Faith Forum: What would Jesus say about the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast?

The Rev. Josh Longbottom, associate pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.

It is our job to serve and preserve God’s green earth.

Popular theology has said that we are to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it. Argue the point, and someone is going to turn to Genesis 1:28 and say, “Look, it’s right here!” And it is, but according to my Hebrew professors, a lot has been lost in translation.

In English, the word dominion calls to mind the way tyrants treat people. But the word dominion in the Bible means to have power over and to treat with love. In fact, most often in the Bible, the word is used to describe the relationship that God has to us.

If God treated us the way we imagine we can treat the earth because we have dominion over it, then we would be in real trouble. The story of Genesis is that God created the earth and that “it was good.”

Who can disagree with the beauty of the earth? What artist hasn’t been inspired by the beauty of nature? It is as if God painted the Mona Lisa when making this earth, and we are busy spray-painting a mustache on it.

The first description of humans in the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve. They were placed in a garden to till and to keep it. But a better translation is to serve and preserve it.

For too long now, many people have been dreaming that a great God will come down from the sky and clean up all our troubles. But God did not make the world like that.

Our hands are supposed to get dirty. We are supposed to help with the evolution of the earth. We didn’t make the road, but we are in the driver’s seat, co-creating the future of this planet.

— Send e-mail to Josh Longbottom at

The Rev. Joanna Harader, pastor, Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln St.:

I could go into great detail about what I presume Jesus thinks about the oil spill— the greed and carelessness that led to it, the environmental and human tragedy it is leaving in its wake. Jesus was far from silent on issues of money, power and greed.

Still, Jesus was more likely to tell a story than to give a lecture. So rather than an essay, I submit to you a parable.

There was once a baker who had a good and kind master. The master’s household was a lovely and joyful place. Each morning the baker made bread. Each afternoon he went to market to buy flour. Each evening he ate his fill and laughed with his friends.

One afternoon, the baker bought his flour at a new stall, where it was surprisingly cheap. The next morning, the baker noticed that this new flour had sawdust mixed into it. He was surprised when no one complained about the bread. And so he continued to buy the cheap flour. He hid the extra money away for himself.

As the weeks went on, the baker noticed a slight pain in his stomach. And he noticed that some of the other servants were laughing less in the evenings and going to bed earlier. One morning, the master of the household did not get out of bed at all.

The baker was summoned to bring a loaf of bread to the master’s bedroom. While the baker was out of the kitchen, some of the sawdust flour tipped over into the fire, and the entire house burned to the ground.

“No servant can serve two masters; for the servant will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

— Send e-mail to Joanna Harader at


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