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Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
nature=church? on 03/19/2012 05:24:31 MDT Print View

perhaps this is chaff?, but philo-speaking,
(if so), then how does nature/outdoors make you a (more) spiritual person?

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
This depends on some definitions... on 03/19/2012 07:04:36 MDT Print View

DISCLAIMER *I do not consider myself an authority, this is just MY opinion, because someone asked*

Church and religion, these are volatile words to use. Their meaning is often contextual. When *I* use the word religion, *I* mean the following:

Anything replacing relationship with legalism.

The definition of legalism: 1. Excessive adherence to law or formula.

I'll explain what I mean:

Pretend that a book has finally been published that explains to men all the perfect things to do, how to do them, and when to do them, to keep their wives happy. I buy this book and read it. I then proceed to do what it says. Using the formula in the book, I know when to do the laundry, buy flowers, say I'm sorry, when it's supposed to be a back rub, and when it's supposed to be more. I know when it's a fix it conversation, and when it's a shut up and just listen to me conversation. In other words, I now know the formula of when X happens, do Y. I don't understand the person I'm married to any better, I just know a formula.

One day my wife finds the book and reads it. After reading the book she figures out that our entire relationship has been reduced to a formula. How does she feel at that point?

If you ask Google to define church, the response is : 1. a building used for public Christian worship 2. a particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines: "the Church of England".

By definition can the outdoors be a building? God I hope not. I go to the outdoors to get away from buildings.

So by strict definition does "nature = church?"

No.

Now for that contextual thing, in your question is church tied to a building? Are you saying, "If we take the building consideration out of the word church, does church = nature?" The only part of that definition that is left is worship (ignoring Christian at the moment, assuming it is interchangeable). Are you asking about the noun form of the word worship: The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity: "ancestor worship," or the verb form, to show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites?

If the noun, what you are asking is, "Can I go out into nature and express reverence and adoration for a deity." Yup, you can do that.

If the verb, what you are asking is, "Does going out in to nature show reverence and adoration for a deity?" That depends on one thing, is that deity a legalist? If it is not a legalist, no, going out into nature (in and of itself) will not show reverence or adoration to that deity. Why do I say that? Because as I explained, executing a series of actions, without relationship (understanding a being (person, deity, etc..)) is legalism.

Now, if the question it meant to ask was, does going out into nature make you (us the reader) feel... (I don't want to put words in your mouth, feel free to explain what you feel), then maybe. I have to know how you feel to answer yes to that.

Now for some things that provide context about my answer: Do I personally participate in nature worship? No.

I'm Christian. I believe in being a follower of Jesus Christ. I don't believe in legalism. I find it directly contradictory to relationship. What I mean is: I don't believe being able to follow ten commandments, or 643 laws, or any other legalist actions bring you any closer to a deity, or make you "more" Christian. I truly believe Ghandi's quote regarding how unChristian like followers of Christ are (and can be).

What do I feel when I'm outdoors? Freedom, the way God intended it, and I thank him for it. I invite anyone else's opinion, including one's that contradict mine.

Edited by wn7ant on 03/19/2012 07:05:17 MDT.

Gerry Volpe
(gvolpe)

Locale: Vermont
cathedral of creation on 03/19/2012 07:07:00 MDT Print View

I have always said that I worship in the cathedral of creation. When I am outside I am always drawn to thoughts of thankfullness for such beauty and a life that allows me to enjoy it, I believe that is spiritual. The longer I spend outside the more in the moment my thinking becomes especially so when out backpackig for a long time. This really translates into unconcious dynamic meditation, I am not saying I think nothing of the world at home but it is far less and the thinking that I do is much more likely to be inspirational or transformative. I have no other sources but at a survival, tracking, and nature observation class at Tom Browns tracker school I was told that in as little as 30 minutes in nature our brain waves start to change in the way they do during meditation and sleep. In teaching therapeutic adventure this semester some of the best discussions I had with my class was around "spiritual" attributes in nature as stated in our text(Gass 1994). One assertion was that with time spent outdoors people find it increasingly easier to attend to their environment effortlessly as opposed to the concentration required to attend in society. Other concepts I found interesting were the assertion that nature provides the archetypal "sacred space" written about by Yung which provides an environment conducive to making personal change and the concept of "Flow" developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi which states that factors including environment and challenging tasks produce an optimal mental state which is very similar to the idea of dynamic meditation. In addition while not spiritual one of important parts of religion is to provide community. I would posit that while out solo many folks are attempting to commune with nature (our whaterver your chosen spiritual name is) and that while with friends we are taking part in community with the people we share the most with. I have often thought about the community of the Appalachian trail and how that social piece and resultant belonging are what draws many people. Why else would someone who has the time and resources to thru hike multiple times not go to another trail? Great discussion starter it is nice to have something to ramble on about with the morning coffee.

Ty Ty
(TylerD)

Locale: SE US
Yes! on 03/19/2012 07:31:07 MDT Print View

We never attended church regularly but my Dad took me hunting and fishing regularly. We spent a lot of Sunday mornings in a duck blind, deer stand, sitting on a ridge line, whatever. My Dad would always look out onto a sunrise or sunset, a nice view, whatever and tell me "That's God stuff". Whenever we took game, we would put a hand on the game and thank God for the bounty of the land, and we meant it, and we treated the game accordingly.

