November 30, 2010 / Theology
This essay is neither for nor against Glenn Beck. The philosopher Michel Foucault warns us …
October 2, 2006
Creation is sacred space. It is born continually from divine vision, and fashioned by the creative power of the Spirit exercised directly or indirectly, through divine action in the present or as a result of divine action in the past. Creation is sacred because the transcendent-immanent Spirit dwells in it, and experiences material reality and consciousness intimately within it rather than remain apart from it. Creatures experience creation as sacred when the Spirit who permeates it is encountered as a distinct and divine presence. Human engagement with the Spirit in nature is an experience of sacred Being, mediated by the sacred commons (the localized sacred cosmos).
Creation is shared space. In the vastness of the universe, uncounted stars, planets, comets, asteroids, black holes, and other cosmic phenomena populate an area ever widened by the expanding universe, which has had fifteen billion years or so to reach its present extent. There might be, beyond current contact, yet other universes engaged in their own expansion. On Earth, the shared space includes abiotic (nonliving) creation, and a complex and diverse biotic (living) community, which is an interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated web of all life.
The universe’s shared space is a cosmic commons, a place where interacting and interrelated energies, entities, elements, and events are integrated into a dynamic and complex whole. Earth’s shared space and distinct places and biota provide a planetary commons: a home and habitat intended by the Spirit to provide for all creatures, who live in integrated biosystems, a sufficiency of goods: either from what is present in pristine nature (in the air, water, and land), or from what is derived from that original existence through the labor of humans and other biota (beavers building dams, foxes digging dens, and birds building nests, for example). Life in the commons is evolving, complexifying and diversifying; in that process, over generations, individuals and species emerge, live, and die, living the free (and, for humans and some other biota, responsible and loving) lives granted to them by their Creator.
All creation, then, is a commons which, like ecosystems on Earth, has macrocosmic and microcosmic dimensions, and more: a spiritual dimension of reality which–with the material dimension and energy dimensions, and other dimensions of reality–form holistic, integral being. Creation consciousness (awareness of interconnected dimensions of being) leads to commons commitments (service, according to one’s abilities and availability, to terrestrial and exoterrestrial well-being).
The Spirit transcendent-immanent encountered by people open to engagement with divine being is a Spirit Being-Becoming who intentionally inSpirits (“incorporates”) within the divine self the dynamic cosmos and evolutionary commons in all their diversity and complexity. The Spirit transcendent-immanent voluntarily relinquishes power over the dynamic cosmos and evolutionary commons in a divine kenosis, an emptying of divine control over the course of cosmic events and the direction of cosmic development (cf. Phil 2:6-8, which expresses how divine self-emptying occurred when God came among humans as Jesus, and experienced, guided, and inspired, rather than controlled, human life). The Spirit enables cosmic and commons freedom while engaging with humankind in revelatory moments and personal relationships. The Spirit creates indirectly within the parameters of cosmic laws as they interact with contingent and apparently chance of chaotic events. These interactions stimulate fulfillment of a divine vision for the dynamic universe. Kenosis is not divine desertion, but divine relinquishing of coercive power over the creatures that result from the interaction of law, contingency, and time. Divine guidance is not divine control; it is not a continuous manipulation of freed creation to ensure that it emerges according to some divine “design” or “intelligent design.” It is the granting of freedom with the possibility that the Spirit will inspire a new direction or understanding, or engage directly the process of creation, when the Spirit’s primary attribute of love, an attribute superior to freedom, requires such guidance or engagement to benefit, not order, a dynamic cosmos and an evolutionary Earth.
In Christian traditions whose religious practice includes ritual sacraments–signs of God’s granting of grace to their recipients–the universe itself can be viewed as sacramental. The beauty, diversity, and complexity of the created world can stimulate people, if they are open to the encounter, to become aware of the divine presence immanent in Earth. Ecclesial sacraments, particular rituals ordinarily mediated by a member of the clergy or by a designated church representative, are distinct from but complementary to universal sacraments, mediated by creation as a whole or in part. The universal sacrament of creation, then, can offer moments of grace, of personal or communal engagement with the Spirit, who is transcendent to creation (distinct from creation) and yet immanent in creation (permeating creation).
