May 8 2013

42 and Good Nature and Bad Nature

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Recently my wife and I went to see the movie about Jackie Robinson, 42. What an amazing story of courage by both Robinson and Branch Rickey! But even more, it gave a feeling for a time and its challenges that made a part of history come alive.

Madrona Marsh, Torrance, CASo what does this have to do with nature and photography and our connection to God? 42 made me think a bit. Society had treated blacks pretty poorly, and Robinson and Rickey faced some serious challenges. There were “welcome” people (white) and “unwelcome” people (blacks). Unwelcome people did not matter and could be treated badly without consequence. Obviously that has changed quite dramatically from Robinson’s day.

That definitely translates to nature. How often do you hear people talking about nature in terms of welcome and wanted, such as a furry or feathered animal, and unwelcome and unwanted, such as lizards or insects? Or people absolutely love places like the Great Smoky Mountains or Yosemite, but treat the small local marsh as an inconvenience.

SC 42-04We may have improved our treatment of our fellow man, but a lot of folks have not improved society’s treatment of nature when it is not furry, feathered or a national park. In fact, those “outcasts” of nature are often neglected and treated very poorly indeed.

Chuckwalla, Joshua Tree National Park, CaliforniaI don’t remember Genesis saying that God created the earth and then separated the animals into good and bad according to man’s standards or natural places into wanted and unwanted. In fact, the Bible is very specific:

“God called the dry ground land, and the gathered waters He called seas. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10.

“God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems … and every winged bird … And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:21.

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds…and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “… whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Obviously, Jesus is talking about how we treat our fellow people, but given how important God’s creation is, that statement could easily apply to how we treat the “least” of nature, especially since it is us that is passing judgement on what is “least”, not God.

Sometimes you will hear people say, “Well, I don’t understand the purpose of (some animal)” – a rather condescending statement toward God. Did God ask for our blessing on His creation? Genesis says he blessed creation before he created man.

We all struggle at times with our own importance rather than putting God first. And if we really want to put God first, I believe it starts by respecting His creation, and simply accepting that life on earth is important regardless if we “get it” or not. How can we possibly understand everything that God understands? If someone started destroying “lesser” works of art by someone like Picasso because they did not “get that work”, they would be arrested and put in jail. Is God less than Picasso with his creative work? I don’t believe that.

The first photo is from Yosemite National Park, the second a small marsh in Torrance, California. The hummingbird is from Costa Rica and the chuckwalla lizard is from Joshua Tree National Park.

— Rob