On the 30th anniversary of its writing, Flourish magazine is publishing Wendell Berry’s The Gift of Good Land, a penetrating examination of the Christian stewardship of God’s creation.
It is a wonderful counterpoint to much of the silly politics and commentary leading up to the Copenhagen summit, and it is a profoundly spiritual challenge that provides deep questions about the faithful and responsible life, questions that serve the Christian far more than anything we will read in the papers and blogs in the days of Copenhagen.
In The Gift of Good Land, Berry writes:
The difficulty but also the wonder of the story of the Promised Land is that, there, the primordial and still continuing dark story of human rapaciousness begins to be accompanied by a vein of light which, however improbably and uncertainly, still accompanies us. This light originates in the idea of the land as a gift—not a free or a deserved gift, but a gift given upon certain rigorous conditions.
It is a gift because the people who are to possess it did not create it. It is accompanied by careful warnings and demonstrations of the folly of saying that “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Thus, deeply implicated in the very definition of this gift is a specific warning against hubris which is the great ecological sin, just as it is the great sin of politics. People are not gods. They must not act like gods or assume godly authority. If they do, terrible retributions are in store. In this warning we have the root of the idea of propriety, of proper human purposes and ends. We must not use the world as though we created it ourselves.