The universe is sacramental. As a whole and in its parts, it reveals its Creator; it is a sign and a symbol of divine presence and divine creativity. Historically, Christian churches have focused on the Spirit-transcendent. Recently, Christians have become more conscious of the Spirit-immanent. When Christians regard creation as sacramental, as revelatory of the Spirit, then their understandings of the transcendence and immanence of God are integrated, and they have an enlightened commitment to care for the Spirit’s creation in its local manifestation, the commons in which they live and work. When Christians regard the commons as sacramental, and consequently care for and about it as sacramental, they become involved in practical projects to provide for the well-being of the commons and of the community of all life, and to ensure a just distribution, among all people, of commons goods needed by all humanity. Earth is the context of the biotic community as a whole and of the human community within it, and the sacred space where people live in divine presence, immersed in divine being. Earth is a natural “sacrament” for humanity and a “commons” habitat for all creatures.
Since the earliest human spiritual stirrings, the grandeur of the universe and the wonders of Earth’s community of life have served a sacramental role–though not usually expressed as such–for reflective people. Religious visionaries more often encountered the Spirit and engaged the sacred during sojourns in wilderness areas than in buildings dedicated to divine worship. The Spirit was not defined by nor confined to a particular locale, however dramatic encounters with the divine had been in special places; any of earth’s pristine places could be, and many distinct sites were, the locus of revelation and instruction. Although some prophets, such as Isaiah, received their call through a vision in a temple (Is 6), most defining religious experiences occurred away from human structures.
In the Bible, for example, Moses converses with Yahweh by a burning bush (Ex 3); Elijah speaks with God outside a cave on Mount Sinai (1 K 19); Ezekiel has visions by the river Chebar in Babylon (Ez 1); Jesus encounters demonic spirits and angelic spirits in the process of overcoming temptation in the wilderness (Mt 4); Jesus is transfigured on an unnamed mountain (Mk 9); Paul’s conversion occurs on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). In other religious traditions, Buddha receives enlightenment and encouragement beneath a tree; Muhammad is instructed and inspired in a cave. The presence of the Spirit in the wilderness, reinforcing that it is sacred space, is recounted in native peoples’ spiritual traditions: mountains, forests, rivers, and prairies are among the places where the Spirit’s call is heard, and where the one called receives spiritual teachings and a special identity. The Lakota elder Black Elk’s vision occurred on a prairie, and in it he is taken to clouds nestled on top of a mountain.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Solomon’s temple dedication prayer recognizes that Yahweh is not just in one place, and cautions against limiting God to a sacred structure: “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1 K 8:27). Similarly, in the Christian scriptures, Paul in Athens says of God: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 7:28). God is not just in specific sites, but can be encountered everywhere. God is not aloof from humans, but is engaged with them and with all creation, whose individuality and interrelatedness God called “very good” (Gn 1:31). Yahweh affirmed creatures’ diversity and complexity in the biblical Flood Story (Gn 6-9) by instructing Noah to preserve all creatures, not just humans, and by establishing with all creatures an Earth covenant, whose sign is the rainbow.
All time, space, and history in the universe have been presenced by divine consciousness, creativity, and compassion, and are continually absorbed into divine being and assumed into divine becoming. The Spirit who is love experiences the pains and sorrows, joys and hopes of a dynamic universe still emerging and of an evolutionary Earth still being born, allows them freedom to unfold while communing with them, enables all events (even the tragic ones) to be ultimately meaningful, and inspires or guides them toward the fulfillment of their greatest possibilities.
Humans live in an evolutionary and sacramental commons. Human history is inextricably linked with evolutionary ecology. Humans emerged relatively recently in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, and life’s 3.5 billion year history. In the sacramental commons, humankind is tied genetically to all life, across the globe and through time, in a web of relationships. Indeed, humans are tied to the entire created universe, as complexified stardust whose origins lie in the singular point of cosmic emergence fifteen billion years ago. People are an integral part of the biotic community, and provide cosmic self-consciousness in their part of the Milky Way Galaxy within the vast universe.
The sacramental universe is localized in the sacramental commons. People most often experience the revelatory nature of creation when their engagement and focus shift from the macro to the micro, from cosmos to commons. The sacramental commons is a revelatory locus, the place of Spirit-spirit engagement and relation. Sacramentality is evident in specific settings, such as local bioregions, conserved pristine places, urban centers responsibly constructed and maintained in relation to their Earth habitat, and rural communities integrated with rural landscapes. The sacramental nature of commons places is seen in their revelation of divine aesthetics and divine creativity in the beauty of creation, or their expression of human imagination and artistry where human structures are integrated well within abiotic nature, with respect for the habitat of the biotic community, and provide evidence of responsible human use of Earth goods. Sacramental places have the potential to inspire people to view environmental issues as creation issues and spiritual issues, and to consider how the Spirit intends the intricate diversity of creation to provide a commons and commons goods for the common good of the ecosystemic biotic community and its human community.
