Even the Rocks Cry Out CREATION AND GOD WHO HEARS “Heart Songs” Karen Baker-Fletcher. SISTERS OF DUST, SISTERS OF SPIRIT: WOMANIST WORDINGS ON GOD AND CREATION. Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.: Fortress Press, 1998. Heart songs, love songs Heart songs pum pum, pum pum seep deep into healing places, pum pum, pump um sacred spaces like rain making tears caress the soul an oasis in the sound of drums planting kisses of aloe calling up power calling up patches of grass, To walk and dance again. pools of blue that kiss toes in sun .e rippling with laughter, because hope is not gone. From “What About the Children,” Karen Baker-Fletcher, Sisters of Dust, Sisters of Spirit Night Magic Gritty gray smoke billows from the soot-line streets. Skyscrapres thrust upward into the bright blue sky as if trying to escape the traffic glutted, noisy streets below. Litter punctuates the grimy gutters and deserted lots. Slowly, silently, the soft black blanket of night envelops the city. The night sky is a perfect black velvet backdrop for the multicolored jewels of lights. Now the city is a sparkling fantasyland. I see people walking to the theaters, the ladies dressed up with sparkling jewelry..The many colored lights on the buildings make them beautiful instead of ugly. Slowly it gets quieter and the sky’s brighter; its dawn. The sky is red and orange, and gray smog brings in the unpleasant smell of polluted air and water. As the smog lifts, the familiar scene of the ugly red and grey buildings appears, the smoke curling into the air like a bad omen for the sky. The factories are even uglier with their smelly, poisonous gases, put into the rivers and seas as smoke and waste. It’s a very ugly morning scene… Across the street is a beautiful park, with the sounds of winter birds. Squirrels scurry from tree to tree hiding nuts for the winter. This is one place where we see true beauty. English Assignment for Miss Auriel Lynn, by Karen Baker, 1970, 11 years old. On Earth As It is In Heaven How can there be so much joy, pleasure and beauty in life? How can there be so much pain, hurt, suffering, and death? Why and how do these things come to pass? What is God’s intention for human life and for the rest of creation? Doesn’t God will something more for us – a love that does no harm? Doesn’t God will for us a compassionate and caring love, rather than a false love that strips humanity and creation of dignity? Can we experience such love in this life? Or do we have to wait until the heareafter – life afer death? These are questions about the kingdom of God. They have to do with God’s intention for the realm of God. They make us consider our own responsibility as participants in God’s activity of a love that does no harm in the here and now. These are questions about God’s intention for all creation—on earth as in heaven. Stewardship “That we have any nominal reign over creation at all, as the book of Genesis indicates, is a matter of stewardship more than domination. We are stewards of the land that belongs to God. We are stewards of our children’s future. Generations before us have made mistakes and have also made some corrections. We continue to make mistakes and must also make corrections. We must continue to hope in ourselves, God and our children. When we have given up hope on ourselves, the children’s hope can keep us going. “ KBF, Sisters of Dust, Sisters of Spirit, p. 70. Children and Interlocking Systems of Oppression Children in poor urban areas are more likely to ingest lead and develop lead poisoning. This comes from house hold paints, hazardous industries like batter manufacturing plants, lead smelters, brass foundries, firing ranges, radiator repair shops, and construction sites. Mercury and asbestos poisoning are among some of the other environmental threats that affect our children. Two of my own children landed in the hospital with severe asthma attacks from smog before they were out of doctors. Living near a Soy Bean Factory and other industries growing up, my best childhood friend and I were on Sudafed for frequent sinus head-aches. Like my children, I also developed asthma. The air is not better just because some flee to suburbs. There is no hiding place from ecological crisis. Some only have not been taught to understand that they, too, are victims of it. A nice job, house and car does not make the air and our waters more clean. The dream multinational corporations sell is a delusion. To think we are not all victims is a delusion that divides us along class lines—an intentional Machiavellian move by the economic powers that be of Postmodern, Neocolonial Empire. Diagnosing the Problem When we treat the symptoms of ecological illnesses, we fail to diagnose and treat the larger problem. Only by diagnRendering poisonous, toxic if you will, practices extinct is the best cure of allosing and treating the problem can we hope to render ecological illnesses extinct. . “The Dance of Dispensability,” KBF Sisters of Dust, Sisters of Spirit, p. 62 “Environmental abuse, racism, sexism, [abilism, agism, heterosexism] and classism are interlocking systems of oppression and evil. They inaugurate a cruel dance of dispensability. The assumption seems to be that some of us are expendable, a drain on government resources like the pollutants imposed upon us. “…It seems that all too often the poorer the community and the lower the tax base, the worse the abuse. Industries that enter neighborhoods of color to “increase jobs” brazenly increase health hazards, threaten job loss when confronted, and their self-serving presence further lowers the tax base funds available for correcting the problems. Cain, Abel and the Earth I In Genesis 4, we read the account of two brothers, one a keeper of flocks and the other a tender of fruits of