Podcast: SLOWING Down to Hear Creation’s Song with Kristen Page

January 18, 2023

Show Notes

On this episode of the In All Things podcast, we speak with Dr. Kristen Page about her new book, The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle Earth. In this conversation, ecology and fantasy literature come together to train our imagination, practices, and pace. Among the topics we cover:

  • – How time spent in imaginary and literary worlds can slow us down and train our attention, helping us to become better stewards of creation.
  • – How learning to appreciate the beauty of creation empowers us to protect it.
  • – Why lament matters when it feels like our efforts are largely in vain
  • – What sort of practices can be cultivated and what other authors help us slow down and see

Get the book: https://www.ivpress.com/the-wonders-of-creation

Read Hannah Landman’s review: https://inallthings.org/active-imaginations-a-review-of-wonders-of-creation/

Read Dr. Carl Fictorie’s review: https://inallthings.org/embracing-ecology-and-fantasy-a-review-of-the-wonders-of-creation/ 

Authors mentioned in this podcast:

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Richard Powers, The Overstory

Robin Wall Kimmer, Braiding Sweetgrass & Gathering Moss

Wendell Berry (anything)

Robert McFarland, Landmarks 

Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac

Jean Carolyn Craighead George

Transcript (click to expand)

Note: This transcript is autogenerated and may contain a few grammatical inaccuracies.

Justin Bailey: Welcome to the newest episode of the In All Things podcast, where we host conversations with diverse voices about living creatively in God’s created world. I’m your host, Justin Ariel Bailey, and I teach at Dort University, which is home to the Andreas Center, the sponsor of this podcast. On this episode to the podcast. We speak with Dr. Kristen Page about her new book, The Wonders of Creation Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle Earth. During the conversation, we talk about how time spent in fictional worlds might orient us to see the primary world more clearly, leading us to care for it more fully. Whether you love walking in the woods or curling up with a book or both, I hope you find this conversation full of connections. Thank you for tuning in.

The movie Avatar The Way of Water is currently in theaters, a sequel to the 2010 blockbuster. I haven’t seen the new movie, but I remember enjoying the first Avatar, not so much because of the story, which was predictable, so much as the imaginative world it created, one bursting with mystery, danger and life. Indeed, one unexpected phenomenon produced by the first film was called the Avatar Blues, a deep sadness that the real world seemed to pale in comparison to the fictional world of Pandora. People experiencing the Avatar Blues felt like our world and its inhabitants were comparatively cold, mechanical and detached from their own humanity, and so they expressed a desire to die in this world and be reborn in that one. But James Cameron, the creator of the movie, was surprised at this reaction. In filmgoers, the whole point, he said, is that Avatar was supposed to celebrate the natural world and how wonderful it is on Earth. Mike Dunn, then president of 20th Century Fox, expressed a similar sentiment I had to go to Pandora before I really recognized the oak tree in my front yard for what it was. It’s a new tree to me. In other words, time spent in fictional worlds was supposed to enhance our vision of our own world. Similarly, CS. Lewis once said that his intent in writing The Chronicles of Narnia was not so much that we would want to escape to Narnia, but so that we would see Narnia here, that we would find our woods enchanted as well. What I think he meant is that he hoped that life in Narnia would give readers a taste of the magic and eyes to see the magic that surrounds us every day in the here and the now. This is precisely the argument made by our guest, Dr. Kristen Page, in her new book, The Wonders of Creation. In this book, Dr. Page shows us how the literary landscapes of Narnia and Middle Earth can tune our hearts, can slow us down to listen to the song of creation, to lament its destruction and to join in learning stewardship from Narnia. We hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Kristen Page.

Justin Bailey: Well, I’m joined now by three friends. First, my two guest co host, Gayle Doornbos, a professor of theology who’s hosted with me twice before. So this makes three times for Gayle and Hannah Landman, a biology and environmental science student here at Dort. Gayle, Hannah, thanks for joining me for this conversation.

Gayle Doornbos: Great to be back.

Hannah Landman: Happy to be here.

