Creating Stories, Creating Worlds (Genesis 1-2, Part 1)

Monday, January 3, 2022


This transcript was created by the awesome work of Kayla! Thank you!


Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism with its iconic floral foyer couches is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation. We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

Elise: [00:01:24] Welcome back everyone. And welcome to 2022 with the Faithful Feminists podcast. Holy smokes. We're really excited to be back. And we're also super excited to start talking about the Old Testament. In fact, we're so excited to start talking about the Old Testament that we have so much content for our very first episode that we need to split it up into two parts.

[00:01:44] This is going to be a two-part episode for the dates January 3rd through the 9th for Genesis chapters one through two, Moses two through three, and Abraham four through five. In these chapters, we have two stories. The first of which is the story of the creation of the world. And the second of which is the story of the creation of bodies and people.

[00:02:05] So in this episode, we're going to focus entirely on that first part of Genesis chapter one about the story we tell ourselves about the creation of the world. 

Channing: [00:02:15] Yes. We're so excited to get into this and honestly, this has been like a huge point of study and personal research for me. And so it's like a dream come true to just be able to share all of my thoughts and feelings and ideas that I've come across in the text. So, buckle up. It's kind of some heavy topics, not heavy in like, particularly difficult. Like not heavy, upsetting, but heavy as in like, kind of academic. And like, a lot of information all at once. Last night before I fell asleep, I was like, I feel, I simultaneously feel like I'm drinking through a fire hose and that I'm making other people drink through the fire hose and I'm the one holding it.

[00:03:06] So yeah, that's how it feels for this podcast. But I hope that it arrives to you with all of the love and excitement and passion that it is being recorded in. 

Elise: [00:03:18]  And so we'll do our best to give you small sips at a time. We'll hold the glass for it. 

Channing:[00:03:22] Yes. So like Elise said, this episode we're focusing on what we're calling the narrative of the creation of the earth.

[00:03:32] And I didn't necessarily want to start the episode off reading directly from the text, because this is a story that we're all very, very familiar with. We'll get into the nitty-gritty parts of it in a little bit, but just so our readers know the accounts and Moses and Abraham are not exactly identical, but are very, very similar.

[00:03:55] So it's almost as if you read one and you've read them all. I'm not necessarily saying that's true across the board. There are a few significant differences, mostly between the Abraham account and the more similar accounts found in Genesis and Moses. But just so that our readers are aware, all three of these texts contain nearly the same story.

[00:04:21] So we'll be focusing or reading some of them interchangeably throughout this episode and the next. So the first question that I wanted to ask in this episode is why do we even, like, why do creation stories matter? Why do we even have them?

Elise:  [00:04:39] One of our most favorite feminist theologians, Rosemary Radford Ruether writes, “Creation stories reflect the assumptions about how the Divine and the mortal, the mental, and the physical, humans and other humans, male and female, humans, plants and animals, land, water, and stars are related to each other. Creation stories reflect the worldview of a culture, and mandate that worldview to its ongoing heirs.”

Channing: [00:05:05] So, in summary, what Ruether is saying is that creation stories tell us a story about our relationship with the other beings that we are surrounded by. And also creation stories are told through a particular lens or a particular worldview that is influenced by and also in return influences our culture and our relationship with other people.

[00:05:33] So I hope that that kind of gives you a little bit of a comprehensive view of why a creation story is so important. The next question that we wanted to ask is what are the prominent theological and cosmological theories of creation in broader Christianity? So we've got two kind of big words there: theological and cosmological.

[00:05:57] So theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Cosmology is the study of theories of creation and the creation of the universe and/or world. So, two stories that kind of have a little bit of an overlap when we're talking about creation narratives. So what are the prominent theological and cosmological theories of creation in broader Christianity?

[00:06:25] So not just through a Mormon lens, but through the lens of the Christian umbrella, which Mormonism falls within. I feel like this question is important because I think oftentimes, especially in Mormonism, we arrive to a text and arrive to a well-known story, like the creation account in Genesis, feeling like we already know this story really, really well.

[00:06:51] And also we arrive to the text kind of assuming that this is the only story. That this is the story that's told in our canonized texts. And so it's been there from time immemorial and is the only proper or right or most accurate understanding of the world. And, you know, maybe this might not be a universal approach to the story, but for me, for a long time in my faith journey, that's how I felt about this story.

