Students at Union Theological Seminary in New York City prayed to a collection of potted plants set up in the school’s chapel.
Unashamed of its pagan idolatry, the nation’s oldest independent seminary itself tweeted out the news:
"Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor. What do you confess to the plants in your life?"
The response was swift. Pastor Greg Locke tweeted: “This is utter nonsense. Absolute theological bankruptcy in every way. Your Seminary is a cemetery.”
One smart aleck asked if the plants had specified a penance after the “confession.” Another wit tweeted: "What Jesus said: Let us pray. What [Union] heard: Lettuce pray."
Apparently clueless that Christians worship the creator only, and never created things (Mat. 4:10; Luke 4:8; Rom. 1:25), the seminary tweeted out a ten-part defense of their idolatry, a manifesto soaked in syncretism, New Age-ism, environmentalism as nature worship, and political correctness:
We've had many questions about yesterday's chapel, conducted as part of @ccarvalhaes' class, "Extractivism: A Ritual/Liturgical Response." In worship, our community confessed the harm we've done to plants, speaking directly in repentance. This is a beautiful ritual. /1
No, it is not a “beautiful ritual”; it is idolatry. It is okay to worship God and to confess to God that we have not always been good stewards of His creation, but to pray to plants directly is gross idolatry.
We are in the throes of a climate emergency, a crisis created by humanity's arrogance, our disregard for Creation. Far too often, we see the natural world only as resources to be extracted for our use, not divinely created in their own right—worthy of honor, thanks and care. /2
No, we are not in the throes of a “climate emergency.” The “climate emergency” is a Leftist political strategy, a justification for a totalitarian power grab based upon faulty, politicized “science.”
Christians should acknowledge that the natural world was created, of course, but it was not created for us to worship; only God may be worshiped. Although the Union Seminary theologians deprecate the idea that the natural world is full of resources for us to extract and use, in fact, the natural world was created for our use and enjoyment. God gave man dominion over the creation. (Gen. 1:28). The plants were created to be food for man. (Gen. 1:29). God created beauty in nature both to glorify God and for man to enjoy. (Mat. 6:28-30)
We need to unlearn habits of sin and death. And part of that work must be building new bridges to the natural world. And that means creating new spiritual and intellectual frameworks by which we understand and relate to the plants and animals with whom we share the planet. /3
Talk of building bridges is straight out of old paganism. The chief high priest of pagan Rome was the “Pontifex Maximus,” and we know who inherited that title along with other idolatry and paganism of ancient Rome.
Churches have a huge role to play in this endeavor. Theologies that encourage humans to dominate and master the Earth have played a deplorable role in degrading God's creation. We must birth new theology, new liturgy to heal and sow, replacing ones that reap and destroy. /4
It isn’t “theologies” but God Himself who told us to “have dominion” over the natural world. To dominate the natural world is to obey God’s direct command to our first parents.
Far from “degrading God’s creation,” the culture created by Protestant theology has built the cleanest, most orderly, most hygienic societies in the world, as well as the most conservationist and environmentally aware. A devolution to paganism is not needed to undergird good environmental stewardship, and in fact will be counterproductive.
When Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke at Union last year, she concluded her lecture by tasking us—and all faith communities—to develop new liturgies by which to mourn, grieve, heal and change in response to our climate emergency. We couldn't be prouder to participate in this work. /5
More Leftist/nature worship nonsense. Robin Wall Kimmerer is an expert on forestry and mosses. According to Wikipedia, Kimmerer is a proponent of “traditional ecological knowledge (TEK),” which incorporates Native American cosmology and spirituality; Kimmerer’s grandfather was a Potawatomie Indian educated at Carlisle Indian School. It is entirely possible that Kimmerer promotes some sort of indigenous nature worship, but that is scant excuse for a purportedly Christian Theological Seminary to start praying to plants.
And here's the thing: At first, this work will seem weird. It won't feel normal. It won't look like how we're used to worship looking and sounding. And that's exactly the point. We don't just need new wine, we need new wineskins. /6
Yes, it is weird and not normal, and that is because it is not Christianity but anti-Christianity. Talk of wine and wineskins is just “Jesus talk” designed to fool the unwary into believing that there might be something Christian in this base pagan idolatry.
But it's also important to note that this isn't, really, that radical a break from tradition. Many faiths and denoms have liturgy through which we express and atone for the harm we've caused. No one would have blinked if our chapel featured students apologizing to each other. /7
What's different (and the source of so much derision) is that we're treating plants as fully created beings, divine Creation in its own right—not just something to be consumed. Because plants aren't capable of verbal response, does that mean we shouldn't engage with them? /8
Plants are not created “beings”; they do not have sentience or consciousness. And Union is not treating them as created things, but treating them as one would treat the Creator Himself by praying to them and worshiping them.
So, if you're poking fun, we'd ask only that you also spend a couple moments asking: Do I treat plants and animals as divinely created beings? What harm do I cause without thinking? How can I enter into new relationship with the natural world? /9
Treating plants as “beings” is deeply foolish. Praying to and worshiping plants and animals is just old fashioned idolatry. We do not need “a new relationship with the natural world” but rather to acknowledge the old relationship specified for us in Eden, which is to exercise dominion and stewardship over the natural world.
Change isn't easy: It's no simple business to break free from comfortable habits and thoughts. But if we do not change, we will perish. And so will plants and animals God created and called "good." We must lean into this discomfort; God waits for us there. /10
“Change” is not our Savior, nor is “change” a Christian imperative. Worshiping the Creator, and Him only, is a Christian imperative. Avoiding idolatry and the appearance of idolatry are Christian imperatives.
Confessing to the plants was "just one expression of worship here at Union," a spokesperson for the seminary told the Washington Examiner.
"Union Theological Seminary is grounded in the Christian tradition, and at the same time deeply committed to inter-religious engagement. Union’s daily chapel is, by design, a place where people from all the wondrous faith traditions at Union can express their beliefs. And, given the incredible diversity of our community, that means worship looks different every day!"
Union has been a hotbed of liberalism for at least the past 130 years. It became the nation's first independent seminary in 1893 when it separated from Presbyterian control after that denomination tried to have one of the professors fired for claiming that the Bible is not inspired by God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the school's most famous alumni, and also briefly taught there in 1939. Appalled by the liberalism of its students, Bonhoeffer wrote that they "are not familiar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, are amused at the fundamentalists [but] are not even up to their level."
Bonhoeffer also had some pointed comments about the New York churches:
"In New York, they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ.... So what stands in place of the Christian message? An ethical and social idealism borne by a faith in progress that – who knows how? – claims the right to call itself 'Christian'. And in the place of the church as the congregation of believers in Christ there stands the church as a social corporation. Anyone who has seen the weekly program of one of the large New York churches, with their daily, indeed almost hourly events, teas, lectures, concerts, charity events, opportunities for sports, games, bowling, dancing for every age group, anyone who has become acquainted with the embarrassing nervousness with which the pastor lobbies for membership – that person can well assess the character of such a church.”
Disillusioned, Bonhoeffer return to Germany to resist Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist regime; he was executed at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in April, 1945, three weeks before American troops liberated the camp.