the soil, named Abel and Cain, respectively. According to the story, God looked with favor on Abel and his offerings of the fatted firstborn of his flock, but not so with Cain’s fruits of the soil. Perhaps the sheep were viewed as more valuable in Abel’s small community, because they provided wool for warm clothing and blankets. Perhaps this was a change from the types of animal skins we read about in Genesis 3. The story may reflect a shift from a crop-oriented culture to a meat-oriented culture. This is, however, the first that we hear of blood sacrifices in the book of Genesis. The perception that God favored one brother over the other was a source of jealousy, resentment, and anger. Cain, Abel and the Earth II Did God really favor one brother over the other? God loves Cain enough to warn him of danger, which suggests that God is caring, compassionate and present in the lives of both Cain and Able. According to the story, God warns Cain “if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at you door; it desires to have you, but you must master it”(Gen.4: 7). In other words, something was brewing in Cain’s heart. God, in God’s empathetic presence, feels Cain’s heart as it is tempted to transgress the divine initial aim for relationships of well-being. Cain was most likely simmering with anger and resentment, letting his anger grow instead of getting control of it. Cain, Abel and the Earth III Cain asked his brother to go out with him to the field, where he attacked Abel and killed him. In short, he was overcome by violent rage. This is the first account of murder in the Old Testament. It occurs after the first human beings’ banishment from the harmonious Garden of Eden in response to their eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Cain, who grew crops, recollects the biblical, divine admonition God gives to Adam: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it were you taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Cain, Abel and the Earth IV Cain spills his brother’s blood into the same ground that he tilled with painful toil and sweat. We are told that God responds, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Gen. 4:1011). The earth itself responds to violence, opening its “mouth” to receive Abel’s blood. God responds to the cry of the blood-soaked earth. This is a responsive world; a responsive cosmos where even in violence and broken relationship there is relationship nonetheless. Blood and earth cry out to God, responding to acts of violation against body and land. God responds in turn, calling out to Cain, working in Cain’s consciousness to bring him to an awareness of the lasting consequences of his actions. Now, not only is the ground that Cain tilled out of balance, in the throes of some ecological imbalance, but Cain himself is forever changed, no longer at peace with himself, his brother, God, or the land. Cain, Abel and the Earth V “When you work the ground,” Cain learns from God who lures or calls to his slowly growing consciousness, “it will no longer yield crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Gen 4:12). Once Cain fully experienced the truth that had been calling to him in the midst of his rage, he was no longer at peace with the land he once tilled. He was restless, wrestling with internal turmoil, an experiential awareness of his unbalanced self. Perhaps Cain could never look at the land in the same way or till it with the same vigor. Cain, Abel and the Earth VI There was hope for Cain. He experienced God’s call to him, evidenced in his awareness that tilling the land would never be the same for him. This is a sign of remorse. He is even protected by God in the story. God does not desire vengeance against Cain, but cautions against anyone killing him by sealing him with a mark. The mark is not a curse, but a sign of God’s protection. In short, Cain experiences forgiveness and loss in the consequent nature of God, in God’s healing response to broken relationship. Moreover, the fact that Cain experiences remorse and that he has conscious awareness of God’s continued presence in his life suggests that he is still open to experiencing God. Cain, Abel and the Earth VII There is hope for all of us to repent and receive God’s invitation to convert, to allow God to turn us around toward divine love itself so that we find life in God’s initial aim for all creation. Cain, Abel and the Earth VIII From the very moment that creation experiences sin, God experiences it in the same moment. Other than greater technology to execute mayhem, the will to violence has not changed much among humankind. The blood of brothers continues to soak the ground. The earth continues to cry out. God continues to respond to this bloodsoaked world, but how many are listening to the earth and to God. Dust and Spirit, KBF, Sisters of Dust, Sisters of Spirit, p. 18 “As a Christian, I understand Jesus Christ as embodying Spirit in Creation. As an African American who appreciates traditional African cosmologies, I see Jesus as a great ancestor. And because I believe that God has been present in every region of the globe throughout time, I think it is possible that there have been embodiments of God in other religions. Christ as fully human and fully God is a manifestation of Spirit in Creation working in harmony with itself. For Jesus Christ, to be fully human is to be fully dust, because according to Genesis 2 we humans are created from dust. Dust includes within it water, sun, and air, which enhance the vitality of its bodiliness, and its ability to increase life abundantly. So Dustiness refers to human connectedness with the rest of creation. Jesus as dust represents God, who is Spirit, fully embodied in Creation. Jesus fully represents such connection, while we strive not to forget it.