So I think people go to church to be or feel closer to God (at least that is why they should be going). When I go outdoors I often feel closer to God. So to answer your question, yes to me nature is a form of church. In my case instead of church. A lot of times at church I feel more hypocrisy than God.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
A quote on 03/19/2012 07:47:08 MDT Print View

It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport.
–Fridtjof Nansen



Substitute hiking, backpacking, climbing and/or your favorite outdoor activity of choice....

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: This depends on some definitions... on 03/19/2012 08:21:15 MDT Print View

I like, and mostly agree with Everett's reply.

However, I would also ask. Are you referring to "church" in the way we define it as a building? Or as the way the bible defines it as a gathering? "Church" as you read it in the bible is translated from "ekklesia" which is more accurately translated to "assembly" or "congregation."

When the new testament was written, there were not "church" buildings as we think of it today. The church was a gathering of people who followed Jesus' teachings.

So, that being said, I don't believe the church is a place, but that we are the church. So, if you are out hiking with someone else who believes the same as you do, then the church is in nature! But, nature itself isn't church any more than a building is. The church can gather in a building, in someones home, on a mountain top, in a redwood forest, etc.


@Paul: I love that quote!

Edited by stingray4540 on 03/19/2012 08:22:54 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: This depends on some definitions... on 03/19/2012 08:45:09 MDT Print View

"I'm Christian. I believe in being a follower of Jesus Christ. I don't believe in legalism. I find it directly contradictory to relationship. What I mean is: I don't believe being able to follow ten commandments, or 643 laws, or any other legalist actions bring you any closer to a deity, or make you "more" Christian. I truly believe Ghandi's quote regarding how unChristian like followers of Christ are (and can be)."

You can't be a Christian without following the tenets of Christianity. Ergo, the Ministry of Christ or that which pertains to the early gospels of Simon Peter and John (even Thomas, although that is up for discussion based on what they found at Nag Hammadi). You can't 'cherry pick.' One has to follow these tenets to be considered a Christian. Or one is then something else. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. You just can't call yourself a Christian.

Having said this, I understand what you are saying. That calling yourself something doesn't mean you are that 'something.' The great thing about Ghandi is that his actions were consisten with his beliefs which is something we can't say about all 'Chirstians.' Or any other religion for that matter.

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 09:03:53 MDT Print View

For me personally, there's no better house of god than the house that god built. I've yet to see a house that man has built that can compare to the simplest babbling brook.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Re: Re: This depends on some definitions... on 03/19/2012 10:09:03 MDT Print View

"You can't be a Christian without following the tenets of Christianity."

I didn't say you could, and I didn't say I am.

"Ergo, the Ministry of Christ or that which pertains to the early gospels of Simon Peter and John (even Thomas, although that is up for discussion based on what they found at Nag Hammadi). You can't 'cherry pick.'"

I'm not cherry picking, nor have I stated I believe in cherry picking.

"One has to follow these tenets to be considered a Christian. Or one is then something else. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. You just can't call yourself a Christian."

Agreed.

Master, what is the most important law?

Translation, if I could follow only one rule, which would it be?

He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself. AND (notice that word that is often forgotten it means including) Love your neighbor as yourself'" NIV

Translation

Follow the ten commandments, no wait, that's not what was said. Follow 645 rules, no wait, that's not what was said. Love (have a relationship with, and let nothing stand in the way of the relationship with) God.

Follow on question:

"And who is my neighbor?"

Translation

How do I use legalism to narrow the scope of the task I've been given so I can get away with hating someone I consider "bad?"

Answer (out of convenience I copied the answer from Wikipedia, though I had several sources, all show the same thing):

Jesus answered, "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, 'Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.' Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?"

He said, "He who showed mercy on him."

Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

I don't worry about calling myself Christian (I do it on occasion so people that don't know me, and can't see the way I choose to live, might have at least some idea as to what paradigms I use). If people don't call me Christian the day I die based on the life I led, I wasn't one.

Also, this is the last I will address this as it is off topic. The original question wasn't about me.

"Having said this, I understand what you are saying. That calling yourself something doesn't mean you are that 'something.' The great thing about Ghandi is that his actions were consisten with his beliefs which is something we can't say about all 'Chirstians.' Or any other religion for that matter."

Ghandi was a man and made his fair share of mistakes. What's interesting is how close he got to what Christ taught 1800 years earlier.

Edited by wn7ant on 03/19/2012 10:38:57 MDT.

Jon Franklin
(Junto01) - F
Church, Nature and God on 03/19/2012 10:26:38 MDT Print View

This is an interesting discussion. I understand peoples comparisons of church and nature. I've felt more peace in nature than I've ever felt at church. However, being in nature does not tell me how to live a good life and most importantly...how to treat others. Nature is beautiful but it's barbaric by definition. Most importantly, nature doesn't tell you how to treat people. Does nature give us an example of the importance of helping the poor either through charitable donations or volunteering at a soup kitchen? Does nature tell us it's OK to steal or that it's a sin(or whatever you want to call something bad).