[00:07:22] That there were only two stories of creation in existence. One was the story in Genesis and one was the scientific story of the big bang theory. And so I wanted to bring this question up because it might be surprising for some of our listeners that there are actually more creation stories that have influenced the account in Genesis.

Elise: [00:07:47] And Rosemary Radford Ruether reminds us there are actually three classical creation stories. And the first that we're going to talk about is the story that shows up behind the Hebrew creation story and what she finds here is the Enuma Elish or Babylonian creation story. To offer a quick summary using Rosemary Radford’s words, she writes, “The Babylonian creation story was itself rooted in earlier stories from the Sumerian world. These stories began with a primal Mother who is the origin of both the cosmos and the gods. The deities emerge in successive generations, representing the successive stages of the generations of the cosmos. First there emerges from her body the primal parents, Heaven and Earth; then the primal cosmic forces: water, air, and vegetation; and then the anthropomorphic (or human-like) gods and goddesses who represent the ruling class.” In this story, the primal mother goddess is Tiamat. In a series of conflicts between generations and consorts, Tiamat battles against the hero Marduk. He kills Tiamat and splits her body in half raising one half upward as the sky and “fashions the stars and planetary abodes of the heavens from the underside of her body.”

[00:09:03] And the other half is the earth. Human bodies are then made by mixing the blood of Tiamat's executed lover with clay. So maybe if you're listening, you're like, “dang, this is pretty gruesome.” But honestly, a lot of creation stories are. Even if the story we see in Genesis is one of the more tame methods of creation.

[00:09:21] So the story of Tiamat and Marduk was composed more than four centuries prior to the Hebrew creation story and was repeated as a part of a yearly celebration. Radford Ruether writes, “The priestly authors of the Hebrew creation stories were well aware of this Babylonian story and composed their own story both to reflect their own system and selectively appropriate and correct the earlier Babylonian story.”

Channing: [00:09:46] So, so far we can see that the Babylonian story of Tiamat and Marduk and the creation of the earth and of human bodies predated the account in Genesis by four centuries. Once we understand that that was one of the first influences on the account in Genesis, we can look a little bit more closely at the Hebrew story or the Hebrew creation narrative that we find in Genesis.

[00:10:13] Of this Rosemary Radford Ruether writes, “The Hebrew creation story has both continuities with and important differences from the Babylonian story. In the Hebrew story the Creator coexists with the primal “stuff” of the cosmos and is in serene control of the process. Strife between Creator and the primal Mother has been eliminated. Instead the Mother has already been reduced to formless but also malleable “stuff” that responds instantly to the Creator’s command.

The Hebrew authors describe the shaping of the cosmos as proceeding majestically through six days. The Creator first creates light, separating it from darkness. On the second day, he, like Marduk, creates the vault of the sky. On the third day, the dry land emerges from the lower waters and seed-bearing plants appear. On the fourth day the Creator shapes the stars, the sun, and the moon to govern night and day. On the fifth day, he creates the fish and birds, and on the sixth day he creates the land animals, cattle, reptiles, and wild animals, followed by humans.

Humans are distinguished from animals by being made “in the image of God.” They are given rulership over all the earth.”

So this is the second and most prominent creation narrative that we have in broader Christianity. But again, like I said earlier, it was influenced or heavily influenced by the Babylonian creation story.

Elise: [00:12:03] From here, Radford Ruether points out that the third story of creation is Plato's Timaeus. She writes, “Although Christians took the Hebrew story as theologically normative, [or, that's to say, what was the norm at the time] for 1500 years, they read it with the cosmology of Plato in the back of their minds.”

