Eden Long Gone (Thank God)

In the past couple weeks I’ve spent about 3,500 miles in my Prius bouncing back and forth to an odd assortment of events looking forward and backward. I listened to Bill McKibben’s painfully clear new book Eaarth. The new spelling makes the point the old Earth simply doesn’t exist anymore given the imminent affects of carbon levels unseen in 20 million years. And then I read Sue Thistletwaite’s “Dreaming of Eden”, which as a bit ironic in that I was speaking at Eden Seminary. Hers is an equally searing call to lay down innocence– leave Eden–so we can make the real choices that must be made today. They both write as lovers, seeing their world whole, deeply threatened, but not lost.

We lovers must see the rivers of crap that determine Haiti’s breaking catastrophic cholera hell. And don’t look away from the stagnant swamp of Memphis’ gross disparities and broken systems. There is no magic, machine or pill that will get back to Eden’s innocence. And so many interacting forces make hope harder. But this is the world God gave us to live in; the only one to love. So we can act in ways that are good for what we love. Or dream of innocence and be complicit as crap.

Love casts out fear, which is good news. Fear creates and sustains illusions that disable good choices, especially at social scale. This is most obvious of diseases that travel in body fluids that are hard to talk about, such as AIDS/sex and Cholera/crap. Disease loves stupid silence.

Fundamental determinants of hope emerge amid chaos, too. Nicholas Christakis is able to map the spread of such ephemeral virtues as happiness across social webs which are also relevant to mapping epidemics.( http://www.ted.com/talks/nicholas_christakis_the_hidden_influence_of_social_networks.html) This kind of network modeling is usually being engaged to map out negative phenomenon like obesity and depression. So it is of practical significance that goodness spreads through networks powered by meaning and trust. Disease hates smart trust. And we can build those networks on purpose!

For roughly 90% of the time since Jesus, the gaggle of believers that are his Body did not have anything that could really be called a hospital. But even in the first astonished days recorded in Acts, that Body expressed “diakonia”—ministries of practical care that were understood as evidence of God’s practical presence. Where hope rubs up against mortal reality social forms arise. That’s how the hospital I work for came from; and where our new forms of community alignment with 280 congregations are now coming from.
Who knows if our slender webs of trust are enough and in time? Not for the 1,000 bodies already in bags in Haiti as I type. Innocence long gone. Crap.

But I do believe that God so loved the world that God send us out into it. God gives us hope, not innocence.

Never give up on who God loves.

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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

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