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Green pages of the Bible

BibleThe responsibility of caring for creation is rooted in the Bible, says the author of a new book that seeks to point readers to passages in Scripture that give a biblical context to environmental efforts.

Les pages vertes de la Bible, by Norman Lévesque and David Fines, consists of 74 biblical passages that promote an environmental ethic. Each excerpt is followed by a reflection and a suggested action. The readings are organized thematically, following feast days in the calendar year.

Passages include those in which God or his prophets call on his people to protect creation. In other passages, biblical characters express their awe of nature.

The book, co-authored by Norman Lévesque and David Fines, takes an ecumenical approach. Lévesque is a Catholic layman and Fines is a United Church minister.

"The book seeks to answer two questions," said Lévesque, who directs the national Green Church Program. "What does Christianity bring to environmentalism? And how does Scripture speak to the heart of an environmentalist?"

There were no ecological crises in biblical times, said Lévesque, yet God instructed his people to be good stewards of the earth. On Mount Sinai, for example, God told Moses that his people should not cultivate their land every seven years as "the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord" (Lev 25, 1-7).

Several stories in the Bible indicate that God cares about the delicate balance of the ecosystem, said Lévesque. One in particular is the story of Noah (Gn 6-9), in which God instructs Noah to include two of each species in the ark.

"People are called, like Noah, to care for biodiversity and to adopt practices that do not threaten it," he said. Lévesque suggested one practice would be to use only phosphate-free soaps.

In the book of Job (12, 7-8), the biblical character encourages his listeners to observe nature, which is created by God, and to learn from it: "But ask the animals, and they will teach you/the birds of the air, and they will tell you/ ask the plants of the earth/and they will teach you/and the fish of the sea will declare to you./Who among all these does not know/that the hand of the Lord has done this?"

"There is a lot we can learn from nature," said Lévesque. For example, the need to sow and to let things grow at their own rhythm before a harvest is a rule of nature; it is also a rule in the spiritual life, he explained. "We need to learn patience; things take time to grow."

According to Lévesque, concern for the environment and all living things translates to concern for one's neighbour. "When we are able get on our knees and care for plants and other living things, then we are able to care better for people, too," he said. This is an idea that had been expressed in different terms by Saint Francis of Assisi.

Several passages in the Bible invite people to stand in awe and to contemplate God in his creation. Lévesque gives Psalm 104 as an example.

To do this would require a change in lifestyle for some. "Spend more time outdoors. Learn more about nature," says Lévesque. "Join an ornithology club. Learn the names of the birds. You can't protect something you don't know."

Les pages vertes de la Bible is published by Novalis. An English translation is not yet available.

 

by Laura Ieraci

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