Jesus of Nazareth famously advised us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The obvious question that follows is: Who is my neighbor? The people who literally live next door? Those in my family, or in my town? Those of only my own race, or all races? Just straight people, or gay and trans people too? Those who call themselves Christians, or people of any religion? Or could this renowned advice possibly apply to every human being in the world?!
Now the Green Christ is urging us modern-day humans ever onward. Imagine how revolutionary it would be if “neighbor” included even non-human beings! Not only our pets and domestic animal companions—but wild animals, the whole range of them from mice to bears, lizards to eagles, frogs to sharks and whales. Plants, from oak trees and redwoods to grasses and flowers. And whole forests, prairies, mountains and rivers. The valley or watershed where we live. The entire bio-region that supports and sustains us. Gaia’s green web in all its myriad forms, in all places on Earth.
Why would we think, in fact, that Jesus’ message doesn’t apply to all this? Wouldn’t considering all beings and places to be respected neighbors with whom we responsibly co-exist make for a balanced, secure and fruitful life for everyone? The only reason this idea is considered unthinkably radical is the human-centeredness that has been the dominant thought-form of humanity, beginning about 10,000 years ago and gaining momentum ever since.
The super-rich, big corporations, and dictators and oligarchs on both the right and the left—not to mention power-hungry religious leaders of all stripes—are tightly closed off to everything the Green Christ stands for. Indeed, they barely pay lip service to the more narrowly interpreted message of Jesus of Nazareth to love your (human) neighbor. Even truly embracing this tenet would quickly expose the current top-down, growth-oriented, have and have-not economic and political culture as a cruel, unsustainable sham.
Remember WWJD—the once-popular exhortation to ask, “What Would Jesus Do,” when confronted with difficult or confusing situations? I’m not sure how or when this question arose, or even what part of the sizable Christian religious-political spectrum first embraced it. But this already-radical question becomes a thousand times more galvanizing and disturbing when we ask WWGCD—What Would the Green Christ do?
What if, in addition to valuing all humans, including the poor and marginalized, thieves and prostitutes, Christ wants us to value all beings, human and non-human! What if Christ’s deep message has to do with living in reciprocal and sustainable harmony not only with human individuals and societies, but also with all creatures and plants, with mountain ranges, oceans and deserts? What if Christ’s advice includes the reality that all beings and ecosystems have an inherent right to exist and thrive, in and of themselves—as neighbors to humanity, perhaps, but no less important or deserving?
And what if we recognized that this bio-centered philosophy, as foreign and unattainable as it may sound to us, actually describes how all humans, all of our own ancestors, thought and lived for most of human history?
So—what would the Green Christ do? He would, and can, and is, re-membering and “greening” the human heart and its capacity for loving, respectful co-existence and co-creation with all our neighbors, every one of them. Only good neighbors, working respectfully together, have a chance to bring the transformation and regeneration that our world so greatly needs.
© Copyright Mary Janet Fowler, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without written permission.