THE EARTH: Soil, Sin, And Salvation by Diana Butler Bass

August 10, 2018

From Grounded  For liturgical Christians, Easter Vigil is the most important service of the year.  Held in the last hours before Easter morning, it begins in the dark as the community of faith waits for the rebirth, the empty tomb that witnesses to the resurrected life of Jesus.  During the service, new Christians – both infants and adults – are baptized and welcomed into the church by candlelight. Baptism is always beautiful, but most especially at Easter Vigil.  The priest pours water from a pitcher into a font amid prayers of blessing.  Infants are presented in Christening gowns, children strain to reach the Baptismal Font, and adults have their foreheads splashed with holy water.  Washed in the water of the Spirit, made clean [...]

THE EARTH: Losing Eden? by Diana Butler Bass

August 3, 2018

From Grounded  Even as more and more people are beginning to see God in the ground and finding a revitalized spirituality there, we are also discovering how fragile and endangered the Earth is.  The first time I ever heard someone explain that the soil was in distress was in college.  A curmudgeonly professor was lecturing in European history class.  The subject was Russia and Communist expansion, and the day’s topic was the Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe.  I was duly taking notes when he went off on a tangent about the soil, how important it was, why the Ukraine was so significant, and how similar it was to North America’s Great Plains.  The students, mostly from suburban Los Angeles, looked bored. Then his tone became [...]

THE EARTH: We’re Dirt by Diana Butler Bass

July 20, 2018

From Grounded  Since human history began, people have wondered how the world came to be – and how we came to be on it.  Our ancestors told stories about creation, the ground under our feet, and the animals, birds, and humans that make their home upon the Earth.  These stories cross all cultural boundaries, and they share similar characteristics and themes.  One of the dominant motifs is the relationship between soil and our souls.  Whether it is the Maori tale of shaping a woman from the scarlet soil, the Navajo story of man and woman journeying through the worlds to find a home on the land, or a dedicated humanist’s case that life crawled out of the sea to the shore, through the centuries we human beings have tried to make [...]

THE EARTH: “Where Is God?” And The Dirt by Diana Butler Bass

July 12, 2018

From Grounded  At first hearing, it is very difficult for many contemporary people to imagine God having anything to do with dirt.  We are the offspring of an earlier revolution – the Industrial Revolution.  A few hundred years ago, our ancestors decreed that the Earth and all therein were “resources” to be used for profit based on technical advances in labor, production, and science.  This revolution did many things – some good, some bad – but it fundamentally transformed how we understood the dirt.  The soil became an object to be managed (in the case of productive farms) or removed (in the cases of mining and urban development).  Over the decades, we moved to cities away from the land, severing both spiritual and [...]

THE EARTH: Dirt by Diana Butler Bass

July 5, 2018

From Grounded  We must abandon the external height images in which the theistic God has historically been perceived and replace them with internal depth images of a deity who is not apart from us, but who is the very core and ground of all that is. (Paul Tillich) Rowan eats dirt.  And he digs holes.  He would probably tunnel back to his native Ireland if we let him.  When he is not eating dirt, he lies on it.  Full belly on the ground, legs stretched out in front and to the back with every inch of his body pressing into the soil.  Although he appears to be relaxed, he is on alert – fully aware of every sound, every movement around him.  The dirt seems to make him more attentive, ready to chase the first squirrel that dares [...]

THE EARTH: Natural Habitat by Diana Butler Bass

June 28, 2018

From Grounded  We need the sun, the moon, the rivers, and the mountains and birds, the fish in the sea, to evoke a world of mystery, to evoke the sacred. (Thomas Berry) I woke around five in the morning and, with unnatural enthusiasm, nearly jumped out of the hotel bed.  Back home on the East Coast, it was eight o’clock.  But here in Santa Barbara, California, it was still before dawn.  I pulled on capris and a sweatshirt and, with determined stride, walked across Cabrillo Boulevard to the beach to greet the morning light. It had been overcast for days, but I glanced up and saw stars above.  No fog this morning, perhaps just ocean mist.  At first I strolled along the bike path.  But then I crossed over the low dune of sand and ice [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass

June 22, 2018

From Grounded  Almost one in four Americans no longer identifies with any particular religious tradition, a number that rises to one in three if you count only American adults under thirty.  In Canada, the national number is slightly more than one in four; across Europe, the percentage of religiously unaffiliated people is higher.  In societies that were once strongly shaped by Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, increasing numbers of people have opted out of conventional religions at historic rates.  In terms of raw numbers, between 660,000 and 700,000 Americans per year in the last decade have left religion, making “no religion” the second largest “religious” group in the United States – and the only group posting numeric [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—We’re Grounded by Diana Butler Bass

June 14, 2018

From Grounded  If you pay attention, you can hear this shift in conversations everywhere.  On a flight from Washington, D. C., to Los Angeles, a successful executive was seated next to me.  After she told me about her work, she asked, “What do you do?” I replied that I write about religion and spirituality. She laughed.  “’Religion’ isn’t a very popular word, is it?” I agreed. “I used to be religious,” she explained.  “I grew up Roman Catholic, but left the church over the sex-abuse scandal.  The church doesn’t make much sense in the world as it is now.  But I still believe in God.  I’d say I’m a spiritual person.” “Lots of people tell me that they are ‘spiritual but not religious,’” I said, [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—God With(in) The World by Diana Butler Bass

June 7, 2018

From Grounded  Here in the labyrinth, I struggle to find words to describe what I feel. Up on the mountaintop, I knew the language to describe God: majestic, transcendent, all-powerful, Heavenly Father, Lord, and King.  In this vocabulary, God remains stubbornly located in a few select places, mostly in external realms above or beyond: Heaven, the church, doctrine, or the sacraments.  What happens in the labyrinth seems vague, perhaps even theologically elusive. Like countless others, I have been schooled in vertical theology.  Western culture, especially Western Christianity, has imprinted a certain theological template upon the spiritual imagination: God exists far off from the world and does humankind a favor when choosing to draw [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis—Where Is God? by Diana Butler Bass

June 2, 2018

From Grounded  Not so long ago, believers confidently asserted that God inhabited Heaven, a distant place of eternal reward for the faithful.  We occupied a three-tiered universe, with Heaven above, where God lived; the world below, where we lived; and the underworld, where we feared we might go after death.  The church mediated the space between Heaven and Earth, acting as a kind of holy elevator, wherein God sent down divine directions and, if we obeyed the directives, we would go up – eventually – to live in Heaven forever and avoid the terrors below.  Stories and sermons taught us that God occupied the high places, looking over the world and caring for it from afar, occasionally interrupting the course of human affairs with [...]

THE EARTH: Genesis by Diana Butler Bass

May 26, 2018

From Grounded The whole universe is God’s dwelling.  Earth, a very small, uniquely blessed corner of that universe, gifted with unique natural blessings, is humanity’s home, and humans are never so much at home as when God dwells with them. (U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth)   Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each and which also united us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river, and mother Earth. (Pope Francis)   What we need is here. (Wendell Berry) I am sitting in the center of a labyrinth at Mount Calvary, a monastery in Santa Barbara, California.  The labyrinth, a [...]