A Unified View of Creation
By Pete Haug
This month’s The Fig Tree reports how six religious representatives shared their faiths’ “common themes of spring holy days.” Speakers explained how Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith welcome spring’s annual rebirth. Their unified perspective on the earth that supports us was striking.
Speakers explained “their spring holy days, how they celebrate them and how they relate to creation care” at a Hope for Creation Conference in Spokane’s Cathedral of St. John. Common themes included reflection, renewal, recentering, responsibility, new life, seasonal cycles, and a need to care for the Earth to ensure that those cycles continue.
How faiths care for the Earth unified the discussion. Participants emphasized the importance of protecting the environment that supports us all. As a Hindu, Sreedharani Nandagopol described the legend of how Krishna admonished exiled princes for destroying a forest. He asked, “Why do you take your anger out on innocent trees? … Did the animals or birds do anything? You destroyed their homes.” Krishna then advised, “Only take from nature what is necessary. If human beings forget this principle and abuse their power over nature, future generations of humanity will pay the price.”
For Jews, each spring’s Passover is a time of “transition from freedom to responsibility … to care for the earth,” explained Rabbi Tamar Malino. She cited a midrash (interpretation) about the Garden of Eden. Showing the first humans around the garden, God said, “Look at how beautiful my works are. I created you to care for the earth … do not corrupt it, because there will be no one to repair it.”
“To be Buddhist is to be a conservationist,” said Rev. Melissa Opel. “We are links in a Buddhist golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I must keep my link bright and strong, be kind and gentle to every living thing and those weaker than me.”
Easter is a time for Christian renewal, said Lauri Clark-Strait of the Disciples of Christ. It commemorates the rebirth of Jesus, who was observing Passover in Jerusalem when he was crucified and “God brought him back to life.” Clark-Strait shares her videos of the “new life” she sees on early-morning hikes. “God is always doing something new, but God needs our help in caring for the earth,” she said.
Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and purification, changes annually with the lunar calendar. This year it was in April, explained Karen Stromgren, a Muslim for 24 years. All Muslims have “the duty to care for the earth,” she said, “to promote sustainable development in Islamic countries and the world.” As commanded by Allah, humans must “avoid … acts that degrade the environment.”
She said the Koran mentions care for the environment 155 times. “Islam says people are responsible for damage to the earth. We are to protect the environment and natural resources,” she stated. “Maintaining balance of natural resources is the only way to guarantee survival for future generations.”
Baha’is celebrate two holy days in spring, explained Shahd Kalili, a student at Whitworth University. The first is Naw Ruz (New Year), which is observed at the spring equinox. Ridvan (Paradise) is observed on April 23 to commemorate Baha’u’llah’s formal announcement founding the Baha’i Faith in 1863.
Baha’i beliefs include equality of women and men, universal education, and balance of science and religion, Kalili said. “Balance starts with our behavior and attitude towards our earth,” she continued, “what we are expected to do for the earth and what we can expect the Earth to do for us.”
“For the Earth to be sustainable … people are to care for the world God created … We encourage children and youth to be mindful, to love themselves and serve their community,” Kalili added. “We have them do projects for nature and community building” based on “science – objective and subjective understanding – and religion – moral understanding – to build the common good.”
This all requires trust among peoples and nations to help them understand their responsibilities as citizens of one world.
A Unified Perspective
Despite differences among these religions, participants shared a unified perspective: caring for Earth. In this, science supports religion. The world faces a changing climate that becomes increasingly deadly, as The Guardian reported: “Millions of lives around the world will be saved, or lost, depending on whether America manages to propel itself towards a future without planet-heating emissions.”
Baha’u’llah’s 19th century warning anticipated this: “The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men.” Elsewhere he wrote, “Ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you.”
Human excesses are not new. When will we heed those warnings?
Pete plunged into journalism fresh out of college, putting his English literature degree to use for five years. He started in industrial and academic public relations, edited a rural weekly and reported for a metropolitan daily, abandoning all for graduate school. He finished with an M.S. in wildlife biology and a Ph.D. in systems ecology. After teaching college briefly, he analyzed environmental impacts for federal, state, Native American and private agencies over a couple of decades. His last hurrah was an 11-year gig teaching English in China. After retiring in 2007, he began learning about climate change and fake news, giving talks about both. He started writing columns for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and continues to do so. He first published for SpokaneFaVS.com in 2020. Pete’s columns alternate weekly between FāVS and the Daily News. His live-in editor, Jolie, infinitely patient wife for 61 years, scrutinizes all columns with her watchful draconian eye. Both have been Baha’is since the 1960s. Pete’s columns on the Baha’i Faith represent his own understanding and not any official position.