Their Home, Too
April 22, 2017
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
-Luke 6:17-20 (NRSV)
As our jeep trudged through the tall grasses of South Africa’s Sabi Sands, our guide Mac explained his hesitancy to get any closer to the mama and her baby rhinoceros. “We take our cues from the animals, and this mama wants to protect her baby. This is their home, you know?” It was the second day of a 5-day safari, and a fellow traveler had asked why we had not moved as close to this pair as we had done with some of the region’s other game. Over the past 24 hours we had sit 15 fit away from leopards mating, elephants bathing, and a stunning array of aqua and maroon birds descending onto the tops of trees. The privilege of the trip was never lost on me, but Mac’s words deepened my awe, humility, and gratitude. “This is their home.” Up until that trip three years ago, my knowledge and concern for the variety of species on our planet was committed but distant.
However, years of poaching and development in the region have nearly eradicated many of these beloved creatures from their native lands. During the 1980s, a handful of conservationists within the country’s travel industry sought to transform their work into one that elevated preservation of the land, its species, and the agency and voice of people indigenous to the region over mere profit. The efforts have paid off, but there is still so much more to do.
Today marks the 47th celebration of Earth Day. Our commemoration of this day could not be more important than it is now. As the natural habitats of thousands of species erodes at a deadly pace, our society’s regard for the earth has been reduced to a political battle of wills. To some, creation and her creatures are mere tools of convenience and consumption. Rising rates of asthma in urban areas and the ongoing water crisis in Flint and other cities, testifies that those who are economically disadvantaged bear the brunt of our apathy and detachment toward creation. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not a way of life in God’s kingdom though.
Jesus’ beatitude “blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom” tells the truth about our existence: people of all economic means, especially those who have less or have suffered the brunt of economic exploitation, are not only blessed by God, they deserve the same respect and rights as those with economic privilege. Let’s never cease to forget that our utmost care of creation—or, lack thereof—not only affects us, but everyone. This is their home, too. This is everyone’s home
This week’s author is The Rev. Maria Kane. She is an Episcopal priest, historian of American religion, and native Texan. She currently lives outside Washington, D.C., where she serves as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waldorf, Maryland (and remains unabashed in her love for Washington’s archrival, the Dallas Cowboys). In her free time, Maria loves reading, cooking, kayaking, and spoiling her godchildren. She can be found on Twitter @mariaconchia.