[00:12:21] As a summary, “Plato starts by dividing reality into two realms - the invisible and eternal realm of thought and the visible realm of corporeality. The invisible realm is primal and original. In between these two realms was the Creator or Demiurgos, the cosmic artisan. Like the work of Babylonian Marduk and the Hebrew Creator, the Demiurgos creates by “making.” The world is the work of an artisan, who shapes from dead stuff, not from the reproductive process of begetting and gestating. Having been “made” rather than “begotten” denotes the cosmos to the status of a possessed object. The Demiurgos shapes space into primal elements of fire, air, water, and earth, and assigns each following creation to the realms of these elements. The Demiurgos creates the soul of the world and the souls of humans. Each of these souls receive a celestial education in the eternal, primal realm of thought. The creation of human bodies is “too low a task for the Demiurgos and is assigned to the planetary gods.”” And here's really where it gets fascinating and frustrating for us. Ruether writes, “Once the souls have received their celestial infusion of truth, they are incarnated into male bodies. Their task is to control the chaotic sensations that arise from the body. If the souls succeed in this task, they will shed the body and return at death to the celestial realm. But if one fails to attain this control over the body and its sensations, the soul will be reincarnated into a woman. If in that state the soul doesn't desist from evil, he will be reincarnated as a “brute.” This round of incarnation will continue until the soul masters the body and returns to his “first and better state” that is, as a (ruling class) male human.”

Channing: [00:14:21] So this is a very simplistic retelling of Timaeus based on Ruether’s work. So please know that this is probably the shortest retelling ever, and definitely does not include all the details. So if you are a lover of philosophy and feel like we got this all wrong, or we missed really important parts, I'm here to tell you that you're probably right. And I encourage everyone to do their own research, but I wanted to include this and include this brief summary of Ruether’s work to share, to demonstrate that stories, even our biblical stories, even the stories that we think we know are not stagnant and they are not impermeable. They're influenced by the stories that come before and happen around them. Stories meet one another. They rub up against one another and they color each other like paints on a palette where even just the smallest brush of two colors against each other, creates something new.

[00:15:22] So the Old Testament version in the chapters we're reading this week are not necessarily “pure” in the sense that the creation story in Genesis has a singular source. And even if it was, even if it were true, our understanding, our interpretation and our story about this story is certainly not pure and not uninfluenced.

[00:15:46] The story that we tell about the creation is influenced by our experiences, our personal understandings, and by those stories of others.

Elise: [00:15:56] There are also other prominent creation theories, really heavily based in science, many of which you'll probably have heard of. First being the big bang theory, where all of the elements of the universe were floating around unused until one day bang, they started coming together to create minuscule forms of life and growing and evolving into what we now know as the planet. Obviously, my background is not in any type of science or worldly creation of space things, but that's my best effort at the big bang theory. We also have the theory of evolution or all of these banging elements continue to shift and change forms sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ways.

[00:16:36] And they create life forms that we see as plants, fungi, animals, et cetera. And evolution happens gradually over time where birds and reptiles came from dinosaurs, humans came from apes and lots of other science-y stuff like that. And of course these stories are not necessarily the only stories of creation, really it's far from it, but we wanted to nod to each of them so we can understand that there's not just one or two stories that are at odds with each other, but many tellings of how the earth and her beloveds came to be.

Channing: [00:17:05] So I'd like to examine how each of these narratives, especially the three that we mentioned before with the Babylonian myth with Tiamat and Marduk, the Hebrew account of creation in Genesis, and Plato's Timaeus have uniquely shaped the Genesis creation story and the interpretations that we know today. Rosemary Radford Ruether continues to write, “Western Christianity accepted the Genesis 1 account as its official “revealed” story of creation. But it read this account through the eyes of Greek science and it also made its own synthesis of ancient Near Eastern, Hebrew, Greek, and Christian ideas. The result was a view that contained ideas not strictly present in the Hebraic account.” This is significant for a few reasons. First Ruether points out again, all the ways these different stories mix on the same pallet to color the creation narrative that we know today.

[00:18:02] Mormonism also adds its own contributions with its expansion on the premortal existence. Ruether explicitly states that the primary creation narrative is not “purely revelation, but a synthesis of many different stories.” Secondly, she points out that the text of Genesis one, and the story that we tell about that text are two very different things.

[00:18:27] So if you look at the influence that the Babylonian creation story has on our understanding of the account in Genesis, something that I find really fascinating when I do my own study of mythology- most of which happens in like Norse, Germanic, and Celtic traditions- something that I've noticed is the way that myths and stories are not just fantastical imaginations of the world, but they also have a tendency to keep track of historical events that are only barely, thinly veiled within the story.

[00:19:00] For example in the Babylonian story of Tiamat and Marduk, we can see a cultural shift happening within the myth. Tiamat with her regenerative creative power, by birthing creation into being, this worldview is matriarchal or matrifocal. It focuses on the mother. If we imagine Tiamat as a representative of a matriarchal society structure, the hero Marduk as a militaristic and patriarchal structure, we can see within the myth, a cultural annihilation of a way of life, a conquering of mythic proportions. Matrifocal and matrilineal societies are understood to honor equality and community more than patriarchal ones. 

