Yesterday was as beautiful a day as I have ever seen. The sky was blue and cloudless, the grass a regenerative green. The morning sun warmed the earth, while a northwest breeze took the humidity from the air. I sat with a cup of coffee, trying to take it all in. I was by myself but not alone, for dozens of birds – robins and finches, redwing blackbirds and a northern cardinal, crows and blue jays – flew among the trees and sang from the branches to each other and to me. I felt completely at peace. Early spring. Easter morning. A season of rebirth. A day of resurrection. It might have been on a day like this that Francis of Assisi stopped in the Spoleto Valley to preach to the birds. It is a day that reminds me that religion is not just about transcending our mortality; it is about connecting to life. There is the one we now hear so much about – the one in which Jesus will return to judge us as saints or sinners for eternity. This is the Christianity that tells us the earth is ours to subdue, nature exists for us. This is the gospel of division, exploitation and fear.
I prefer another one – the one in which, as Lynn White wrote 45 years ago, “Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God's creatures.” But, White continued, that heresy was quickly stamped out.
I wouldn’t bet the farm just yet. I’m pretty sure I experienced it yesterday morning.