Justin Bailey: And our featured guest is Dr. Kristen Page. Dr. Page is the Ruth Craft Stroshein Distinguished Chair and professor of Biology at Wheaton College. She’s also the author of a new book publication of her handsome lectureship. The book is titled the Wonders of Creation learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle Earth. Dr. Page, thanks for joining us on the In All Things podcast.

Kristen Page: Thank you for having me.

Justin Bailey: So let’s start with a subtitle of your book. It is learning stewardship from Narnia and Middle Earth. So this is a book about real world creation care and environmental stewardship. But the way that you lead us there is by encouraging us to have our powers of attention trained in imaginary or imagined literary worlds. And so I wonder if you could say more about that. Why do we have such a hard time paying attention to the natural world? And then how could literary landscapes help us regain our ability to see? And then how did you make that connection between the two?

Kristen Page: I think that I came to this place out of my 20 plus years of teaching Christian students who really struggle with the dissonance that they get in the evangelical world about creation care. And so they come kind of with this push back against it. And so I’ve just looked for creative ways to engage them and let them see. Like, this is really important. And I wondered if I could just introduce them to a different way of thinking about the natural world. In my ecology classes, I often use fictional landscapes to teach my students about ecology. So I’ll say I’ll give them a description of a landscape and ask my students to read it and then to kind of describe the ecosystem that they see, and they take it really seriously, and they come up with very good scientific descriptions of the ecosystems. That Tolkien and Lewis. Those are primarily the authors that I’ve used. And so I wondered why they could take a fictional landscape so seriously. But then we go out in the field for an ecology lab or I ask them about being in nature and caring for creation. I get this pushback. It really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. But they’re very protective of these fictional places. So when Marge Mead asked me to consider the lectureship at the Wade Center, the Hanson Lectureship, I thought, I wonder if I could make an argument that the students are the readers of Tolkien and Lewis that spend time in these places, that they’ve created, could learn to read them ecologically, learn to read them as the landscapes that they are. And not just a place for a plot, but actually, like a place. And if that could start to change them and have them think more about the real places that they encounter. And so that’s where the journey began.

Justin Bailey: Did that, as you started to do that more often, help them jump that gap, thinking it’s the way that Lewis wrote about. If you see the trees in our neighbor makes the trees here, it’s supposed to make the trees here feel more alive and more real, and yet we get hung up. So I wonder if how have you helped them navigate that gap?

Kristen Page: I’ve used the literature in my classes before to teach ecology, but this semester, I actually was able to teach a course with one of my colleagues, a literature course. It was a literature and a science course where we tried this experiment. Could our students spend time in literary landscapes and natural landscapes at the same time and become, as we said in the class, greener? Could it really help them transform? And I’m really happy to say that I believe that they all wrote in their course assessments or their kind of takeaways, that they really felt greener. They felt like spending time learning to read the descriptions at Tolkien. It was mostly on Tolkien. The course was that Tolkien gave us and some other authors gave us, help them then translate that understanding to real places. Because I gave them assignments, they had to go sit in a real place multiple times to the semester and journal about it and then write a close reading of that natural landscape, just like they would write a close reading of a literary landscape. And I saw the transformation in them. Tolkien talks about recovery in his writing, and he doesn’t mean like, escapism, like, I’m going to escape from all the bad things. He means, like, escaping to a new understanding of where we should be. And I escaping to reality rather than reality into a new reality. And I feel like his landscapes that he’s created in Middle earth give us the opportunity to escape to a new reality, to a greener reality. I don’t know that that was his intent. But as I read Lord of the Rings again this semester, and as I had discussions with students, they started to make connections that I don’t know that they would have made if we weren’t being intentional about showing them the connection with real landscapes. And so even though the journeys that the characters go on, right, whether it’s Lewis or Tolkien, these journeys in these places, the places are important to the journey, and they transform these characters. And so if we can read through these landscapes, these literary landscapes, and understand these transformations of characters, it’s also transforming us. So when we’re in real landscapes or natural landscapes, we might start to recognize the transformation that’s happening to us that we wouldn’t have recognized if we hadn’t seen it happen to Frodo or Eustace.

