Inter-Species Confession

In other news, a major US  seminary hosted a chapel service where  students prayed to and confessed their environmental sins to a group of potted plants.  Gene Veith gives his two cents here.

To be fair, as pointed out by the Washington Examiner article, Union Theological Seminary has long been accused of essentially being non-Christian.  The school apparently brags about this, boasting not just ecumenical chapel services but inter-faith services as well.  Interesting.

Veith’s commentary seems to say there isn’t a place for confession to plants.  I interpret him as saying it is inappropriate (or pointless?) to  confess or apologize to  anyone/thing which can’t reciprocate.  I’m not so sure I would agree with that, but the plant chapel service also is clearly troublesome.

Plants can’t  absolve us.  Not in any way we can receive.  I can confess all day long and apologize all day long, but I have no idea whether or  not the plant forgives me or not.  Even with my dog I can’t be sure, although I’m far more sure with my dog than I would be with a cat.

Scripture has a habit of anthropomorphizing nature.  The examples that leap first to mind include Isaiah 55 and Psalm 96, which have trees clapping and singing, respectively.  But one might also think of Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22.  In case you think this is a case of dumb people thinking nature is real, we might consider Romans 8 and Paul’s description of it groaning as in childbirth.

Many would say this is just colorful and descriptive language rather than an assertion about the sentience of plant life.  I can’t refute that necessarily (and  don’t really care to try), but I’m also willing to entertain the opposite position, that while we think of plants and rocks as inanimate and non-sentient, perhaps we just don’t understand their language.  But maybe someday we will.

We shouldn’t pray to plants.  But perhaps a step in seeing them as part of God’s creation – a part we were and are intended to act as stewards of rather than exploiters – would be helpful.  I’m not comfortable with doing with Union Seminary did by a long shot, but I suspect we’re all going to be surprised in the new heaven and new earth to discover that perhaps our current classifications of animal, vegetable, and mineral were neither deep enough nor Biblical enough to describe reality as God created it.  

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