What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…
~ Romeo & Juliet – Act II Scene II
What’s in a name? The phrase ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ implies that things are what they are, no matter what name you give them. But this blog post will assert that names do matter, that what you name something can define (or redefine) it’s identity and purpose.
Flip through the pages of the Bible from Old Testament through New Testament and you will find a repeating pattern of name changes. Each occurrence marks a significant, transformational milestone in the journey of a person’s life on earth:
+ Sarai and Abram become Sarah and Abraham when God surprises them in their dotage with the promised blessing of children, children whose descendants with outnumber the stars in the heavens.
+ Jacob becomes Israel when after his tussle with God he is blessed and given the name that will identify the people of God as a new nation, a nation that will eventually become a blessing to all other nations.
+ Cephas becomes Petros (a.k.a Peter) when Jesus identifies this disciple as the Rock on whom he will build his Church, the living body of Christ on earth.
+ Saul becomes Paul when the arch enemy of the good news that “Jesus is Lord” is knocked off his high horse to become chief ambassador for the Kingdom of God.
It is with this history of the significance of name change in mind that PPC’s Eco-Justice small group is now modifying its name to better define its identity and mission in this time of multiple global and national crises and conflagrations.
When the group first formed in 2013 we became aware of the PC(USA) 1990 Report: Restoring Creation for Ecology & Justice adopted by the 202nd General Assembly. We also learned of a denominational communication known as the Eco-Justice blog stating: “Eco-justice means working to heal, defend, and work toward justice for all God’s creation and all people.” With that, the group chose the name ‘Eco-Justice’.
Now eight years later with a broader understanding of the scope of ecological/environmental justice, the name change to ‘Creation Justice’ reflects the reality that Martin Luther King Jr. addressed in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail when he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This underscores the truth that the entirety of God’s Creation is tied together in a web of mutuality in which an injustice in one place or sphere threatens justice in all places and spheres. The renaming signifies an awareness of the Church’s call to work toward justice for ALL God’s creation (animate and inanimate), all God’s people (all humanity created in the Imago Dei) and all God’s creatures (flora and fauna) great and small.
The term ‘Creation Justice’ embraces a theological understanding of integral ecology, a universal truth that Pope Francis wrote about in his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’. Integral ecology provides a holistic approach to not only environmental problems, but also to the political, social and economic troubles that plague our world today. It flows from his understanding that everything is closely related and that today’s environmental problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis. He states that in considering solutions to the environmental crisis, we must “seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems.”
Creation Justice is on the ground floor of Christian theology and practice. Using the theological term ‘Creation’ instead of the scientific term ‘Eco’ emphasizes that we are intimately part of God’s created order, and constantly working alongside our Creator to restore and sustain it. Creation Justice means just, fair and equitable treatment for all of God’s planet and all God’s people.
Practicing creation justice looks like Isaiah’s picture of God’s people as “repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:12). That means being God’s faithful ministers of justice by fixing things that are broken: broken breaches and levees, broken political and economic systems, broken spirits, broken hearts and broken people. In our small communities of faith that exist around the world it means having the audacity to believe that we can accomplish things far bigger than what you’d expect from groups our size. It means believing that the power behind us is greater than the task ahead of us.
And so it is that this rose that we’ve known for the past eight years as Eco-Justice has now officially transitioned into a new flower renamed Creation Justice. It is a change that signifies our understanding that the picture of environmental justice is bigger than images of melting glaciers, flaming forests, torrential storms or mountains of plastic pollution. It is as big as Creation itself. How sweet it is.