Justin Bailey: It’s sparking so many things. I thinking about the very first time I read Tolkien when I was younger, and I confess that I sort of did skip over some of those descriptions because I was looking for the battles. I wanted the action. And it strikes me that a lot of us read in a similar way. We evaluate literature in terms of what happened with the plot, the action. But if you said the places, they’ve labored so hard to make these places significant and an integral part of the story that cannot be deleted without significant loss. And I wonder I don’t even know if this is a question, but as my own fiction reading habits have matured a bit, I’ve been drawn to authors like Marilyn Robinson where not much happens, but you’re just looking at this loop at the world and allowing it to reveal itself to you. So that’s just sort of what that sparked it. I don’t know if you have any response to that.

Kristen Page: That, I think what Marilyn Robinson and Tolkien do for us is they slow us down. That would be my argument about being in the natural world. We don’t do a good job of being slow and engaging in it. And so we can’t really care for something that we won’t spend the time getting to know. But when we start to read Marilyn Robinson or Tolkien or I don’t know if you’ve read Richard Powers The Overstory, what those books do for us is they make us slow down. And we read The Overstory in our class this semester, and we talked about living tree time. Can we slow down enough to hear a tree laugh? That’s one of my favorite places in The Overstory, where it talks about clearly, trees don’t laugh, but if they did, we wouldn’t hear it because it would be so slow. Right?

Justin Bailey: That’s beautiful.

Kristen Page: Yeah. I think it’s about the pace of life, and we don’t like to slow down. And that’s one of the things that’s the problem with creation care, is we have to slow down to have an effect, and it’s hard to slow down.

Gayle Doornbos: This kind of continues along the same way because what I loved is the invitation that you give to the reader to join in this process of reading literature and reading creation. But what I loved about your book is that it also incorporated some of your story as somebody who you said, grew up loving forests and then came to literature and started to expand your world and make you see it in a new way, too. And so I’m wondering, you know, at one point you say, I no longer experience forests the way that I did before. I spent time journeying through the literary forests of Lewis and Tolkien. And so kind of along the same lines, but maybe a little bit more personally, how do you specifically experience forests differently from when you began this whole project. And what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve noticed?

Kristen Page: I love that question. I’ve actually thought a lot about it. I think that I’m actually engaging in forests a little bit more slowly than I did before, even though I do my research in forests, and I’m often in forests to get information to move forward to answer a question that I want to answer as a scientist. But now I enjoy, especially after reading more about forests and about the amazing relationships that exist there, I like to just go out and be slow in those kinds of places. So I noticed when I go out to a forest preserve near where I live, we have lots of forest preserves in the Chicago area, and they often have trails, and a lot of people use them. And I noticed that if I’m there, I can spend easily two, 3 hours, especially at my favorite place, and maybe I walk 2 miles. So I’m moving pretty slowly. But I’m often passed by people running or on their bikes. They have their headphones in, or worse, they’re running with their sound, and I can hear their music, and I can’t hear the music of the forest that way. And I think that, for me, being in the forest has taught me the importance of being slow and listening and engaging and recognizing the beautiful complexities that are there. I know I touch trees a lot more now. Like, I’ll just put my hand on the bar because I just want to feel them and acknowledge the relationships that they’re in. I’m not trying to say that they’re in, like, conversational relationships. I’m just saying that they’re providing nutrients and they’re providing important habitat for the birds that I also really love to watch. That’s the type of relationship that I’m acknowledging. And just to be slow enough to notice these beautifully colorful fungi that are growing on the base underneath the leaves of a tree, that’s what I love. It makes me sad when I see people rushing along and missing out on that. The other part of that that I think is important to mention is that being in a forest now, I often think more about the memory of the forest. And in Middle Earth, the forests all have remnants of history. So the old forest is angry, right? Old man Willow is trying to teach a lesson. They’re tripping, and the paths change. Well, I think that natural forests also teach us about the memory of a place. And you can tell by the species that are present there no, not everybody can do this. But for me, I can go out and I can say, oh, well, this forest has a lot of species that really don’t belong in North America. They belong in Europe or in Asia. I wonder how they got here. Or I think about what would this have been like before Europeans arrived here? Who were the people that lived here before. How did they live here? What did they think of this tree? Oh, wow, this tree is so old. Those are the types of things that I really like to think about the memory of the place now that after this project that’s really been heightened in my work, just in my being, I think.

