Biblical Inspiration for Earth Care: A Report on Lenten Bible Detox 2023

Amy Dalton
Published 20 April 2023

This Lent, the Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice (CLBSJ) reckoned with the way the Bible has been misused to justify and promote environmental devastation. Through this process, we excavated and honed readings of scripture that emphasize the Divine desire for humans to live in healthy harmony with all of creation. Video archives from these sessions are freely available at for individuals and communities seeking biblical inspiration to bolster and guide environmental commitment. Scriptures discussed include Genesis 1:26-28 (blessing for dominion), Genesis 6-9 (Noah and the flood), Jonah 1:17-2:10 (Jonah’s prayer from the whale’s belly), Mark 4:1-15 (Parable of the Sower), Romans 8:19-22 (creation’s “enslavement to destruction”) and Revelation 12:13-17 (the Earth who comes to the aid of the Heavenly Woman), 21:1-3 (the new heaven and the new earth), and 22:1-2 (the River of Life). Below is a short summary of each session.

Session 1 features Hebrew Bible scholar Dr. Gale Yee and Episcopal priest Rev. Laurel Dykstra providing perspectives on how climate change denialism makes use of the Bible. Dr. Yee provides a historical summary of explicit climate change denialism within white evangelical communities, identifying social and political forces dating back to the mid 19th century that laid the foundation for what we are experiencing currently. Rev. Dykstra gives a summary of the ways that less visible forms of climate change denialism thrives also within white liberal Christian communities. More Info Watch Archive
Session 2 features Dr. Miguel De La Torre and Rabbi Dr. Rachel Mikva taking us on a deep dive into the challenges and opportunities that the creation stories raise, especially Genesis 1:26-28. Dr. De La Torre focuses on naming the risks of dominion/stewardship and anthropocentrism, and how marginal perspectives on the text including indigenous, feminist, and global south perspectives, can unearth more nuanced readings. Rabbi Mikva discusses how both the text itself and Jewish interpretive tradition contain resources for disarming the dangers embedded in these texts. More Info Watch Archive
Session 3 features Dr. Presian Burroughs presenting an alternative translation and understanding of Romans 8:19-22 which dignifies the earth and opens up space for human agency in countering environmental devastation. She shares details of the environmental crises that were going on within the Roman Empire and discussed how this contexts informs our understanding of Paul’s intentions. Dr. Erin Lothes offers a response based on her organizing within the Laudato Si Movement. She highlights sections of Pope Francis’s encyclical which engages in the sort of corrective “detoxing” work that CLBSJ is doing, and shared about how Laudato Si works to cultivate inspired action of the sort that Paul is calling for in Romans 8:19-22. More Info Watch Archive
Session 4 features Hebrew Testament Scholar Jaime Waters and New Testament Scholar Brian James Tipton discussing ways of understanding non-human animals in the Bible. Dr. Waters discusses the role of birds in the flood story, and highlighted texts and themes that show them to have acted as partners with humans in navigating this crisis. Dr. Tipton shares about his “sibling hermeneutic” through which texts are read with a commitment to seeing humans and non-human animals as siblings in the struggle to survive. He focuses specifically on the role of birds in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-15) and explores how the significance of the passage changes when we consider the actual experience that birds were having trying to live within the context of the Roman Empire. More Info Watch Archive
Session 5 features Crystal Hall and Ched Myers exploring the often overlooked environmental messages contained within the book of Revelation. Dr. Hall discusses the misreading of Revelation that has been propagated by dispensationalist theology, identifying the specific confusions that allow for this misreading and discussing the way the misreading drives a sense of separation between humans and the earth. She then presents the story of how the Earth came to the aid of the Heavenly Woman in Revelation 12:13-17 as a powerful counterpoint to this toxic interpretive tradition. Prof. Myers focuses on the beloved texts regarding the new heaven and the new earth (21:1-3), and the River of Life (22:1-2), highlighting the way understanding these texts within the contexts of the prophetic tradition and the Roman Empire reveals a powerful call for humans to participate in the renewal of the Earth. More Info Watch Archive
Session 6 features Brian Fiu Kolia and Peggy Mulambya-Kabonde discussing how the stories of Jonah and Jesus reveal ways of understanding how God is engaging the whole earth in delivering us through this crisis. Dr. Kolia utilizes methods of understanding rooted in his Samoan heritage to read the story of Jonah in a way that draws out the agenda of the Great Fish, and draws connections between the way that Jonah was interloping on the Great Fish’s territory to the ways that our current system facilitates colonialism and exploitation. Dr. Mulambya-Kabonde shares about the urgency of the moment and discusses the work that the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians is doing to propagate liberating theologies that can support the action that is required of us now. More Info Watch Archive

Through the detox journey, we also assembled an inspired series of connected action opportunities, which can be accessed here.