A sacramental commons is a place within a planet’s, an area’s, or a community’s space which at all moments is revelatory of God-transcendent; at special moments is revelatory of God-immanent; and in every moment is the sign of a divine intention that natural goods be shared among members of the biotic community for their sustenance. People who appreciate the sacramentality of the commons draw spiritual energy from the visible and invisible dimensions of the world around them, and drive strength to make social commitments to conserve the commons and care for community. A sacramental consciousness integrates spiritual consciousness, social consciousness, species consciousness, and spatial consciousness. Spiritual consciousness leads to social engagement, and to socio-spatial commitment to the well-being of Earth, the community of life generally, and people and peoples. To the extent that such material and social relationships are missing or minimized, the relationship to Spirit is absent or diminished.
People should not suffer from poverty or hunger in a sacramental commons. Just as when in the dedicated sacred space of a church building Christians share in the presence of Jesus when they partake of sacramental communion, so, too, in the created sacred space of a bioregional commons permeated by the presence of the immanent Spirit, all should be able to partake of bread that gives life. People conscious of the sacramental commons do not limit sacred space to buildings they construct, nor their communion with Spirit and with each other to ritual moments in such buildings. In a sacramental commons, the community of faith is a sharing community that expresses in a concrete and visible form the meaning of “Holy Communion” shared in church. The invisible and visible aspects of reality blend into a moment and way of life of sacramental unity and sacramental totality, with bread for the spirit complemented by bread for the body.
In religious rituals, people’s spiritual being is nourished individually and communally. Similarly, in non-religious settings the human community in its corporeal, material being shares in and is nurtured by the commons. People are corporeal and spiritual beings; the complementary sacraments of church and commons holistically uplift the integral human being. In both instances, the human is being and becoming, a dynamic entity growing physically, socially, and spiritually. The sacramental universe, the sacramental rituals, the sacramental community, and the sacramental commons provide an integrated context for that growth, and in sacramental moments influence it.
The sacramental dimension of creation is complemented by its social dimension. Together they constitute a holistic created reality. In the Christian Scriptures, Jesus states in Matthew’s gospel (25:31-46) that the criteria for entrance into divine presence (in a Last Judgment beyond any consideration of religious faith) will be practical works of compassion: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned. In all of these practices, people use Earth goods, as gathered in the wild or as modified by human hands, as common goods to meet common needs. To do these acts of compassion and justice is to help out not only the person in need, but also the Son of Man among them, whose presence they mediate in their need. The letter of James (2:14-17) teaches that a person who sees someone in need and merely blesses them and prays for them is not fulfilling their responsibility to care for them, and therefore is not living up to their faith since “faith without works is dead.” The First Letter of John (3:17-18) questions how God’s love could dwell in anyone who refuses to help a sister or brother in need when they have the goods available to do so, and declares that love must be expressed not just in words, but also in practical works of compassion. The letter goes on to state that “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (4:16) ; this is followed by the commandment that people should love brothers and sisters when they love God (4:21). The Johannine passages, when combined, link the social and the sacramental; the person who acts compassionately toward the needy can reveal God’s love acting through themselves, and thereby reveal also God’s presence within themselves: such a person is themselves, sacramental. James links faith with compassion for the poor; 1 John links love with compassion for the poor. In all of these texts, Christians are taught to use commons goods for the common good, for the well-being of the community. In doing so, they will combine faith and compassion as they link sacramental consciousness with social commitment.
The Jubilee Year perspective and principles promote Creator and creation consciousness, and creation and community concern and commitments.
Yahweh instructs the people of Israel to proclaim a Jubilee, a “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” every fifty years. The Jubilee Year expressed Theo-ecological teachings that ultimately Earth is God’s creation and God’s land, and that the Spirit expects people to care for Earth and to provide equitably for the needs of the human community and the broader biotic community.