[00:19:50] In the myth of Tiamat and Marduk we see the shift from a shared creative force of male and female combined into one where the creative powers of the cosmos are stripped from a shared power between Tiamat and her lover and then is sequestered solely in the realm of the male hero, Marduk. 

Elise:[00:20:06]  Ruether writes, “Marduk extinguishes the life from Tiamat's body, reducing it to dead stuff from which he then fashions the cosmos. From the dead body of her lover, he takes the blood to make the humans. It marks the transition from a reproductive forming of the cosmos to an artisanal one. Where life begotten and gestated has its own autonomous principles of life, dead matter is fashioned into artifacts.” So with the story of Tiamat and Marduk, we see a striking connection between the domination of female bodies and the devaluation of life.

[00:20:40] We also see in the story a connection of the feminine with the earth because of the regenerative properties of both.

Channing: [00:20:48] Moving on to the Hebrew creation story as found in Genesis one. Ruether writes, “There is no doubt that this account is anthropocentric (human centric). Although created last, the human is the crown of creation and given sovereignty over it. However, an exploitative or destructive rule over earth is certainly not intended. Humans are not given ownership or possession over the earth, which ultimately remains ‘the Lord’s.’ Their role is one of care of the earth as a royal steward, not an owner who can do with it what he wills. This obviously means that humans are to take good care of earth, not to exploit or destroy it, which would make them bad stewards.” And in general, I really like this narrative and approach of stewardship over ownership, and it makes my eco feminist heart very happy to hear that this reading is inherent in the Genesis one text.

[00:21:46] And then finally, if we examine a little bit more closely, the influence of Plato's Timaeus or one of the Greek creation stories, I think that the impacts or the influences that this has on the Genesis account are profound. So in this story, Plato splits reality between mind and body. Of this Ruether writes, “Mind or consciousness is primal, eternal, and good. Body is secondary, derivative, and the source of evil in the form of physical sensations to be mastered by the mind. Mind is immortal and godlike, and humans share in the nature of the divine. The soul, mind, or consciousness is alien to earth and body. Its true home is the pure and eternal world of the stars, while incarnation in a body is a separatory “testing place” or purgatory.”

[00:22:42] And even with that first sentence, I'm like, “Oh my gosh, I see so many similarities in this thought process to a lot of the theologies and cosmologies that I was introduced to in Mormonism.” We also see in Plato's Timaeus the hierarchy of mind over body is reproduced in the hierarchy of male over female and humans over animals.

[00:23:07] Ruether writes, “The earth itself is seen as the lowest level of a cosmic hierarchy of planetary spheres that mount above it. Like the body, a ‘prisonhouse’ of the soul, earth is the collective prison of incarnated souls, which must work their way out of this fallen state to return to their ‘true home’ in the starry heavens. Earth and body, once dominated and made inferior, are now fled from altogether in the quest of the male mind to free itself from the ‘contamination’ of mortality and to secure immortal life.”  So if you're noticing some striking similarities between some of what Plato outlines and some of the teachings of the LDS church, you are not alone. I'm really fascinated with the idea or the rhetoric in the church that our theology was born from pure revelation and isn't contaminated by like ways or views of the world.

[00:24:01] But this viewpoint doesn't necessarily hold up when we look at the development of stories and we look at the influence that stories have had on our theology. 

Elise: [00:24:11] For us, we really feel it's important to note that the story we tell about the creation story is different than the story itself. Often in the church, in our talks and in our classes, we share ideas and teachings about the creation story without really knowing where they come from.

[00:24:26] And then we just slap the label of truth or revelation on these types of stories. And of course this isn't to say that we don't think that the creation narrative in Genesis isn't true, but like we've talked about many times before there's a difference between capital T end all be all actual factual, irrefutable Truth and lowercase T truth, or the idea that things can be true and stories can be true because they mean something to us.

[00:24:53] And because they're based on strongly held values and belief. Both of these things are true, but the little T truths are more malleable and changeable. And we believe that the creation narrative is little T true because we value things like the storytelling nature of human beings. We also value creative, imaginative interpretations that help us make sense of the world. But it's not the only creation story that we believe is true.

