|By Joel C. Gerlach
Earth day has propelled little Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, into the national limelight. On a hilltop outside the village, four women and two men observed Earth Day in a religious ceremony, which included prayers to Mother Earth. Selena Fox served as the priestess for the occasion. In solemn tones she prayed, “Sacred Earth Power, bring healing to Planet. Earth.” Time magazine reported the event, noting that the ceremonies were part of a growing US spiritual movement: Goddess worship, the effort to create a female centered focus for spiritual expression.
An editorial in the New York Times gave its qualified endorsement to the movement. Acknowledging that “it appears flaky on the surface,” the Times went on to say, “it still warrants sympathy and respect. For it proceeds from values of nurturing, peace, and harmony with nature.”
To the chagrin of legitimate environmentalists, even the famed Sierra Club has endorsed the new eco-religion. The club’s environmental health source book, Well Body, Well Earth, says, “The more you contact the voice of living Earth (note the capital E) and evaluate what it says, the easier it will become for you to contact it and trust what it provides.” The source book provides specifics by offering pagan rituals as the way “to reaffirm and bond with the spirit of the living Earth.”
Not surprisingly, the World Council of Churches is also sympathetic toward the new eco-religion. At its last convention in Canberra, Australia, it adopted a statement which says, “Those who are closest to the land, and whose spiritualties consider the Earth to be sacred, are those best able to guide this new process” of environmental renewal.
This new religion is for kids too. Ted Turner’s cable TV cartoon series, Captain Planet, introduces them to it. The program combines environmental teaching with a spiritual message and introduces viewers to the wisdom of Goddess Gaia, the mother of all life.
Features of this religion for a new age include worshipping a goddess mother who is the source of all life, elevating Mother Earth from legend to an object of faith, deifying the earth and its creatures, and condemning Christianity for allegedly condoning the rape of Mother Earth. Part of its popularity derives from the fact that it intertwines legitimate and serious environmental concerns with ancient myths and practices, and then blends them both with certain emphases of the feminist movement.
As Christians we need to recognize the diabolical nature of this revival of Babylonian nature worship. We also need to remember that while God requires of us that we respect nature, he doesn’t ask us to revere it. Biblical principles of Christian stewardship obligate us to use the earth and its resources wisely, and not to enrich ourselves at the expense of future generations.
We should endorse the practical suggestions of environmentalists, but not the mythology of neo-pagan fanatics who want to identify their religious interests with environmental concerns.
When you see earth spelled with a capital E, beware!
Joel C. Gerlach is pastor of St John, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.