Gayle Doornbos: Yeah, thanks so much. I really love that, especially the memory portion. I’m also wondering, you talked a little bit. You mentioned slowing down in your favorite parts of the forest. And I’m wondering, out of curiosity, if you have a favorite landscape in Lewis or Tolkien that captures your imagination, and why do you find it resonates with your favorite parts of the forest that you go out and explore, or is it different? Yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit more about that.

Kristen Page: Well, there are so many favorite landscapes, definitely the place between worlds, because it is a place of slowing, and it’s a place that Diggeri describes as the trees just go on growing, that’s all. And for me, that’s just beautiful and just beautiful imagery. Like the light is all green. It’s like being in a beautiful forest in the summer. But I also really love, well, Aslan’s singing creation into being. It’s just so beautiful. And I’ve had the privilege of being in East Africa, and for me, it brings up the image of a sunrise, being able to see the horizon, just kind of like a sigh. It’s just so beautiful to me. But I also really love the vistas that I create in my mind when I read about read the Horse and his boy and their travel to Narnia. And that’s not a forest at all, or the many islands that the Dawn Treader visits. I think I just like to think about ecological transitions. That’s the way I’m wired. And so I can create visual images in my mind reading any of these places. But those are some of my favorite ones. I’m not sure why. And then in Tolkien, I love La Florian. It’s so beautiful. And I love the old forest because it makes me laugh. I think I’m always tripping over roots and wondering, are they tripping me? But this might surprise you, but I also really love the swamps when Frodo and Gollum and Sam enter the swamps. And I know it’s supposed to be terrifying, but I like swamps in real life because there’s a lot beneath the surface, literally in a swamp, but also metaphorically in what Tolkien is doing. And I just really like that landscape a lot as well.

Hannah Landman: So you mentioned in your book and already kind of here, that it’s difficult to care for something we don’t know, and that engaging our imaginations, like reading those books, is one way to begin to know and experience places similar to those we live in. Is there a good balance for spending time engaging with imaginary landscapes and spending time engaging with real landscapes in order to more fully know and care for and delight in these places?

Kristen Page: I think that the answer to this question is it’s going to be up to the person, right? So for me, I love to read and I love to be in natural landscapes, and maybe that’s true for you as well. But I think that when I approached the project, I was thinking about the people that really don’t like to be outside. And I wanted to validate that there are people that are very fearful about being in the natural world or that don’t have the opportunity to be in the natural world. And so I think that I wanted to just offer the idea that they could be in a place where they could cultivate the same types of things that they would cultivate in the natural world just by spending time in books in these fictional landscapes. I mean, some of my favorite books as a kid were places I’d never been, but I really wanted to go. I loved Jean Craig Head and all of her landscapes that she created, and I wanted to go there and I wanted to take care of those places even though I grew up in a part of the world that was very different than the landscapes that she created. And maybe when I was a kid, when I was reading Tolkien, I might have been like Justin and rushing along to get to the battles. But as I’ve gotten older, I think, especially now that I recognize the value of slowing down to read these landscapes differently, I just wanted to offer the idea to others that they might be able to cultivate something that I’ve learned to cultivate as well.

Justin Bailey: Yes? Hannah just asked about the tension between the real and the imaginary, and I’m not sure if you’ve been following this Amazon Prime show, The Rings of Power, but it’s been noted for this visual splendor. It’s beautiful in depicting some of these Middle Earth landscapes, but paradoxically, it’s also come under a lot of fire because it’s had a severe environmental impact. It’s produced a significant amount of polystyrene waste, all sorts of things like that. And similarly, as we mentioned, conservative evangelicals who are famous for loving Narnia and Middle Earth are the least likely to see real world climate action to be a priority. And so I wonder if you could talk more about that disconnect and how do we should have even feel about it in some ways that we excel at painting these imaginary worlds and it’s big budget millions and millions of dollars that go into depicting this beauty that we love, and yet we act like orcs. We’re more like the orcs in the way we treat the real creation.