Channing: [00:25:20] We also appreciate knowing the shaping influences of the story, because it helps us better understand the aspects of what we think, or maybe have thought in the past that the Genesis account of creation actually is. For example, I get to decide, do I like that the precursor to the Genesis narrative was built on a story of the slaughter of a female deity? As a feminist, for me personally, no, I don't like that. I also get to ask questions like: why is the mother, or a burning begotten presence, absent and instead, a decidedly male artisan who is centered instead?

[00:26:01] I get to read the ideas set for us by Plato and think, “wow, this guy has some super deeply ingrained patriarchal values in his heart.” I get to say it hurts my soul to believe that women are essentially ‘failed men’ and that their only hope and becoming complete or whole is to die and try again just next time with male reproductive organs.

[00:26:25] I get to look at how these ideas have shaped the story I am told about who I am, who the world is, and what my purpose is here. And with all the pieces in front of me, I get to say and ask: what parts of my experience as a Mormon woman were shaped, not by prophets, but by Plato? What parts of my own experience have a strong correlation to the slaughter of Tiamat?

[00:26:50] And here too I ask, borrowing a line from that Carol-Lynn Pearson poem: how did it come to be that I live in a Motherless house? Can I possibly track her leaving by following the threads of myths through time?

Elise: [00:27:03]  Knowing that these questions are sitting at the surface of our experience of the creation story, it's really, really difficult for us to engage with the Come Follow Me manual’s shaping of the creation story.

[00:27:14] For example, in the opening paragraph, it says, “One thing the Creation story teaches us is that God can make something magnificent out of something unorganized. That’s helpful to remember when life seems chaotic. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Creators  and Their creative work with us is not finished. They can make light shine in dark moments of our lives. They can form solid ground in the midst of life’s stormy seas. They can command the elements, and if we obey Their word like the elements did, They can transform us into the beautiful creations we were meant to be. That’s part of what it means to be created in God’s image, after His likeness. We have the potential to become like Him: exalted, glorified, celestial beings.”

[00:27:58]  And so much of what we've discussed so far shows up in this one paragraph. We see the Hebrew narrative of a male artisanal God that's immediately apparent. The earth is either dead “stuff” with which to create, or the earth obeys commands as if it's a lesser being.

[00:28:18] We see the acceptable image of God as male for it is in His likeness that we are being made. We have the potential to become like him: male, exalted, glorified, celestial. We see the influence of Plato's theories of the hierarchy of male over female, mind over matter, spirit over body, heaven and stars over earth, celestial over terrestrial, which also show up strongly here. And once you see it, you can't unsee it. 

Channing: [00:28:47] And for me, once I saw it, once I understood that the narrative of this eternal truth of creation of the earth and of bodies was actually a little T truth and not a capital T one, everything changed for me. Once I realized that the origin of the male as creator God was not the only narrative available, that there were other stories and other traditions that survived the influences of Plato and the patriarchal grip, everything changed for me.

[00:29:18] Once I encountered other stories, like the story of the Celtic Cailleach, who's living, breathing, still awake body makes up the earth and the waters and everything on it, everything changed. Or the story of the Norse-Germanic Yggdrasil, the world tree, which holds the universe together and is nurtured by three women who water its roots every day from the well of wisdom.

[00:29:41] Or the story of the Greek goddess, Gaia, who later shifted shape and name to Demeter and Persephone. Who bear all that is green and good and nurture the necessary death and decay of the world. Or the story of Skywoman, from the land of Turtle Island, or what we now know as North America, who fell from the sky and was carried by geese to Turtle’s back on the endless sea.

[00:30:05] Who, thanks to the brave sacrifice of muskrat, with a tiny handful of dirt from the ocean floor, created the land and the sweet grass who grows upon it. The creation narrative in Genesis is a little T truth. It has shreds of goodness in it, but it is far from the only creation narrative available, and even further from being the most helpful or healthy one. Simply because it is the most popular and most prevalent creation narrative does not mean it is the most correct, most true, and most pure narrative there is. It is one option among many. 

Elise: [00:30:43] So now that we've discussed lots of other creation stories, we're going to focus our attention on the story that shows up in Genesis. And I'm sure as you can tell, we find this Genesis narrative both beautiful and frustrating. It's frustrating for us because of the absence of the mother, the absence of this creative regenerative birthing, begotting force.

