When God Was a Bird: Christianity, Ecology, and the Re-Enchantment of the World

Omega Center Webinar
When God Was a Bird: Christianity, Ecology, and the Re-Enchantment of the World

Saturday, March 21st, 2:00 pm- 3:30 pm ET.

At one time, God was a bird: the Ibis-headed divinity of magic and wisdom in ancient Egypt, the plummed deity of the pre-Columbia Aztecs. It is often said that Christiantiy divorced God from this world of birds and animals to defend a pure form of monotheism. This narrative, however, misses the startling scriptural portrayals of God as the beaked and feathered Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity who, alongside the Father and Son, is the “animal God” of historic Christian witness. Appearing as a winged creature at the time of Jesus’ baptism, the bird-God of the New Testament signals the deep grounding of original faith in the unity of all things: divine life and birdlife, divinity and animality, spirit and flesh.

In this webinar, we will discuss this new but ancient vision of the world as a kind of “Christian animism” in order to signal the continuity of the Gospels with the beliefs of Indigenous and non-Western communities that Spirit enfleshes itself within everything that grows, walks, flies, and swims in and over the Earth. We will ask whether a recovery of avian divinity in Christian thought can enable faith today to return to its earthly origins—and thereby enable environmental wellbeing in a time of rapid global warming, indeed, global dying?

Speaker: Mark Wallace, PhD

Mark I. Wallace, PhD is the Professor of Religion, Environmental Studies, and Interpretation Theory at Swarthmore College. At Swarthmore, he directs the ChesterSemester program in which college students work alongside Chester city partners in high-value internships focused on social and environmental justice. He has been a visiting professor at The University of Pennsylvania, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Japan International Christian University, and is core faculty for the U.S. State Department’s Institutes on Religious Pluralism at Temple University.

Recent books include When God Was a Bird: Christianity, Animism, and the Re-Enchantment of the World (Fordham University Press 2019), Green Christianity: Five Ways to a Sustainable Future (Fortress Press 2010) and Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature (Fortress Press 2005). His research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Academy of Religion, and the National Endowment of the Humanities. On sabbatical, he recently followed in the footsteps of Teilhard de Chardin and visited the Paleolithic Niaux caves in SW France, which Teilhard and others had rediscovered and reinterpreted in the 1920s.

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