An Edge Interview with Julia Butterfly Hill: Part 2
By Gar Smith
May 26, 2005
Eco-morality, the Book of Revelations, and the Politics of Jesus
|"In the Biginning, God's original intention was to hang out in a beautiful garden with two naked vegetarians. What a great vision!" -- Julia Butterfly Hill|
Gar Smith: It's a particular sadness that we have been raining destruction on Iraq, the home of the Biblical Garden of Eden. The First Commandment, which some people call "the Greatest Commandment," says: "Thou Shalt Not Kill." And, as human mammals, in our vainglorious way, we tend to assume that it just refers to killing your "fellow man," as they say -- a fellow member of your species. But is there any Biblical tradition that extends that commandment to all life or is it implicit?
Julia Butterfly Hill: I always like to remind people of Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible (in its current form, we should say): "In the Beginning," God's original intention was to hang out in a beautiful garden with two naked vegetarians. That was the Original Commandment! That was the Original Vision! What a great vision!
My connection to the Divine is so much bigger than just what one religion can hold now. But, if you look for those who are called by the Christian faith-based tradition, if you look at the very first book of the current form of the Bible, that's the original intention. Our choices have lead us away from that Garden of Eden and everything that that stood for.
And what we need to understand is that, when I look at the Commandments, I ask: "What's it really saying about us?" When we say "Thou Shalt Not Kill," for me its that partly it's because we are a thread that is connected to everything else on this planet and when we kill indiscriminately -- when we're out there dropping bombs from thousands of feet in the air and a person then becomes a statistic instead of a person -- we've just killed off a part of ourselves.
[When we see] big-biz agricultural farming animals and plant life for food, we're killing off a piece of ourselves as we kill in this way. Every time an old-growth tree is cut down, something in the depth of our soul is destroyed. For me, that's a deeper meaning of "Thou Shalt Not Kill." It's not just "Don't do this because you need to be a good person."
When I talk to people who've been in the military like the Veterans for Peace, they tell me they started the Veterans for Peace because of the things inside of themselves that were killed and destroyed when they were sent to kill and destroy. That's the deeper meaning of what we're talking about.
GS: The National Council of Churches has issued a statement called "God's Earth Is Sacred." They make the argument that protecting life on Earth is a sacred and religious duty. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew was quoted in this statement as saying: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin." I think that's pretty progressive religious thinking.
JB: I always remind people that the tradition I was raised in (that actually carries over into other traditions) says that, in the Beginning, there was nothing but God, the Divine. And then the Divine created. Now we've come to this point where we say: "Well, it's a 'gift from God' and we get to dominate it. We get to be the masters of this 'gift' from God." But if you actually look at it, it's not just a gift from God, it is a gift OF God.
My mother used to tell me, "You know, Julia, we're supposed to worship the Creator and not the Creation." I told her, "Well, momma, if you go back to the origin, there was darkness and void and the darkness and void was filled with nothing but God. Then God said: 'I want to be an artist. I want to create!' That means that Creation is the manifestation of God. When we disrespect the Creation, we are disrespecting the Creator. When we worship the Creation, that is one of the ways we have for worshiping the Creator because Creation is the Creator manifested as tree, manifested as animal, manifested as human, manifested as micro-organisms in soil, manifested as water, manifested as sun. All of that is the master paintbrush-strokes from the original palette called "Nothingness and God."
GS: What do you make of what has been called the "rogue book" of the Bible -- Revelations and the Rapture Cult?
JB: It's an interesting phenomenon. One of my understandings from studying various faith-based traditions is that, first and foremost, the Bible is a historical book, a document from a specific period of time. That's why most references to women are how they bear children and who they're married to. The historical reference from that time no longer fits who we have evolved into being. But some people still mandate that it stay stuck there; that women's value is only based on breeding capabilities and who we're married to. It's not just references to women, there's many things Throughout the Bible, it talks about goats, a sheep, and cattle, because that's how a person was valued at that time. It's a historical document.
We have evolved so much as a people. Our ability to travel has given us a broader perspective of what the world actually encompasses. Our ability to become mini-creators, allows us to run around on this planet sometimes creating beauty and magic and at other times creating horror and devastation.
For me, Revelations was a prediction of what is coming if we remain addicted to our disconnections; if we remained disconnected from that original intention of living in a beautiful garden, having plenty for all if we adhere to living simply, living from the fruits of the Earth -- instead of raping and pillaging and destroying everything for our insatiable appetites.