The Jubilee was supposed to catalyze four practices (Cf. Lev 25; Dt 15; Ex 23), the first three of which were also to occur on the Sabbath Year, every seven years:
These Jubilee observances were designed to rejuvenate Earth and the community. The Jubilee teachings promote recognition of divine dominion in creation, and relate human trusteeship of Earth to care for the land with which humans work, and to justice for the poor. People are called to use Earth’s land and commons goods responsibly. Property in land, and in goods from the land, are to be used by those who have civil ownership of land, and those who work for them, to benefit the community as a whole, with a particular regard for the landless poor.
The Jubilee prescription of rest for the land was intended to remind the ancient Israelites about several fundamental biblical teachings. First, God is the ultimate and only absolute owner of the land: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants” (Lev 25:23). Second, the land needs periodic rest from the impacts of human work: “You shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines” (Lev 25:11). Third, all God’s creatures have a right to the land’s produce: “You shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave. So also shall you do in regard to your vineyard and your olive grove” (Ex 23: 10-11); and: “While the land has its Sabbath, all its produce will be food…for your livestock and for the wild animals on your land” (Lev 25:7). All of these practices enabled the land to rest, and humans, animals and birds all were entitled to be nurtured by its “volunteer crops,” which grew from seeds sown or trees grown in past years.
The practice of rest for the land reminded the people that Earth is God’s and that they should respect and care for the Creator Spirit’s creation and creatures. It required that the land not be sown or harvested during the Jubilee Year: this which would result, apparently, in economic hardship for farmers and their families, and food shortages for the general populace. It reminded people to have faith that Yahweh would care for them as Yahweh had done in the wilderness years, when Earth and divine power provided for their needs. Now that the people were settled on the land, they were to cooperate with Earth and Yahweh as they did their planting, cultivating, and harvesting in the sixth year, and rely on that cooperative work to provide for their needs for the next two years: from the end of the sixth year’s harvest until the harvest at the end of the first year of the next cycle of years. Domestic and free animals were not to be chased from the farmer’s fields, for the farmer has no exclusive ownership in land, and all creatures have a right to provide for their needs from Earth’s bounty. The prescription meant that Earth should periodically rest, as people do. In a practical sense, this meant that farmers would not overwork the land, which would be detrimental to their material survival and their economic self-interest. It meant also that they should recognize that God calls Earth and all creatures “good” in themselves, not just because they provide goods to meet human needs and wants. The Earth commons, including air, water, soil and biota, has intrinsic value, not just instrumental value.
The Jubilee Year required release of slaves: “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants” (Lev 25:10). Slavery was an important economic benefit for the slaveholders, who were obligated to compensate their workers with little more than food, clothing, and shelter, for their survival and reproduction. There were two categories of slaves: fellow Hebrews who had voluntarily become slaves during times of economic hardship, when they feared that they might not be able to provide for themselves or their family; and foreigners who had been captured in battle or bought from slave traders. In Israel, both types of slaves were to be treated with respect, but that did not eliminate the demeaning nature of their social status, nor their lack of opportunity to have a family and an occupation of their own choosing. In the Jubilee Year, Hebrew slaves who had provided economic benefits solely for others had the right to be free and to use their labor to provide for themselves. Throughout the years leading to the Jubilee, the community as a whole was to help their neighbors both by ameliorating the circumstances–health, natural disasters, personal shortcomings–that had pushed some of their members into slavery, and by amending economic policies and social practices that maintained them there.
The Jubilee Year, as with other Sabbath Years, required remission of debts: “At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows: every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor….” (Dt 15:1-2). This principle implements a minor redistribution of wealth. Those who had benefited most from the combination of their own talents, their family position and inheritance, and operative economic structures were to give to those who had experienced economic hardship an opportunity for a financial comeback and a renewed stake in society. The remission of debts stimulated members of the community to practice economic compassion and to promote economic renewal. People with the least financial resources, who had little or no hope of ever paying their creditors, would benefit most. Freed from their immediate economic burden, they would be enabled to start over and use their abilities to provide a better life for their family.
