Posted by: DCox | April 30, 2009

Agriculture as Theology … part 3

soil-1Jesus was a botanist and agriculturalist. He spoke of the soils – some fertile and some less so – of the mustard seed, of the grain of wheat, of the olive tree. He feed the 4000 with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. All of these stories ground us in the life we live as physical beings in a created world. They also speak of great mystery; realities beyond our comprehension. Perhaps this is one of Jesus’ gifts to us; he is helping us to see that there are mysteries that only the Trinity understands. Jesus challenges us to respond in faith and live with the inherent discord we feel related to mystery. His creation is a mystery, we are mysteries even unto ourselves, and all of this points to the unseen spiritual realm that remains mystery.

soil-2We are creatures that demand control. However, to control our environment requires that we simplify things and we do this by categorizing realities into more easily understood boxes. This simplification has lead to divisions of body and soul, good and bad, black and white. In agriculture, this simplification has lead to monoculture and the necessary addition of nutrients and pesticides because the natural ecosystem has been broken. The diversity and interdependencies of the ecosystem have been replaced by artificial inputs to sustain the system.

soil-3There is a complexity to life. If we are to live whole lives, we must accept mystery and tension. In the agricultural realm, that means bending our practices to participate in the natural interdependencies of local ecosystems. We don’t understand all of these complexities even though we have “matured” some as we recognize the need to take a systems approach to agriculture and the environment. As beings with souls, we also have to live with the tension that comes from acknowledging the sin and failure in our lives and at the same time hoping in the reconciliation and restoration that Jesus promises to those that believe.

soil-4Mystery; mystery as opposed to control. We experience palpable fear in losing control. Our grasp on control is so tight that we, in general, don’t know how to care for the soul or care for the soil. Soul care and Creation care both require that we participate in mystery. We are participants; dependent on God and interdependent with the biological systems that are part of Creation.


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