We made choices that lead us away from that and now we're headed towards this pretty horrific ending. And there's this myth that says "If your soul is saved, Heaven is the eventual Ending." But for me, Revelations is this brilliant commentary on the consequences of being disconnected from the Divine. It's a sacred conversation. How could we indiscriminately clear-cut old-growth ecosystems and turn them into mudslides and toxic dump lands? How we can be the largest incarcerator of people on this planet? And how can this not be somehow a magnifying glass for the dis-ease of spiritual devastation that' lies inside ourselves? Revelations is a powerful manifesto that the more you disconnect from the sacred interconnected divinity of all life, this is what you're going to witness. It's not about some heaven hereafter; it's about connecting ourselves to the Divine right here.
But there are a lot of people who are looking forward to Revelations happening and who are helping make sure the Apocalypse is Manifest Destiny. They are on the path of making sure that the absolute devastation of the planet is our predetermined, ordained future. Those who have a different belief are trying to create another end to the story.
GS: The Rapture has developed into what seems to be a very large Suicide Cult. And people who read Revelations as a warning are picking up the axes to accelerated the process -- in a belief that the final act will give them privileged seats "in the balcony" as one of the elites that will be floated up to the clouds.
JB: I think that's our mission as conscious, caring, committed, active people. We need to tell a different vision. Fear is a very powerful vision and it is a powerful way to get people to act in very specific ways. We need only look at our own lives and think about all the small choices that we make that are ultimately guided by fear. We don't want to be too uncomfortable, so we'll make a choice that we know is not the most conscious we could make. We'll come up with excuses and reasonings to support why, for example, we chose to use a paper cup that came from a forest somewhere with a plastic lid that came from made from petroleum that came from the devastation of a community somewhere. We'll chose to use that over using a reusable mug because we're "just too busy" or "I didn't think about it today." Or whatever.
Ultimately, it's our fear of letting go of our addiction to comfort. None of us are exempt from the power of fear in our lives. It's a very powerful controlling vision.
That means the solutions we come up with cannot be based in doom and gloom and fear and retribution and "Oh, my goodness, the sky is falling." (Even if the sky is falling!) Our vision has to be more powerful than fear.
It's our call to action to tell a more inspiring vision. What would it look like to put the heavens back, even if the skies were falling? What would it be like to restore a scared and hurting Earth and human soul? What would it look like to replant the Garden of Eden on the wasted lot on the corner of our inner city? This is the vision that gives me goose-bumps. To those who are committed to making sure that the "End Times" come, our response must be a life-affirming, joy-filled, heart-centered vision that is a call that is more powerful than fear.
GS: What we should work on is a Green Book of Revelations. Instead of the End Times, the Unending Times. There's a book called The Bible According to Noah that attempts to reinterpret the Bible in a new midrash of green awareness. In this version, the animals play an equal role with humans. It's a wonderful concept and I think that's one of the limitations of the Bible, that its prophetic chapter is blood-soaked and Apocalyptic.
JB: I think probably if Jesus were alive today, he'd pull that book out. You know, Jesus is given very few quotes of his own in the Bible. I always found that very interesting. I think it's because his message was too powerful and that's why they murdered him. Just like they murdered Gandhi, just like they murdered Martin Luther King. Jr. You could spend days just listing the names of people who have been killed for the power of their beliefs. The common thread that I find among people like that.
In the Bible, Jesus gives a whole list of things and ends by saying: "and the greatest of these is love." He taught love and consciousness as a verb -- as a way of being in the world, not just as something you talk about. Gandhi had a similar message: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
And Martin Luther King, Jr. was attacked when he dared to talk about the military-industrial complex and how that was directly tied in to what was happening to his people. In the Bible Jesus preached: "Get rid of all your belongings and go out into the world. Live simply." He was the original Hippie.
The only time that he was ever shown to be angry -- absolutely, uncontrollably angry was when they were dealing with money in the churches. The church was supposed to be the sacred place where you could come together to have fellowship and they dirtied it with a non-sacred thing called money and power. Jesus said, "Fellowship may not be tainted that way" and he lost his temper.
It's such a powerful story for me. Here is this guy who is come to Earth as God's son to show us the way, and all we've done is silence that message -- beginning with when he was killed. And we've made sure to celebrate his killing ever since so we can celebrate his coming back. So we can celebrate where we get to go [to Heaven] and all the while we do everything we can to not pay attention to "What was his message about How To Live and Be On... This... Earth."
He came to bring a message here to say that Heaven is here. It's already here. It's already within you. And here are the ways you should be to have Heaven on Earth.
And it's such a powerful message, they took him out.
GS: And that is why we celebrate his birth and his death but not what happened in between -- his life and his teachings.
Julia Butterfly Hill and Circle of Life can be reached at: www.circleoflife.org
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Julia Butterfly Hill and Circle of Life can be reached at: www.circleoflife.org