The Jubilee Year required redistribution of the land: “It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, everyone to his own family estate” (Lev 25:10). People were to receive back, from those who had bought their family homestead, their ancestral property–free of all encumbrances. The intent of this requirement was to prevent the land base of Israel from being consolidated into the hands of one or a few large landholders. If the land were not periodically redistributed, social and natural wealth would be controlled by a wealthy minority, to the detriment of the community as a whole. The controlling landholders would decide how the land should be used, and how much of it was to be dedicated to the (sometimes selfish) interests of property owners and how much to the needs of the people as a whole. Concentrated ownership would violate Israel’s religious understanding that Earth is primarily and ultimately God’s, secondarily a community good, and last of all a private benefit. The Jubilee taught that individual families were to earn their livelihood by working with Earth and for the human community. The redistribution of land every fifty years would mean that even those whose family had owned the agricultural land that was least productive and therefore least economically viable would receive it back if it had been sold, and have an opportunity to start over again with their restored land as their economic base; and those with the most productive land would not be able to use its natural wealth as a source of power to control the lives and future of all the people by buying and retaining other families’ lands when natural disasters, accidents or ill health prevented a family from working diligently to receive a financial return from their labor on the land.
The Jubilee Year, then, was to be a time of starting over for the Israelite poor: their debts were cancelled, their slavery was ended, and their property in land was to be redistributed to them. The descendants of the original Hebrew settlers, according to the original boundaries that had been determined at the time of settlement, would receive back their family inheritance. The land would be renewed as well, since the Jubilee Year was also a Sabbath Year, a year of rest for the land so that it might restore itself. Yahweh, the ultimate owner of the land, entrusted the land to the entire community to be used as a common good, even when property lines divided it. The Jubilee requirements represent an effort to ensure that land remained a community benefit as a source of life (food production) and a source of livelihood (added value from agricultural labor).
In Jesus’ time, land consolidation into the hands of a few, and poverty and exploitation of the many, were pressing social issues. The Roman occupation and oppressive subjugation of Israel hindered Jewish farmers’ observation of biblical requirements for land use and for compassionate care of the poor; the collaboration of some Jews who benefited economically from the occupation exacerbated conditions for the vast majority of Jews. Jesus preached a radical sermon on land ownership, use, and distribution when he was invited as an itinerant rabbi to teach in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.
The Gospel of Luke (4:16-21) narrates how Jesus called for observance of the Jubilee Year. The text that Jesus read, upon which he would base his sermon, was a passage that describes a time when Yahweh’s anointed one (Messiah) would proclaim “good news to the poor.” Captives would be freed, the oppressed would be liberated, and the “year of favor of the Lord” would be promulgated (Is 61: 1-2). The Isaiah text suggests concrete ways of implementing the Jubilee laws expressed in Leviticus.
After he read from the Isaiah scroll, Jesus gave it back to the synagogue attendant and announced, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled while you were listening.” With these words, Jesus declared two things: first that he was the Messiah; and second, that it was time for a Jubilee Year to be observed. Justice required its proclamation and promulgation. Centuries after the composition of the Leviticus and Isaiah texts, Jesus declared that the poor had been kept from their inheritance for too long. The “good news for the poor” was that it was time for the Jubilee that would give them a land base and a chance to begin their lives anew.
The Jubilee Year advocated by Jesus is indeed “good news for the poor.” Obviously, the poor of the land would be lifted up from their downtrodden position and be joyful, while the rich who would lose land, slaves and debt repayments would be unhappy. Roman government officials, and many of the wealthy Jewish landowners of Jesus’ time (and their political and religious supporters), would not have greeted kindly Jesus’ proclamation of the Jubilee.
Today, similar political, economic class, and even religious resistance can be expected when Jews and Christians seek to revive Jubilee teachings and practices. But the times require a reconsideration and promotion of Jubilee-based laws and community projects that are relevant to new historical periods and social situations. A class war is being waged against the poor within the U.S. and other affluent nations, and by those dominant nations against “underdeveloped” countries whose economic “development” and social well-being are subordinate to (“under”) the wants and control of affluent nations. Poor people and racial and ethnic groups lack employment, living wages, adequate health care, basic education, and a voice in their governance. The class war is waged internally without tanks and bombs, and externally with those weapons and with political bribes and the overthrow of democratically elected majority governments. Populist songwriter and folk singer Woody Guthrie sang during the Great Depression of the twentieth century, “Some people fight with a fountain pen, and some people fight with a gun.” Oppressed populations suffer from both types of control. It is time for a Jubilee consciousness. It is time for a new Jubilee.