[00:31:03] For us, that absence is acutely felt and it's in opposition to our values and understanding of the earth. That said, we have a lot of love for the Genesis story as well. For two reasons, the first being the creative power of language, this Genesis narrative has one of the most compelling examples for us of the creative power of language.

[00:31:24] We have a whole entire episode, actually, that's devoted to this topic titled “The Language of Grace and Joy” from 2021 that goes super deep into the topics. So we won't be discussing it here for the sake of time, but we highly encourage pairing this episode with that episode from 2021, as you study Genesis one.

Channing: [00:31:45] The second reason that we find the Genesis narrative particularly compelling is because it, as mentioned earlier, has an inherent ethic of stewardship. As mentioned earlier, Rosemary Radford Ruether writes,  “Humans are not given ownership or possession over the earth, which ultimately remains ‘the Lord’s.’ Their role is one of care of the earth as a royal steward, not an owner who can do with it what he wills. This obviously means that humans are to take good care of earth, not to exploit or destroy it, which would make them bad stewards.” Ruether also explains that the Hebrew word for human ‘Adam’ is from the Hebrew word, ‘Adamah’, meaning earth.

[00:32:27] And she argues that this etymological relationship “assumes a deep kinship of humans and earth.” In an LDS context, the church website has a gospel topics essay titled, “Environmental Stewardship and Conservation” which mirrors many of the ethics of conservation inherent in the creation narrative in Genesis, as well as throughout LDS scripture.  The first paragraph of this essay pulls from this week's assigned chapters and reads, “This beautiful earth and all things on it are the creations of God. As beneficiaries of this divine creation, we should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. The earth and all things on it are part of God’s plan for the redemption of His children and should be used responsibly to sustain the human family. However, all are stewards—not owners—over this earth and its bounty and will be accountable before God for what they do with His creations. All humankind should gratefully use what God has given, avoid wasting life and resources, and use the bounty of the earth to care for the poor and the needy.”

[00:33:35] The essay also outlines questions such as:

Why does God care about the earth?

What is the role of the earth in the plan of salvation?

What does it mean to be a steward of the earth and its resources?

And if the earth will be changed at the second coming of Jesus, why does it matter if we care for the earth and conserve?

[00:33:51] So I highly encourage reading this essay. It's fascinating to me. I could do like a whole nother entire episode on whether or not the church itself is a good steward of the earth and if all parts of LDS theology are truly earth healing and affirming. But, like I said before, that conversation is for an entirely different time. But I do believe, in relevance to this episode, the foundation of the creation narrative in Genesis is one which values right relationship and an ethic of caretaking and stewardship, which is in alignment with LDS values and ethics. 

Elise: [00:34:28] Another question that the Come Follow Me manual asks is “One way to approach the Creation story is to invite your family to find how many times in Genesis 1 or Moses 2 God calls the things that he made “good.” What does this suggest about how we should treat God’s creations—including ourselves?”

[00:34:45]  The gospel topics essay answers this question by responding with “God has made us accountable for the care and preservation of the earth and the wise use of its resources. As stewards, we avoid complacency and excessive consumption, using only what is necessary. We make our homes, neighborhoods, and cities beautiful. We preserve resources and protect for future generations the spiritual and temporal blessings of nature.”

[00:35:12] The suggestions the essay makes for conservation efforts mostly focus on the individual, rather than addressing systemic change. But they are a really good start for those wanting to improve their ecological impact.

[00:35:24] But it's really not a comprehensive list. The suggestions encourage individuals to conserve energy and resources, recycle, start a community garden, and beautify homes, workplaces, and worship spaces. There is some broad advice to become informed and engaged with local conservation groups and become civically active, but it stopped short of addressing what can be done on a broader scale.

[00:35:47] One of the dangers of the individualistic approach is that the church is a global church. It is fine and well for citizens in suburban Utah to focus on signing up for recycling service, but what good is conserving resources if you do not have access to clean water or live in a food desert, or do not have means or resources to beautify living, working, and worship spaces. Conservation needs to be a local focus, but that local focus cannot be globally applied.

[00:36:15] In this way, conservation also means an examination of wealth and privilege. Conservation efforts of the wealthy are necessarily different from conservation efforts of the poor and the marginalized. What seems accessible and important for a white woman in the suburbs will not likely be what is most needful and impactful for indigenous women.

