This week, our focus is on sustainability and respect for all living plants, animals, and humans. I should have saved my “man on top vs. human mixed in” image for this week, because our discussion centered around the concept of dominion from Genesis and shifting our interpretation from domination to responsibility.
Bruce Sanguin – who writes the pre-class readings – says,
“Genesis suggests that our role as humans is to have ‘dominion’ over the rest of nature…it was obviously intended to suggest that just as God exercised dominion with justice and kindness over the human realm, so as God’s stewards we should to the same with the non-human world. It is a call to exercise responsibility.”
When I read this and thought about it more, I realized how much sense it makes. While I have always been skeptical of the interpretation of Genesis that leads to the human on top model, I never thought of alternative ways to think about the concept of dominion. Yet when dominion is presented as stewardship and responsibility to take care of the earth, it turns the traditional meaning of Genesis on its head and calls Christians to embrace our roles as caretakers. Like Sanguin points out, God exercises dominion over us humans…but God does it with justice and mercy and love. If we are God’s hands and feet – God’s stewards and caretakers – why should we exercise domination rather than dominion? It may seem like a subtle difference, but the results are drastically different.
What would our world look like if all people of faith, not just Christians, took care of the earth? Not just each other (though humanity needs to do a better job of that too…) but the animals we raise for slaughter and our pets, the trees and mountains, the deserts and oceans, the cells and atoms that make up the most basic forms of life? How would we feel if we embraced stewardship? Would we have a deeper connection to nature? Would we live healthier lives?
Genesis 1:31 says,
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
God saw everything God had made, and it was very good. In the whole of creation, the plants and the animals and the humans, it was very good. The world wasn’t made for us. We were made for the world. And when we recognize and embrace the beauty of stewardship, it will be especially good.