March 12, 2018 / Art
Curator Meaghan Ritchey reflects on the specificity of place in Havana, Cuba, as seen through the lens of Rob Jefferson’s photography.
The most recent papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, quotes a stanza from Saint Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun” in which the friar praises the Lord “through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs” (§1). The encyclical goes on to outline the ways “this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her” (§2). If we are to sing with Francis—who, as Lynn White first proposed in 1967, is the patron saint of Christian environmentalism—we must recognize as well that Western Christianity’s relationship to Mother Earth over the past three centuries has been marked by abuse, disregard, exploitation, consumption, and destruction. Even now, many who claim the name of Christ continue to argue that nature is merely a resource for human use, a crude object given for our domination. The roots of this view reach back to the first chapters of Genesis, but they only came to be understood so assertively in the era of the Protestant Reformation: once the soul became the exclusive site of the sacred, the land, its flora, and its fauna came to hold little meaning to the faithful beyond the fulfillment of human desires in the forward march of the emerging capitalist economy. But it seems then that we may have a death wish. Four hundred years later, it seems that this kind of thinking has led us to the edge of planetary ecological disaster.
In this issue of The Other Journal, we attempt to step back from that edge. We hope to visit places like the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota or the melting polar ice caps and to envision a kingdom of God that encompasses each fruit, flower, and herb.