Time for Church to make Garden of Eden analogy an ambitious venture

Green Faith Africa leaders, from left, Hindu Council of Kenya National Chairperson Sujata Kotamraju, Bishop Chediel Sendero of Tanzania, Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome of Kenya, Fr Charles Chilufya of Zambia and Bishop Hassan Kukah from the Diocese of Sokoto, Nigeria. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Maasais have remained true to their creation story and believe all cows belong to them. They are the cattle people. To eat the best-roasted meat takes a drive out of the city to a place in Maasailand.

The community has taught others how to care for cows in the field and how to serve them on a plate. On the contrary, Christians as custodians of the Genesis creation story show little connection with Eden.

A sincere memory of Eden would make one weep at the sight of the world today. While Hebrews wept by the rivers if Babylon when they remembered Zion, no tears are shed in church in remembrance of Eden.

It is affection not disconnection that triggers tears. The church has not embraced Eden tight enough for the memory to provoke tears. The Africa climate summit passed with no mention on Kenya's pulpits. A church disconnected from Eden wonders what the big deal about climate is.

Some people take the Eden story literally while others regard it as symbolic carrying ideas of the beginnings of the world. Whether literal or analogical, what is clear is that Eden is right now the earth's ambition.

Most pulpits in Kenya interpret the Genesis creation account by giving Satan a major role that even dims the Creator. It is more about the fantastic fall that the amazing creation. The drama is more about dismissal from the garden than it is about a call to responsibility.

Creation is muted and the fruit controversy is heightened. The lush beauty is dimmed and the human mess made prominent. The ecological coexistence is hardly elaborated as the human conflict takes centre stage.

The marvel over the six days of creation is bypassed so as to pump up the sin story after the seventh day. Eden is quickly transited from a creative genius to a crime scene. Pastors have downplayed Eden and taught their Christians not to look back.

But even as they lose sight of Eden, they cannot clearly explain heaven. Losing site of Eden has the effect of blurring the image of heaven. Adam's sin should not trash Eden's beauty.

Minding the earth sharpens the heavenly mind. The place where the church mentions the earth consistently is at burials during the committal moment "Earth to earth, dust to dust and ashes to ashes." If the earth is good enough to rest the dead, the living should make the earth a good place to live.

An uncreative church loses itself in the static details of liturgy and rituals with very little energy left to engage practical matters such as minding the earth. In a climate summit, the church should be on forefront as both a care champion and an on-the-ground practitioner.

But now, the church was a blurry delegate invited to the table but with no substantial voice to match. If the church does not regroup fast, it will be sidelined and major decisions will be made in her absence.

The church must learn and fluently speak the climate language. Without language there can be no expression. An Eden-burdened church would even add to the terminology. While the church has theologised enough about the place of God and the stewardship of the earth, there is an urgent need to invest more in planting the theology in the ground. Lofty priestly garb will not work without gumboots. Theology needs roots so that we see it growing in trees, bringing rains, lowering temperatures, cleaning rivers and cleansing factory emissions. The church must move from problem description to idea experimentation, option prescription and solution exemplification.

High stake matters such as climate change provide opportunities to dilute the stickiness of denominationalism. The corporate church can choose to jump into the climate scene in a united form. Tragically, the contemporary Kenyan church has a narrow and view of its mission. It concentrates on easy paths like "speak it and you will create it."

Speaking things into being undermines laboratories and experiments and collapses all their systems to the tongue. When "speaking" is taken literally, then it is a faulty teaching. A church that is always preaching misses out on the God who is always working. A lazy church would want to reduce the Garden of Eden into a story and not calling.

The church widely explains salvation as focused on the heart. Once God is in the heart, mission accomplished. The heart then becomes the entire world for the faith bearer. Many are taught to seclude the heart and keep it safe from the demons of the secular world. They are not taught how, like the pumping of the heart, God circulates to all the "organs" of life.

The legs, feet, mind are detached organs to which God is transported in the name of charity. Such pastors fail to convert the rich variety of professionals in the congregation into minds, hands and feet of a working God. Truth is that the church is not the only institutions that God uses to light up the world. God works wonders through other institutions too.

The heart focus afflicts the church with the condition of earth-blindness. A church that specialises in the heart and ignores other organs is unlikely to supply a pastor to activists demonstrating in the streets. Once the heart is saved, oppressive systems are not a concern. Sadly, Rev Dr Martin Luther King with his street-focused ministry would be a stranger in such a church!

The heavy halleluiah accent limits the platforms on which the church can stand, and even when it stands, it's simply to offer an opening and closing prayer then recede to the background as the real solution crafters taken their place at the table of influence. That is how the church ends up being a voiceless delegate in earth-saving summits. That is how scientists find no place in the church's heart-saving conferences.

The heart-oriented salvation needs to be urgently relooked because it reduces the church to a spectator where it should be an actor and a consumer of solutions where it should be a creator. The church must bolt out of the safe place of repetitive rituals whose potency is cited in history but unregistered in the present world. Pastors must desert the lazy bench that cares less about progresses and frontiers that other disciplines are hitting. Short of this, the church shoots itself in the leg by making its Lord look, yes - shallow.