An Inconvenient Text

An Inconvenient Text: Is a Green Reading of the Bible Possible?

Norman Habel
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    An Inconvenient Text
    Book Description:

    The Bible is an inconvenient text. There are passages that are 'grey' rather than 'green'. These passages depict God or humans destroying or devaluing parts of creation. What if we dare to read these 'grey texts' from the perspective of the victims - Earth and the domains of Earth? How then would we relate to these de-valued parts of creation? And, how does this Gospel contribute to resolving this dilemma? Norm Habel has taught Old Tesatment in Australia, the USA and India. He has written major commentaries on the Book of Job and is editor of the Sheffield Press' Earth Bible Series.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-12-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Sallie McFague
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Ernst Conradie

    Ecological problems such as climate change require a multidisciplinary approach in which every one of us is called upon to play a role. Despite the earlier criticisms by Lynn White Jr and others regarding the complicity of Christianity in environmental destruction, it has now become clear that the role of religion will be critical in addressing such destruction. Several observers have recognised the potential of the world’s religious traditions to offer the necessary inspiration, spiritual vision, ecological wisdom, ethical discernment, moral power, and hope to sustain an ecological transformation of the global economy and the widespread culture of consumerism. Religious...

  5. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    An Inconvenient Truthconfronted us with the cold reality of global warming and its consequences. Al Gore’s bold production made it abundantly clear that the planet is in crisis. The Arctic and Antarctic regions of Earth are slowly melting and the oceans are rising. Toxic fumes are still choking our atmosphere. Old-growth forests continue to be cleared. Within twenty-five years, the greenhouse gases we emit are likely to double. The environmental crisis is escalating and to date relatively little has been done to stem the forces of global warming. There has been considerable talk about sustaining the life of the...

  7. 1 The Mandate to Dominate
    (pp. 1-10)

    Refusing to be conscripted into the Prussian army, my great grandfather Wilhelm Habel immigrated to Australia from Germany in the 1840s and established a farm between two lakes, one saltwater and the other freshwater. His farm was on the saltwater lake. The freshwater lake, which was less than half a mile away, had been cleared of all trees up to the water’s edge. Wilhelm, who had a genuine bond with nature, decided to plant native Australian trees around the second lake and restore the lake to life. Within a week, the local farmers had pulled up every tree. The local...

  8. 2 The Mighty Acts of God
    (pp. 11-24)

    The elusive nature of the rainbow has long fascinated me. In the early 1980s I would drive to the university and park my car facing into the West. Often in winter there would be a rainbow or two suspended in the clouds to the West—a sign, I supposed, to jog God’s memory.

    On one occasion, as I drove to my usual parking spot, I was astounded to see a white rainbow—or to be more precise, there was a bright white arch across the clouds precisely where the rainbow normally hung. What was happening? The science lecturers at the...

  9. 3 The Promised Land Syndrome
    (pp. 25-36)

    Adelaide in South Australia is known as the ‘city of churches’. It acquired this title in the mid-nineteenth century, not because it erected numerous church buildings, but because it was open to any religious group who chose to settle there. Unlike the other states of Australia, South Australia was not a convict colony; it was a free settlement open to people from throughout Europe. It was another promised land.

    One group of settlers was a Lutheran contingent from Germany. They appropriated land in the Barossa Valley, cleared the trees, and planted what is now one of the richest vineyards in...

  10. 4 The Challenge of Ecology
    (pp. 37-50)

    In a quiet bay on Kangaroo Island, on the Southern shores of Australia, there is a monument to Nicholas Baudin, noted French scientist and explorer. He circumnavigated the planet in 1802 and docked for a brief stay on an island replete with distinctive fauna and flora that fascinated the Frenchman. Later he met the English explorer Matthew Flinders in Encounter Bay and shared his findings, even though France and England were at war at the time. The natural world meant more to them than the politics of Europe.

    Circumnavigating the globe was possible because of a radical change in the...

  11. 5 A Green Reading of Grey Texts
    (pp. 51-64)

    When my brother and I were boys on the farm, we learned to read the landscape and interpret the voices we heard in the bush. We could tell the next day’s weather from signs in the sky. We could distinguish between a mating call and a warning cry among the birds overhead. We knew whether the roar of a bull meant he was about to charge us or if it was merely to notify us of his presence.

    One sound that sometimes annoyed us was the laugh of the kookaburra. When we bicycled down to the creek at dawn to...

  12. 6 A Green Reading of the Mandate to Dominate
    (pp. 65-78)

    A few years ago, there was a massive oil spill off the coast of South Africa. Gradually the oil moved towards Robin Island, near Capetown. Robin Island happened to be home for a large colony of fairy penguins. Moved by their consciences, a group of individuals rescued hundreds of penguins from the Island and relocated them about a thousand miles away on the Eastern side of the cape. They tagged three of the penguins to see what would happen.

    After some weeks—when the island had been cleared of most of the oil spill—the fairy penguins began to return...

  13. 7 A Green Reading of the Mighty Acts of God
    (pp. 79-96)

    In December 2007, Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide, was devastated by a mass of bushfires. On a hot dry summer day, an electrical storm enveloped the island, unleashing more than a hundred lightning strikes. These strikes lit fires throughout the natural reserves across the island. While this event was indeed a natural disaster, there is reliable evidence to suggest that the dryness of the island was intensified by global warming. Today, of course, no one on the island would read the disaster as a divine curse, a punishment for evil deeds committed by the island community.

    Ironically, natural disasters of...

  14. 8 A Green Reading of Promised Land Texts
    (pp. 97-114)

    The land owns me! This declaration of George Rosendale is typical of the orientation of Indigenous elders in countries like Australia¹. This deep and abiding kinship between the elders and the land that owns them, stands in stark contrast to the perspective of invading peoples who lay claim to the land as property and expect ownership. Many Indigenous peoples believe they belong to the land; the land does not belong to them. When they walk the land, they read the landscape and the land responds. They listen to the land. Is there any of this sense of kinship with the...

  15. Conclusion An inconvenient text
    (pp. 115-122)

    The Bible is an inconvenient text for several reasons. First, there are numerous grey texts in which nature is devalued at the hands of God or humans. These texts tend to focus on human interests and suppress the character or voice of Earth or members of the Earth community. These texts are anthropocentric and view nature primarily as a resource for humans to exploit.

    Second, the Bible is inconvenient because we are gaining a new eco-consciousness or ecology-informed worldview that tends to make us more empathetic with Earth as the very source of our being and sustenance. We are an...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 123-128)
  17. Subject Index
    (pp. 129-132)
  18. Biblical Index
    (pp. 133-136)