Kristen Page: Yeah, well, we could talk for a couple of hours about this. I think there’s a lot to say. First of all, I have not seen The Ring of Power yet, but I’m on sabbatical next semester. So it is on my I did talk to some students about like, what is it like? And they were saying that it was really beautiful, but I hadn’t heard about the environmental problems. But anything that we produce for our consumption has environmental problems, whether it’s a TV show or even books. Honestly, when we consume, we are having an impact. And I think that if we just stop there and say, well, we’re consumers and we’re ruining everything, that can be part of the reason that people don’t want to have this conversation. I’m asking when I say to my students, we really need to think about the ways that we consume and the ways that we’re impacting the Earth. I’m asking them to change. But I’m also holding myself accountable and pointing out the times when I’m not perfect at this either. I think it comes down to our creatureliness. So we forget as evangelicals that were created because we are created in God’s image. We tend to take that as something different than being created. I’m not sure how we get there, but we do. And Lewis talks about that. He calls it what Earthy spirituality. I think he says that we need to understand that we’re created so that we can interact with creation and experience joy the way God wanted us to experience joy in his creation. I think that when we forget that we’re created that we can’t love our neighbors the way that we should because we don’t interact, we don’t care for creation. We set ourselves up as kind of shielded by privilege in a way. If you aren’t created, if you’re like something special, then the problems that you’re contributing to become shielded from you right? Or you can justify them. And I’m not asking for a guilt trip for everybody. I’m just asking for us to be honest with ourselves. We’re created. God created us. God came to Earth incarnate as a physical human and interacted with his creation just like we do. And isn’t that amazing? I think that when we forget about our being created, then that kind of diminishes the amazing thing that we’re celebrating right now. The incarnation. God with us. God came to dwell with us. And I also like to think about the language in Genesis when we’re asked to care for creation. It’s not just take care of the garden, take care of the place where God dwells. And he wants to be with us here. He wants to be with us here as his creatures. We’re special creatures, but we’re creatures that he made to have a relationship with. And so I think that when we don’t take care of the Earth, we’re shielding ourselves from this beauty, right? Like kind of part of our purpose of being here. And then we’re also not able to live up to the love your neighbor, I think, because our neighbors really depend on the Earth that God has given us. And when it’s suffering, they’re suffering, and we are too. We just don’t realize it. We’re just pretty shielded from the suffering of creation. At least when I say we, I mean the privileged of the world who can hide from the environmental damage that we’re currently experiencing.

Gayle Doornbos: That was one of the things what you’re talking about, about being shielded and being able to sort of protect ourselves from the damage that we’re causing was one of the things that really convicted me in your book, that those of us who have the means to consume are shielded from the worst effects of our consumption. But also, as you were talking, the power of that distancing of our effects can really displace us from our local communities. And I’m wondering how reading literary landscapes can both, in a sense replace us in creation as creatures and learn how to steward creation. And I’m particularly even thinking about some of the ways that you talk about the scoring of the Shire and how that strikes us so horribly when we’re reading in The Lord of the Rings, and yet we’re distanced from the scoring that we’re doing. And so I’m wondering how you think about those things and how it can really entering into those literary landscapes might help us inform our ability to be displaced and shielded.

Kristen Page: Yeah, so I think that when we read, I mean, it’s just true, right? We’re kind of looking on to things and we’re like, oh my gosh, how can they do that? That’s so terrible. And then maybe a page or two later, we’re like, oh, wait, I do that too. And that’s just something that reading does for us. It reorients us like we talked about earlier. But I think that the Shire, so the Hobbits, they have that lifestyle that we all want, right? It’s the romanticized. Let’s live in a cute little Hobbit hole with a fire and Second Breakfast, and it sounds amazing. It sounds like what I’d like to do this evening tire to my Hobbit hole and be all cozy, right? It feels very cozy. It might not feel cozy to people who don’t live in the part of the world that we live in, but it seems cozy to us because we share in that cultural approach to the world. Perhaps. But I think that if we read carefully, even Second Breakfast tells us something about the way that the Hobbits consume, right? Or when Bilbo is going to leave and he has this big birthday party and he’s giving everybody presents and they all expect a present. That’s a very consumptive type of culture. And Tolkien doesn’t come out and say that. And maybe the first time I read Lord of the Rings, I didn’t maybe notice it. But then reading it with this orientation towards, well, what can I learn about creation care? It became so obvious. So when the Hobbits return to the Shire and it’s just awful. I mean, they’re crying the tree is gone. The rivers are gross. Sam just can’t believe it. He knew spoiler alert. He knew that something was going to happen, but he had no idea it was going to be to this degree. And I think that part of the devastation was although Tolkien doesn’t actually say this, but for me, because I recognize that they were contributing to it before they left, I think that they recognized that they were complicit in this and that they were part of the problem. And that makes it harder, right when we see the problems of the world and we realize, wow, I’m contributing. I’m not part of the solution, or I might be working on a solution, but I’m also a big part of the problem at the same time, and that creates a disconnect for us. So I think that because we can see others experiencing what we’re also realizing that we’re experiencing, it helps us recover. As Hulkien would say, it’s an important part of recovery. Story is so important for us to understand our place in the world.

