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    Plough Quarterly Spring 2015: Earth

    Plough Quarterly No. 4: Earth

    Spring 2015


    Featured Articles

    All Articles


    Report from Rome Pope Francis addressed a gathering of religious leaders from around the world in a summit attended by several Plough contributors. Participants discussed what their diverse faith traditions teach about marriage, and “the complementarity of man and woman.” Becoming a Rooted Church "We did not have to advertise Jesus or our way of life with words; we had only to base our daily decisions on him," writes Claudio Oliver in this account of how, step by step, a church became a community. Where Rivers Meet the Sea Estuaries are “nurseries of the sea” for countless marine species – and they were the safe havens of the very first human civilizations. But modern practices and pollutants have destroyed many of these fragile marshes...


    A Spark Bird Lights a Fuse Raising environmental consciousness does not require deep knowledge. The author delights in joining children as they identify a plant, bird, or insect and learn about its unique place within the web of life. Can Anything Good Come from Climate Change? With global leaders meeting in Paris this week, climate change is squarely in the focus of the world’s attention. Watch an interview with environmental activist Bill McKibben about our prospects for the future. A Gospel of the Ground Attending the birth of a calf reminded me that we are creatures designed by God to get our hands dirty. Sacred Seeds How ancient genes can help end hunger, save the soil, and equip small farmers to face climate change. Conservation Is for Conservatives Francis Schaeffer wouldn’t recognize the religious right he helped create, not least when it comes to environmentalism. The Psalmic Soundtrack of John Muir The father of America’s national parks thrilled at the beauty found in the book of nature – and in the book of the Bible.


    Together On Marriage Everyone suffers from the current crisis in marriage, but some suffer more than others.…The effects of the decline of marriage on children are dramatic, unequal, and deeply disturbing. Jesus Is Coming – Plant a Tree! If Jesus will come again and bring a new heaven and a new earth, why bother saving the environment? N.T. Wright counters the myth that what we do here and now on this earth doesn't matter for the coming kingdom of God. Our Garden, God’s Garden A reading from Eberhard Arnold on why the gospel calls us to life in community. For Thomas Merton’s perspective, read Arnolds book Why We Live in Community. John Muir’s Gloria in Excelsis What greater worship than a morning sunrise on the Fairweather Mountains? Growing into Manhood Germany’s political situation grows more dangerous – it is 1934 and the Nazis have infiltrated tiny Liechtenstein. Rumors swirl of illegal killings, but Heiner is lost in an interior battle; he struggles with doubts about his calling from God. Why We Need Stories Like Homage to a Broken Man By the time you finish the book you will have made a new friend.


    Firewood One day soon my saw will bite into the base of that tough old trunk; careful notch cut out the front, back cut, wedge, and then timber.


    The White Lily An old man’s life is turned on its head when he receives an unexpected gift.


    Hitler’s Nemesis “That damned Hildebrand is the greatest obstacle for National Socialism in Austria. No one causes more harm,” said Franz von Papen, Hitler’s ambassador to Austria. Who was Hildebrand, and why was he such an obstacle to National Socialism?

    Editors’ Picks

    Editors’ Picks Issue 4 Plough’s editors share their best reads of recent weeks. This issue (Plough Quarterly No. 4, Spring 2015) they feature books by Jeanne Bishop, S. M. Hulse, Héctor Tobar, and Randy Boyagoda.


    Readers Respond: Spring 2015 See what our audience thinks about Krish Kandiah’s “We’re All Adopted,” Glenn T. Stanton’s “Why Dads Matter,” Ron Sider’s “Nonviolence in the Age of ISIS,” and more.

    Digging Deeper

    Digging Deeper: Issue 4 A reading list on the earth and the environment.


    Insights on Creation “I have got, over the years, a sense of the immense sweep of creation, of the evolutionary process in everything, of how incomprehensible God must necessarily be to be the God of heaven and earth.”


    Nature and Revelation Unveiling his painting, Cross in the Mountains, in his Dresden studio, artist Caspar David Friedrich “sparked a controversy that would force contemporaries to rethink not only art criticism, but also the evocation of the divine.” Meeting Mary Since the Reformation, Westerners’ attitudes to Mary have too often been polarized: she is attacked or defended as a sign of division between Catholics and Protestants. ­Picturing Mary helps us recover the real Mary.


    Johnny Appleseed A man stepped forward, barefoot and wearing a coffee sack for a shirt. He lived on the American frontier, planting apple orchards and bearing “good news fresh from heaven.” His name would become an American folk legend: Johnny Appleseed.

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    Plough Quarterly cover

    About This Issue

    Dear Reader,
    “Thy kingdom come…on earth as in heaven.” The earth is our origin and also our final destination – it’s the place where the kingdom of God will one day be a reality. After all, the Bible opens with God establishing earth as his garden and closes with him reclaiming it as his home. The resurrection of Jesus’ flesh-and-blood body at Easter leaves no doubt that God truly does love his creation, including the earth and all the life it sustains.

    Today, for the first time in history, it is possible for millions of people to go through life for long stretches acting as if nature did not exist. Technology allows us to immerse ourselves in an artificial cocoon, detaching ourselves not only from the natural world but also from our fellow human beings, who remain stubbornly non-virtual. And technology cannot bear all the blame. For millions in the cities, nature has become like grass-fed organic beef: a luxury reserved for those who can afford to develop a taste for it.

    But the earth is not just ours to enjoy or ignore as we choose. As the contributors to this issue bring home to us, it is God’s earth. This doesn’t mean we should simplistically equate the gospel with ecological activism, as N. T. Wright makes clear. But it does mean working toward the day when “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21) – the day when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).

    To carry out our task on earth, we need to get dirt on our hands. The following pages feature a variety of people who are doing just that. Claudio Oliver tells how his church in Brazil has become a gardening community. Mary Eubanks recounts her adventures developing drought-resistant varieties of corn for Africa. Bill McKibben calls us to respond to climate change by replacing hyper-individualism with local economies of sharing. Other contributors help us catch glimpses of God’s revelation in nature through bird watching, work on a dairy farm, the legacy of John Muir, and the painter’s vision.

    Creation naturally includes humankind, made by God as male and female. Last November, religious leaders of many faiths gathered from around the world at the Vatican to reflect on how to promote this truth; the speakers included several Plough writers.

    And as always, we’d love to know what you think. What would you like to see more of? How can we improve? We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Warm greetings,
    Peter Mommsen, Editor

    Front cover photograph: Isabel Merritt


    About Plough Quarterly

    Plough is an award-winning international magazine of stories, ideas, and culture that appears weekly online and quarterly in print. We also publish a line of books, including literary nonfiction, fiction, and graphic novels. Founded in 1920, Plough asks the big questions: How can we live well together, and what gives life meaning and purpose in a complex world?