Christians, who relate to Earth as a sacramental commons, and to life as a biotic community, could imagine and implement a contemporary expression of the Jubilee Year. Complementary to the Leviticus text, and in the spirit of teachings from the prophet Isaiah and Jesus, they could offer a new Jubilee as a means of caring for the Earth commons, distributing commons goods as common goods, and promoting the common good of humankind integrated within biokind as a whole.
Based on biblical Jubilee Year requirements, the corresponding contemporary Jubilee principles are:
The implementation of contemporary expressions of the Jubilee Year would enable a transformed commons. Jubilee provisions would benefit Earth, future generations of humankind, and biokind as a whole. If the Jubilee were to be observed–and it need not be only every fifty years–people would take steps to restore relationships among themselves; between themselves, Earth and all Earth’s inhabitants; and between themselves and God.
Humans are part of the natural world and are responsible to God and to community to care for it and use it wisely and sparingly. Humans may use Earth’s land and goods to meet their needs, but may not abuse Earth’s land and goods to satisfy their wants; sufficiency should have primacy over satiety. Private property is a civil good that must be integrated with public property as a common good. Common needs take precedence over individual wants, and property holdings–whether in land, water, or any of Earth’s goods, including energy sources–are all part of divine creation and are intended to meet community needs before their individual appropriation. When the community as a whole benefits from social structures and natural goods, then all individuals benefit, as members of the community. When an individual or a particular class or group benefits most both socially and materially, the community will suffer from their selfishness. Cooperative arrangements in a communalized commons will integrate the security of private ownership (in a dispersed manner) with the social consciousness of community orientation.
In the sacramental commons, people will have a greater sense of intergenerational and cross-generational responsibility. When working people retire or are prevented by accident or illness from earning their livelihood, younger workers with a communal community consciousness will not resent the lack of current input by those who were coworkers. They will acknowledge their prior and new, alternative contributions to community well-being. Similarly, people earning their livelihood in the present will acknowledge their debt to past generations and bear in mind the material needs of coming generations, and not consume excessively the goods Earth provides or human labor produces. A commons-sharing community will be attuned to communal needs in the present and future.
In the present historical moment, people are displaced from their lands throughout the world because political, economic or religious injustices ensure that individual greed (for wealth or power), expressed nationally and globally, is the primary factor in determining that Earth’s land and goods are to be used to benefit the minority few rather than the majority many. Biblical teachings, and complementary ideas from contemporary environmental, ethical, and social thought, present alternative attitudes toward Earth and community, and alternative ways to work with Earth and safeguard community. It is time to promote and protect the sacramental commons by proclaiming a Jubilee, to be concretized regionally and nationally. It is time for a redistribution of the land from the few to the many for the benefit of all, and a time for Earth to be cared for, conserved for, and used for the benefit of present and future generations.
Commitment to Creation and Community
When sacred and social consciousnesses are integrated, commitment to community flows into concrete actions. People care for the commons, justly and compassionately distribute among members of the human community the goods its members need for their subsistence, and respectfully share the commons goods as common goods in the human community and with members of the biotic community as a whole.
People must make some serious and difficult changes in attitudes toward and relationships with earth, all life, and each other. Humankind’s attitude must change from domination over and destruction of creation to respect for and relatedness to creation. People must learn once again a prayerful sense of awe before the wonders of the cosmos of which they are a part, a positive sense of relation to all creatures, and a powerful sense of kinship with the cosmos. Then they will recognize that each cosmic being is related to every other and to the Spirit within a web of primordial and expanding stardust. Then they will regain their lost role as caretakers of their Earth place, as citizens of cosmic space, and as children of God and Earth.
This essay is adapted in part from John Hart, Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics, Foreword by Leonardo Boff, Afterword by Thomas Berry (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). The book has received, to date, endorsements from Holmes Rolston, III; Lisa Sowle Cahill; James Nash; William Means; Edward O. Wilson; Mary Evelyn Tucker; and Elie Wiesel.
 Biblical texts cited are taken from Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocrypha, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
 The four principles for a contemporary pronouncement of a Jubilee Year are elaborated in John Hart, Sacramental Commons, chapter 10, “Jubilee in the Commons.”
John Hart is Professor of Christian Ethics at Boston University School of Theology. His books include Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics; What Are They Saying About Environmental Theology?; Ethics and Technology: Innovation and Transformation in Community Contexts; and The Spirit of the Earth: A Theology of the Land. He has lectured on four continents: in twenty-eight U.S. states, and in six foreign countries.