The Birds of the Air

by Bo Sanders

Randy, I had been working on this post about Matthew 5:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
I was just about to put it up when it took a different direction.  I patched it together and thought I would post it here and see what you and everyone at Ethnic Space and Faith thought.

Elizabeth Johnson does a wonderful job when she talks about sparrows. She
draws out three things from Jesus’ teaching on sparrows.
1. God knows when each sparrow falls. God cares about the sparrows. They
matter.
2. God allows the sparrow to fall. This is the tough one for most people.
But when she and some of the teachers talk it through, it brings me great
comfort.
3. How much more valuable are you to God?
That is how Jesus broke it down.  Sparrows fall. God knows and cares. You
are more valuable to God.

Last month I wrote a blog about loving both plants and people. I think that
it is not OK – or Godly – to just like people but not plants.  From
breathing to taking communion, we need plants.  I want to care for people
and plants.

I’m pretty comfortable with both of the above ideas. I think that both birds
and plants were made good by God and that God cares deeply about them.

What I am not comfortable with was a segment two weeks ago on the Daily
Show.
It was about a community in Mississippi called Turkey Creek. It was
founded by freed slaves over 150 years ago and as if the road was not tough
enough up to this point… it has taken a difficult twist in recent years.

Here is the clip.  You will want to take 4 minutes to watch this.

Now, the honest truth is that I have no idea where to even start to respond
to something like this.

Do I point out the obvious? That as much as I appreciate those who care for
the environment, it is unimaginable that birds would attract more
compassionate attention and financial resources than a community of humans.

Do I go cynical? Do I take some snipe at the people who think that because
we have a black president that ‘race’ in America is settled?  That racial
discrimination, economic disparity and political influence are no longer an
issue?

Do I paint with a broad brush? am I right to pointing out that the United States
government still has Tribal relations with Native peoples under the Bureau
of Land Management along with Oceans and National Parks? This is all going
on the same week that the Chinese government, with all of its human rights
concerns, was given a state dinner at the White house.

I don’t know.

I do know that I am glad that somebody is watching out for and protecting
the birds and their habitat. I am glad that there are influential lobbies
that are contending for the flyways and migratory routes of the birds.

As I have been asking around it has dawned on me that in the circles I run
in, people are more likely to know about the struggles of birds, having
watched documentaries on birds like “Flight” or “Wings” or even “the March
of the Penguins” than to know about the activities of descendants of the
Civil Rights movement or the current plight of the most vulnerable members
of our human society.

I’m glad that people are looking out for the birds. God cares about the
birds.

But I am struck that Jesus talks about birds and then introduces that phrase
“how much more valuable are you…”
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4 Responses to The Birds of the Air

  1. Art Brokop II says:

    Creator/Yahweh when informing us of creation in Genesis made a point to in His forming and telling of the creation week to explain, in a suitability overlooked or missed today. Each day layed out the foundation and provision for the next. Take the division of water and dry land. Without this plants would not be able to flourish animals would not have sustenance and in this simple single layered example the crowning created being His image Man would not be provided for. Each aspect of creation interweaves with the rest. I think Jesus is alluding to this even while explaining to us thickheaded humans that although we are the crown of His creation we as His image have been given responsibility in sustaining the earth and its fullness which not only is His but given to us to put in order ans sustain for those who come after us – is that not the pattern of the Creator whose image we bear?

  2. Daniel Fan says:

    When it comes to popular consciousness “Environmental Justice” > “Social Justice.”

    😦

    I just got back from a “Social Justice” conference last weekend. What you describe actually fits uncomfortably well with my own takeaway from that experience.

  3. Joe Paparone says:

    Is it possible Jesus was using a rhetorical device to instill a sense of value and God’s love towards his listeners? Our tendency is to quantify – “Are you not much more valuable than they?” to us means God values humans at 5 and birds at 3 and plants at 1. I could imagine Jesus using a value system that the listeners would have grasped, but it not having a direct correlation. The point is God cares, not cares more or less than. Based on other teachings, it would appear that God’s economy, if it were quantifiable, is so drastically different than ours, why would this particular instance indicate that God’s value economy and ours are similar?

  4. Shawn says:

    Why is it that we can’t hold 2 species (or more, please!) in high regard at the same time? Why are we passionate about ONE cause? Why are our perspectives so skewed? I think we are a reactionary by nature, generally responding instead of being proactive. The tragedy here is not that someone cares about the birds, it is that NO ONE seems to be willing to stand up for the people…and what a nauseating use of imminent domain. Even the Audobon Society representative seemed clueless about the plight of the people. Helping them out seemed to be a serendipitous at best. Thanks Bo for wrestling out loud with this subject and for sharing the story.

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