Thursday, September 20, 2007

Connecting Harvest to real life

Ben Witherington's blog quotes at length a brilliant poem by Studdert Kennedy, here's the first few stanzas

Yes I used to believe in Jesus Christ
And I used to go to church.
But since I left home and came to France,
I've been clean knocked off my perch.
For it seemed alright at home it did,
To believe in a God above
And in Jesus Christ his only Son
What died on the cross through Love.

When I went for a walk of a Sunday morn
On a nice fine day in the spring
I could see the proof of the living God
In every living thing.
For how could the grass and the trees grow up,
All alone of their bloomin' selves?
Ye might as well believe in fairy tales,
And think they were made by elves.

So I thought that that long haired atheist
Was nothing but a silly sod
For how did he account for my Brussel sprouts,
If he didn't believe in God?

But it ain't the same out here,
you knowIt's as different as chalk and cheese,
For half of its blood and the other half mud,
And I'm darned if I really see
How the God who has made such a cruel cruel world
Can have love in his heart for men,
And be deaf to the cries of the men as dies
And never comes home again.

With a series of harvest talks, where I'm called to account for Brussel sprouts (are they evidence for or against the existence of God?), it's easy to fall in with English romanticism about the countryside and just spout warm thoughts. But the poem, narrated by a soldier in the trenches, questions whether the God of the vegetable garden cuts any kind of ice at all in the grim realities of a suffering world. We serve people poorly if we let harvest become a day when we romanticise nature and God's place in it. All this does is give anyone with a brain the message that God is irrelevant, a warm thought for people who can't cope with messy reality.

Harvest connects to all sorts of things: climate change, foot and mouth, the struggles of the farming community, the toxic dominance of the supermarkets over food producers, these are all things which come naturally from talking about vegetables. You can even connect it to the Iraq war, because oil is part of the harvest of the earth. In fact, most wars are, in some part, to do with resources (water, oil, land, rivers, people) and who gets to control them. And we also need to remember that God didn't finish creation on the 5th day. People are part of it, the best part of it. Incredible but true.

But if that's all too much for you, just scroll down a bit more on his blog and there's lots of cute pictures of dogs and cats.

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