Hannah Landman: You mentioned a little bit about wonder also being kind of a way in which we can realize creation and its beauty around us. You also kind of explore a little bit of a connection between wonder and rest. I guess. You’ve mentioned it as slowness here, but I was wondering if there are any practices you found in addition to or alongside reading landscape that encourage rest and wonder, especially during busy seasons of life, and the importance of people cultivating these practices.

Kristen Page: Yeah, so probably the most important thing is my cup of coffee and watching the sunrise. I try to do that every morning. I also really try to create time in my day to read for not work, read something for fun, even if it’s just ten minutes. I try to read every day. I love the bird. I love photography. My daughter is a musician, so I listen to a lot of music. I think that just if we pay attention to kind of our normal lives, there’s a lot to wonder at, honestly. But we can get really busy and ignore all of these things that we can wonder at. I’m also really interested in soundscapes now, like, what am I hearing? And so I’m very tuned into it after writing these lectures, and I’m getting ready to start some research on soundscapes, actually. And so I’m listening all the time and trying to listen to what is man made and what is not man made. I live very close to a train track in the air traffic from O’Hare Large airport in Chicago, but I still get to hear. Like this morning when I came outside, a blue jay was scolding me, and we have a squirrel that will sit in the top of the tree and scream at me. I wonder at just the fact that they know me. They’re talking to me. They really are. They’re scolding. Me because I need to put feed in the bird feeders or put the peanuts out. And I think that’s really wonderful that if you pay attention, you can notice these types of things you just mentioned.

Hannah Landman: Reading in your daily routine. Have you ever found any other authors who engage your imagination and connect it to your stewardliness in either similar or different ways to Lewis and Tolkien?

Kristen Page: So, in terms of fiction, I really love Richard Powers the Over Story. It’s a big book, takes a little bit of time, is so worth a read, especially if you understand what Powers is trying to do. I think what Powers is trying to do he hasn’t told me what he’s trying to do, but I think he’s trying to get us to slow down and to see all of these connections and to understand how our connections with each other and our connections with creation have an impact on the whole thing. Right. So I really love the Overstory. And he has a newer book, if you need something not as long. His newer book is called Bewilderment, and it’s just beautiful. It’s really interesting because it’s about Neurobiology, but it’s also very much he’s very good at writing landscapes in his fiction and landscapes that I’m very familiar with. So they’re kind of southeastern forests. That’s where I grew up, so I and the stories are really good, too. And then there are a couple of other authors I would recommend. Well, anything by Wendell Barry is amazing. You should read Wendell Berry. Robert McFarland. He doesn’t write well. I haven’t really read any fiction. I’m not sure that he writes fiction. But I loved his book Landmarks, and that was a really important book for me when I was first starting this project to think about the ways that people interact with landscapes and language at the same time. And then there’s another author that I find really important, and that’s Robin Wall Kimmer and her book Braiding Sweetgrass. But her other book, Gathering Moss, is equally mind blowing. It’s just about like being a scientist but embracing creativity and thinking a little bit more broadly about ecosystems and our role in an ecosystem. I think there’s a lot to learn from Indigenous knowledge, and I think that it is important for me to keep reading it and becoming more informed and thinking about what I want to understand about creation care, with Hearst speaking into that a little bit, I think. And then I guess the last thing that I would encourage everybody that’s interested in understanding landscapes to read is Sand County Almanac by Alda Leopold. It’s not a faith literature at all, but he writes beautifully and describes landscapes so well, and he’s kind of the father of my discipline, so it’s really good science as well.

