One Protestant Seminary created a whirlwind of controversy this week with a bizarre tweet about “confessing to plants.”
New York’s Union Theological Seminary invited their students to pray before plants, offering their “grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt, and sorrow…to the beings who sustain us.” The photo depicts the students “confessing to plants.”
Here’s the post below:
The full post reads, “Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.
“What do you confess to the plants in your life?”
On the university’s website, the school describes itself as “deeply rooted in a critical understanding of the breadth of Christian traditions, yet significantly instructed by the insights of other faiths.”
The post received lots of pushback and mockery. Some even accused the university of idolatry and paganism.
Here’s some reactions below:
Catholic speaker and founder of Catholic Missionary Disciples Marcel LeJune said, “When we worship creation, rather than the Creator, we do dumb things.”
Catholic speaker, author and professor Taylor Marshall also responded, “Can plants grant absolution for the sins against them?”
Another user wrote, “You have sunk to the level of absurdity. You mock Catholics because we confess our sins to a priest, as Jesus ordained, yet you engage in some New Age tripe that is more Gaia than God.”
Due to major criticism, the university posted an explanation and defense of the ritual.
The post explains that “in worship, our community confessed the harm we’ve done to plants, speaking directly in repentance.”
“We need to unlearn habits of sin and death. And part of that work must be building new bridges to the natural world. And that means creating new spiritual and intellectual frameworks by which we understand and relate to the plants and animals with whom we share the planet,” the university’s tweet continues.
“Theologies that encourage humans to dominate and master the Earth have played a deplorable role in degrading God’s creation. We must birth new theology, new liturgy to heal and sow, replacing ones that reap and destroy,” the post explains.
However, Sr. Theresa Aletheia of the Daughters of St. Paul referred to this as a “really dangerous theology.”
Here’s her explanation below:
Her first post reads, “This is really dangerous theology—I recognize in it the rhetoric I used when I was an atheist animal rights/eco-activist.”
Sr. Aletheia continues, “It’s one thing to acknowledge and try to prevent the ways humans damage the environment, it’s another to level the natural and rightful hierarchy of creation and to suggest that plants are somehow sentient.”
She adds, “This kind of postmodern metaphysics leads to indignities against human life. And when I say it’s dangerous, I mean they literally lead to death and to the intense suffering people experience in a culture in which what it means to be human has all but been erased.”
Sr. Aletheia concludes, “Climate change is real, but diminishing the value of human life, and anthropomorphizing plants and animals by investing them with human qualities, is not the solution.”