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Humankind

Lords over Creation 2

by An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To think about the ways in which we express our understanding of power and lordship over Creation.

Preparation and materials

A fairly flexible delivery is needed. Take time, for example, to get some responses to the questions in the first part and remind students of the discussion about humans in relation to the natural world. Are we the Lords of Creation?

Assembly

  1. Here's a question I'm sure you've all asked yourselves in the middle of a long and not-very-gripping lesson: What would I do if I won £10 million in the lottery?

    Money, in our society, gives you power. Here's an even bigger question. What would you do if, by some fluke, you found yourself Supreme Lord of the UK, with complete dominion over the lives of every other citizen? What laws would you proclaim? How would you change things?

  2. If I were Supreme Lord of Britain, here are some of the laws I would impose. (Here you can add your own or use the following, but try to make them controversial. Alternatively, you could ask for contributions from the students):

    No television at all. (Why? 99 per cent of it isn't worth watching anyway – what a waste of resources!)

    No one under 70 can own and/or drive a car. (Why? Only older people really need help moving about; cycling will improve the nation's health and environment; children – who won't be watching television – will be able to play in the street without fear of being squashed).

    School pupils will be paid a wage – with bonuses paid for good exam results. (Why? This will cut truancy rates and boost education standards overnight.)

    The list could go on . . . What do you think? If you don't like these ideas, what would you suggest?

  3. In the Bible, the Book of Genesis reports God as saying:

    Reader: Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth. 

    (Genesis 1.26)

    If you dominate something, can you revere it? Did later religions destroy earlier pagan ones that revered nature? As far back as the 1960s, one influential writer (Lynn White) said that domination of nature was at the heart of Christianity. But all societies are responsible for massive environmental degradation. These include animist societies, such as that of Australian aborigines (what happened to all those marsupials?) or native Americans (again, the advent of humans in America saw a massive decline in large mammal species). Other religions don't have a better record than Christianity – throughout history most Buddhists, for example, like most Christians, have been subsistence farmers who saw no reason to avoid killing tigers or chopping down forests when it was a question of growing enough food to live on.

  4. In the Bible, environmental politics just wasn't an issue for Jesus, or St Paul, or for anyone – Jew, Christian or pagan. But the Jewish Bible marvels at the created world. And the New Testament does suggest that Jesus was not the sort of person who went round dominating people, barking out orders, demanding unquestioning obedience. He said:

    Reader: The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

    (Luke 22.26–27)

    As in many other areas of life, Jesus turns things upside down. True power over other people means being a servant. Perhaps that is a good way of looking at how we see our connection with the world. Human beings might be vastly different – vastly more powerful! – than any other species, but surely Jesus would have expressed that power not through domination but through self-giving, generosity and service.

  5. Think of a world where those are the values. How different would it look? What would be the value of driving a Rolls Royce or a four-wheel drive? Which people would be respected and why? What would be your rules if you were Supreme Lord of such a world?

Time for reflection

Mighty Lord of all Creation,
by whose power millions of species of plant and animal exist,
but who comes to us as a servant;
whose face we see in the face of Jesus,
whose actions are marked not by domination
but by love and generosity;
help us to show your love in our actions,
both towards other people
and towards all created things.
Amen.

Hymn

'O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder' (Songs of Fellowship, 425 (Kingsway, ISBN 978–0–860–65935–8))

'I the Lord of sea and sky' by Daniel L. Schutte (New Dawn Music, 1991), in Songs of Fellowship, vol. 2 (Kingsway, ISBN 978–0–854–76770–0)

Publication date: May 2015   (Vol.17 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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