Justin Bailey: We will have links and a list of all those resources in the show notes so that anyone who’s listening can go there and not have to write all that down as they’re listening feverishly. The three movements of your book follow the pattern of creation, fall, redemption, and corresponding actions of seeing creation anew, lamenting its destruction and then joining the chorus of praise. So I wonder if you have any partying wisdom for us on living faithfully with these three calls to stewardship. Some Christians like the message about wonder, don’t want to learn to lament, and then others feel helpless at the scale of the problem and worry about how much the damage can be amended. Or does it matter if I bike to work, for example, or if I change my light bulbs if I can’t really do anything? So the question, I guess, is how do we keep from the temptation, on the one hand, to say something glib like, well, God’s got this, and on the other hand, just to give him the despair that we can’t do anything about it?

Kristen Page: Well, this is a question I think about all the time. So I think that starting with just having the attitude that you’re willing to learn, that you want to know something is the place we have to start that is worth knowing. What God created is worth knowing about and understanding more beyond just its economic value. And I think that that’s where we often get stuck. How much is that timber worth? Well, how much is the tree worth for what it’s doing, for my health, for the ecosystem? Knowing beyond economic value is an important first step. But you’re right. When we start to learn about the ecology of the world and the damage that we’re causing to ecosystems through our behaviors, it can be a little overwhelming. But lament as a movement towards action is so important. Even if the only action you ever make is to lament, it’s still an action. And it’s still an action in solidarity with creation and in solidarity with our neighbors who are harmed by the harming of creation. So I think that lament is really important. But I would hope that lament would move you towards the action required for the earth required for creation. And that’s going to be different for every single person. And it’s very easy to be overwhelmed and to think, well, there’s too much, it’s just too big. And we experience this eco grief and you just can’t stay there because that moves you to apathy. And that isn’t helpful for anybody. But you have to just acknowledge that you are not going to make a perfect decision. We can’t be perfect. All we can do is have the right attitude, wanting to do the right thing by creation, wanting to learn more, wanting to try to change our consumptive habits in ways that might matter. Even if you bike to work and you know in your knowledgeable mind that me biking to work is not going to change the climate crisis, that’s true. But you biking to work changes your attitude, and it changes the way that you engage with others. It changes the way that you engage with creation. It gives you more time to pray. Frankly, when I walk to work, I have time to pray. When I’m driving to work, I’m yelling at people that are running stop. Right. So it’s a posturing. It’s a writing of our heart. Even if there are small steps that might not make a big difference in the physicality of the Earth, is making a huge difference in our hearts, and it’s making a huge difference in our communities. And those kinds of changes do change the Earth. So I think that we have to release the desire to be perfect, because that leads us to apathy and a resistance to doing anything, and we need to understand. As Lewis says about eustace, the cure has begun, but we will relapse, and that’s okay. I think that just working on our heart is a good place to start.

Justin Bailey: Well, our guest has been Dr. Kristen Page. The book is The Wonders of Creation learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle Earth. Dr. Page. Thanks for joining us on the In all Things podcast.

Kristen Page: Thanks a lot for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the in all things podcast from the Andreas Center at Dort University. Original music is provided by The Ruralists, and thanks are in order to Ruth Clark, Channon Visscher, Vaughn Donahue, and the production team at the Andreas Center. You can find us online@inallthings.org or follow us on Twitter under the name @in_all_things. You can subscribe to this podcast on itunes, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are found. And if you find our content beneficial, please help us out by leaving a review and sharing with others. Thanks for tuning in.

About the Author
  • Justin Ariel Bailey works at the intersection of Christian theology, culture, and ministry. Having served as a pastor in a number of diverse settings, his research seeks to bridge gaps between church and academy, and the formational spaces where they overlap. He is the author of the book Reimagining Apologetics (IVP Academic, 2020) and the forthcoming volume Interpreting Your World (Baker Academic, 2022). He serves as associate professor of Theology at Dordt University and is the host of the In All Things podcast. 

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