[00:36:36] Conservation usually focuses on what we can do, but there is also a necessary focus on what actions we can choose not to do.

Channing:[00:36:43]  Yes. Yes, and I'm so passionate about this because of an experience that I had that really, really brings this home for me. So I live in Syracuse, Utah, which right now, just like all other parts of Utah, is experiencing a high volume of development because so many people are moving to the state. But before this became the big problem that it is now, a lot of the town that I live in was either empty field or farmland. And I feel like a lot of times as humans, we tend to look at an empty field and we see an empty field. Like maybe it's pretty, maybe it's ugly.

[00:37:18] I don't know, but either way it's empty. But for other living creatures, an empty field is an oasis. It's a source of food, shelter, and water. Empty fields are not really empty. Just like we talked about that empty room. It's not really empty. They house animals, plants, insects, reptiles, and rodents, who all contribute to the biodiversity and health of the ecosphere that they live in.

[00:37:40] Knowing this, it was especially heartbreaking for me to hear that a new LDS temple was to be built on farmland. Just one major street over from where I live. There was, and is a big part of me that wants to put a huge question mark over the conservation claims of the church when it develops empty land. When there is a temple, there also must be landscaping and concrete and pavement and pest control and noise and light pollution.

[00:38:08] There's control of water and elimination and sanitation of other resources. So, even though humans and not even all humans, but the LDS ones gain a really pretty building, all the other beings that rely on that land in the here and now lose their homes and food. And for me, this example is one that I think illustrates one of the biggest limitations of the Genesis narrative of stewardship and conservation.

[00:38:35] Even with all the good things that an ethic of conservation stewardship can bring to our relationship with the earth, the narrative is still limited. And the ethic of stewardship still retains an anthropocentric view of the earth and creation. Anthropocentrism is defined as “regarding humankind as the central or most important element of existence.” Stewardship places the focus on actions and purpose of humans. Because a human-centered view of the world is most dominant in Western society, it can be difficult to imagine alternative worldviews. But if we contrast anthropocentrism with other worldviews, a new way of seeing and being in the world emerges. Ecocentrism is one such worldview. It is defined as “a philosophy or policy which places value and importance on the entire environment and all life in it, not just the parts that are useful to humans.”

[00:39:33] Ecocentrism is not new. It has counterparts in ancient spirituality and a philosophy known as animism, which occurs in many indigenous cultures worldwide. Stewardship becomes anthropocentric when we prioritize the survival, purpose, and enjoyment of humans over those of the other beings in the ecosystems we are a part of.

[00:39:55] In the framework of the Genesis creation narrative, humans are to be good stewards, but they're stewards over the “stuff” of the earth: the waters, the plants, and the land and the animals upon it. Contrast this with an ecocentric or animist view where humans live alongside the earth in an interdependent relationship of reciprocity. Of equal purpose and importance, an equal give and take, an equal honor of life and death.

[00:40:24] In an ecocentric or animist worldview: plants, animals, rocks, dirt, mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, glaciers, beatles, lizards, clouds, and all their counterparts have autonomy, purpose, rights, and worth. These ‘other than human beings’ are people. Some first nations people recognize other beings as their own nations.

[00:40:45] One does not see a Sparrow, a singular flying object, enlivened by breadth and flight, but instead one meets a member of the Sparrow nation or a Sparrow tribe. Sparrow, with a capital S. Here in my Utah Homeland, I live alongside the Mulberry nation, the Juniper nation, the Snake nation, and the Salt and the Sulfur nations.

[00:41:08] Interestingly enough, we talked about how the Genesis narrative illuminates a compelling argument for the creative force of language. And I think it's interesting here to kind of examine the way that the English language operates in establishing personhood to some beings and objecthood to others.

Elise: [00:41:29] To illustrate this, Robin Wall Kimmerer, from her book, “Braiding Sweetgrass” writes, “Imagine seeing your grandmother standing at the stove in her apron and then saying of her, ‘Look, it is making soup. It has gray hair.’  We might snicker at such a mistake, but we also recoil from it. In English, we never refer to a member of our family, or indeed to any person, as it. That would be a profound act of disrespect. It robs a person of selfhood and kinship, reducing a person to a mere thing. So it is that in Potawatomi and most other Indigenous languages, we use the same words to address the living world as we use for our family. Because they are our family.

