involved in this day of silence are as dedicated to respect and to stop bullying .In fact I have seen some that use bullying techiques themselves with groups , people of faith , or opinions that just differ. Homosexual groups have no special shield from falling victim to the same character flaws all Christians and hetrosexuals suffer from . Yes there are some people and organizations who have made the day of silence a political tool . Obvious the need for ms Clawson to make strawman arguments for those who may disagree with her shows how this subject becomes so emotional. No way can any Christian support bullying any child .

    Just as many groups have taken the
    disturbing and merciless taking of life for political gain from both sides . Or completly ignored as even important , interesting when we are talking about bullying to leave out the ultimate bullying of the defenseless child .

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