In September 2019, there was a report of people at Union Theological Seminary praying to plants. They acknowledged (and confessed to) the plants as “the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.”
Some critics felt that these people had lost their minds. In my view, that would be preferable to what they actually lost: their spiritual foundation.
There’s a clue to the why behind this sort of event, if we look at Union’s vision statement. It says, “Education at Union Theological Seminary is deeply rooted in a critical understanding of the breadth of Christian traditions yet significantly instructed by the insights of other faiths.”
“Insights of other faiths.” That reminds me of liberal scholar Karen Armstrong’s use of the word “nourished” regarding how Christianity can be enhanced by other religions.
Let’s be clear. Discarding false practice is not discarding or disrespecting people; we want to help people. We’re rejecting false (flimsy?) religious teaching itself. How can we not, given what the Lord himself says about any spiritual path outside of the true one he’s instituted? For example, Proverbs 2:13 speaks of those “who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways.” Psalm 16:4 mentions that “the sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.” And what about the startling image in Jeremiah 6:16-19?—when we can see God’s “good way” but deliberately say, “We will not walk in it.”
Years ago in Japan, I remember feeling sad for someone who was praying to a tree, thanking the tree for existing. The worshipper didn’t know better, didn’t know to pray to the Creator who made the tree. But the people at Union… well, at some point in their history, they knew better and discarded that. My blood runs cold.