In conclusion, I love nature and I love the peace and serenity it brings, but it's not sufficient in terms of providing the proper instruction and feedback on becoming a moral and decent person.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 10:55:50 MDT Print View

As a Christian, I read about how Jesus went out into the desert. And he prayed regularly in various gardens. There is much to be gained from the beauty and solitude that one can find in Nature. But Jesus also spent tremendous amount of time in cities, towns and villages -- interacting with people rich and poor, noble and base.

Even when his very own apostles were arguing about who should be #1 -- or rebuking him about accepting expensive oils and fragrance from a prostitute -- Jesus never stopped interacting with them, loving, them, caring for them.

As mentioned, there is much to gain from finding God in Nature. But there is also a very big chunk missing if we just focus on what's beautiful -- and avoid the pettiness or ugliness of "organized religion". Because I think that term can be a cop out -- rationalizing an avoidance of our brothers and sisters in faith. In his day, Jesus never wrote off religious institutions.

As well, if we remind ourselves what Jesus taught as as the two greatest commandments -- our faith is based on two pillars: faith in God and love of others. I think a faith or worship based on just two parties (God and you) in a pristine, natural setting is good once in a while. But if that's all there is, it can become very superficial very quickly.

Edited by ben2world on 03/19/2012 11:01:37 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 11:39:44 MDT Print View

@ Jon: "However, being in nature does not tell me how to live a good life and most importantly...how to treat others. ... Most importantly, nature doesn't tell you how to treat people. Does nature give us an example of the importance of helping the poor either through charitable donations or volunteering at a soup kitchen? Does nature tell us it's OK to steal or that it's a sin(or whatever you want to call something bad). ... I love nature and I love the peace and serenity it brings, but it's not sufficient in terms of providing the proper instruction and feedback on becoming a moral and decent person."

Church, nor any religion for that matter, is necessary for a person to learn how to become a moral and decent person, we all have that capability within us. And it's not that hard to figure out.

@Ben:"But there is also a very big chunk missing if we just focus on what's beautiful -- and avoid the pettiness or ugliness of "organized religion". Because I think that term can be a cop out -- rationalizing an avoidance of our brothers and sisters in faith. In his day, Jesus never wrote off religious institutions."

I don't agree that we have to engage religion at all. I'd agree that we shouldn't avoid the pettiness or ugliness that can be people. But one doesn't need to ascribe to any faith or any god to interact with our 'brothers and sisters,' and that interaction simply doesn't have to take place in a religious venue or religious context.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 11:54:48 MDT Print View

Doug:

What you said is true. Our life on earth... we do NOT need to subscribe to religion.

But I don't think that's the question being asked. The question to me is this: assuming that one wants to pursue religion, can one obtain it by worshiping in nature just as well as in church? My answer is that for a healthy relationship with our creator, we need both a personal relationship (which we can find in Nature as well as in church) -- and a relationship with our brothers and sisters (which is community or church or organized religion). Solely a personal relationship (that one can cultivate in solitude in a natural setting) is insufficient IMHO.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 12:01:01 MDT Print View

"But I don't think that's the question being asked."

I guess we both answered the question we felt, not the question that was asked (then how does nature/outdoors make you a (more) spiritual person?). ;-)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 12:11:52 MDT Print View

I think someone who just flat out doesn't believe in any 'higher power' -- an atheist -- would not be asking or even thinking about whether "nature=church". So, IMO, the topic is set in a religious/spiritual context.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: nature=church? on 03/19/2012 12:46:22 MDT Print View

I personally feel you can be spiritual and not be religious. I am not a Christian nor do I feel I am part of ANY religion. But I do feel a connection to the Earth when outside. And that is all that matters to me.

I figure I am ALL squared up with organized religion. I was raised in a cult and attended more church in my first 16 years of life than most Christians will attend in their entire life. It was no "one hour Sunday and then out to lunch" in our house.

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
nature not church on 03/19/2012 13:06:41 MDT Print View

For me being outdoors isn't church, it's not spiritual, it's just fun.

Personally I think that people who view nature as spiritual are simply too wound up and when they get that feeling of 'release' that nature can sometimes provide they give it a spiritual meaning.

ben wood
(benwood)

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: nature=church? on 03/20/2012 09:57:05 MDT Print View

Leslie,
without going into "religion" at all, I find the mountains to be a spiritual place. I find the lack of daily distractions and the intense majesty of the wilderness to give me some perspective on life, love, God, existence, family, etc.

Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
"nature=church?" on 03/20/2012 10:20:02 MDT Print View

ben,
amen.
(no pun intended)

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
house of worship on 03/20/2012 10:38:56 MDT Print View

for me, a church is a house of worship - i do not go into the woods to worship per se, but i would consider my trips into the wood to be spiritual journeys. i have to rely on myself, be able to live with myself, be able to forge that connection with the natural world for the brief period we are not separated by shopping plazas, subdivisions, manicured lawns, and 4 lane highways.

the rawness of nature is magnificent and my mind and spirit are rejuvenated when i am alone for a day or two. that is what i feel some who go to a church seek, the refreshing of the spirit.