[00:42:13] Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them Self and intention and compassion, until we teach them not to. When we tell them that the tree is not a who but an it, we make that maple an object, we put a barrier between us, absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation. Saying ‘it’ makes a living land into ‘natural resources.’ If a maple is an it, we can take up the chain saw. If a maple is a her, we think twice. The arrogance of English is that the only way to be animate, to be worthy of respect and moral concern, is to be a human.”

Channing:[00:42:57]  Ah, that's so powerful. I think that that summarizes or illustrates really well what we're trying to say, which is that an ethic of stewardship, as outlined in Genesis one, embraces and promotes an anthropocentric worldview where humans retain personhood and dominion over other beings whose personhood has been entirely taken or reduced to stuff and objects and things.

[00:43:22] This is apparent in the use of language in Genesis one, at least in the King James version, it says, “God saw that it was good.” Stories and language are not benign. They have creative power. They shape our world and tell us where we are and what our purpose is in it. We live in a world right now that prioritizes an anthropocentric story of creation.

[00:43:47] And we're beginning to see the consequences of the rhetoric of dominion. Species of plants and animals and insects are dying into extinction every day. Rivers and lakes are drying and oceans are rising, not only in water level with the melting of glaciers, but in toxic chemical and garbage waste produced by humans.

[00:44:07] And all of this speaks nothing about the consequences our domination has on other humans, which we will cover later. However, and this is a big however, we always love to end our episodes on a happy note. And I feel like there is one to be found and celebrated. I think there's some hope if we read a little bit further into Genesis two, in verses three and four.

[00:44:31] Those read, “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it, he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Verse four continues saying, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created.” I wanted to pay particularly close attention to that word “generations.”

[00:44:52] There might be some scholarly disagreement on the proper interpretation of the Hebrew word of generations. Some translations interpret the word toledot as an account or record. But it's interesting to see that other biblical records or accounts of the word generations use the same word toledot as specifically mentioning human families and lineages. An animist reading of Genesis two verse four implies that the generations of the first through sixth days of the creation are part of our family, our lineage with rest as our birthright.

[00:45:31] I find this interpretation not only beautiful, but in line with both what I understand of biology and healthy ecology, but also from the voices of indigenous peoples of North America and my heavy personal research into the ancient pre-Christian spiritual traditions of peoples indigenous to Northern Europe. How beautiful it is to me to think of myself and all beings, not only as a child of God, a celestial and gloried being, but also a Child of the Day, a Child of Night. A Child of Darkness, and Child of Light. A Child of Heaven, of Dry Land, and Seas. A Child of Grass, of Herbs, and Fruit Trees, A Child of Signs, a Child of Seasons, A Child of the Moon and Stars. A Child of Creatures and Fowl that fly, a Child of Whales with their watery cry, A Child of Cattle, A Small Beast of Earth, A Child to which the World Beings gave birth.

Elise: [00:46:31]  If our listeners, if you don't write that down, that poem prayer that was created not only by the text, but also woven together by chanting. I feel like this needs to be printed in all of our homes and become our new everyday prayer. In summary, we've covered some big topics in this episode about the narrative of the creation of the earth.

[00:46:49] We talked about the Babylonian myth that predates and influences the Hebrew creation narrative found in Genesis one, as well as the influence of later Greek philosophical perspectives that shape the way we view and tell the story of creation. We talked about the harms and implications each of these individual stories have had in our collective lived experience, as well as the gifts we might celebrate about the creation story in Genesis.

[00:47:13] We've explored responsible stewardship and conservation and its limitations too. We've briefly dipped our toes into alternative worldviews, which might foster healthier relationships with the world. And with one another through ecocentrism and animism, and even how these worldviews mesh well with some of the language of generations we encounter in the Genesis account.

[00:47:43] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of the Faithful Feminist podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us. 

Channing: [00:48:02] Financial donations support the many hours of research work and devotion to each episode, as well as the everyday cost of creating and publishing the podcast.

[00:48:12] You can support us on Patreon or through a simple Venmo donation and help us create a world where creators, artists, activists and beauty makers are valued and paid for their labor. Find us on those platforms and on Instagram, as the Faithful Feminist, we're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon. Bye friends.

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