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Nature's Surprising Wildness

We modern urban dwellers and suburbanites like our nature contained and manageable: a nice hike in the woods; a pretty sunset on the drive home; a lush, green lawn (chemically-induced, alas).

Sometimes we like nature so much we decide to worship it — or to make it the medium for our worship of God or the “higher power” we think might be up there, out there, presiding over it all. We’ve been wounded by organized religion, perhaps, disgusted by its hierarchies and hypocrisies. “I can worship God on a mountaintop,” we decide. (Or — conveniently, happily — on the golf course).

And then an earthquake or hurricane spoils the romance. Mother Nature isn’t so life-giving and maternal after all — not so contained and manageable....

The biblical tradition asks us to wrestle our whole lives with this paradox: The world God created, loves, and is working to redeem and restore is a place of beauty and fecundity and of arbitrary brutality and terror. The perfect pink newborn and the baby born without a brain. The healthy octagenarian and the 50-year-old early-onset Alzheimer’s patient. This is not a puzzle to solve (though modern medicine is surely a gift) but a mystery of human existence to abide, endure, inhabit. Some days go better than others as we try to do this.

- Debra Dean Murphy, "Hurricanes and Spoiled Romance," God's Politics blog, August 29, 2011