Where does your unusual title come from?

A friend and I were brainstorming possible titles, after I had decided upon and rejected about a dozen choices. He said, “Tell me key biblical phrases you are using.” I gave him several, and he stopped me on “Thy kingdom come, on Earth.” Soon I imagined that Jesus could not help but sense, when he said, “Thy kingdom come,” his total immersion in his green, lush, and eco-diverse Galilee.

For us today Green Kingdom Come! is both a desired expectation and an acceptance that greenness is built into our living Earth. The title has fascinating overtones built into common idioms. For example, let’s blast to kingdom come our unsustainable living. And let’s not wait until kingdom come to promote a sustainable revolution.

Is Green Kingdom Come! a religious book?

One might assume that it is. The short answer is, “No and yes.” It’s listed for marketing purposes in three categories: NATURE/BODY, MIND & SPIRIT/SELF-HELP. A principal aim of Green Kingdom Come!is to present a whole systems approach to science and religion and to secular and sacred. The intended audience is people from any cultural tradition around the world who are open to see reality in inclusive, not exclusive, terms, and our global ecological crisis as one set of interrelated issues.

Was Jesus inclusive?

Yes. His Aramaic language and Jewish culture of the first century assumed no wall between church and state and between heaven and Earth. In Aramaic what we’ve translated as the Kingdom of God is MAL-ku-ta Al-LA-ha, meaning the Realm of The One. A favored name of Jews for the essence of reality was YAH-weh, meaning, I Am Who I Am, or Being.

For Jesus, the Realm of The One or Being, was one seamless world. There was no separation between what we dichotomize as Creator and Creation, and as humanity and the environment. He said the Realm of The One is like a mustard seed, or today he would say, like a dandelion seed. He meant then that the Realm was not primarily in the temple in Jerusalem, or in a future messianic moment, but everywhere and every moment, like mustard seeds. Today, The Realm is not primarily in churches or in a rapture, but is placeless and every place, timeless and every time. Thus our Earth Community is ripe for a fuller expression of green health, as in the three Rs of reduced waste, more renewable energy, and redoubled eco-diversity.

What would Jesus do today?

He would simultaneously wear two lenses, the one we have stereotyped as religious and the one as secular. There is only one Earth home, not two. And if we are going to survive as a species, our destiny is to stop assuming that humans or our Western view of God are the center of reality, and all else is of lesser value. The whole Earth, as our local home, is the center of reality.

Thus today, we must, as Jesus said, “Be wise as snakes and clear-minded as doves,” and must, “Like sun and rain, have no enemies.” We must not treat any humans, species, or habitats as inferiors. We must distribute food fairly for all species. Our unsustainable habit of taking increasing numbers of minerals, lands, plants, and animals for our exclusive use is the path of accelerated extinction of species and of suicide for humanity.

Would Jesus teach in parables and paradox today?

Of course. He would use the thought forms of our culture. A parable would be: A clothesline has panties hanging left to right. Panties of the 18th century on the extreme left are baggy and down to the knees. Panties from 1900 go to mid-thigh, and those from 1950 go to upper thigh. Panties from 1990 are bikini briefs. Ones from 2006 are a nearly invisible thong.

What would be his point?

Positive proof of global warming.

What are your credentials for your views on Jesus?

I am a professional historian. I have studied Jesus, using primary evidence, like I would study other figures from the first century, for example, Augustus Caesar or Herod the Great. I use the native tongue of Jesus, and the best historical evidence within the seven most historical of the twenty-two gospels we have available. I have read the multidisciplinary evidence on the ecological and anthropology of first-century Galilee, and have done field research there on seven trips.

As a professor, I taught world environmental history and world religious history. I studied for the Christian ministry early in my career, so I have a background in biblical studies.

What motivated you to write this book?

I realized that the world in 2030 for my ten grandchildren, a world we have already taxed astronomically and borrowed from ecologically without their representation, would be full of unprecedented threat and challenge. I felt I had a moral obligation to show that their elder had some awareness of what they were facing and had done something to show them that not everyone during their youth was singing “Nearer My God to Thee” on the deck of the Titanic. I wanted to help give them a moral compass for the ethics needed in a Green Revolution, using a major figure in our culture as a credible resource and inspiration.

Is your book unique?

Apparently. To my knowledge no one has written a book connecting Jesus to the issue of sustainability. Professor Gordon Kaufmann of Harvard Divinity School has, in Jesus and Creativity, published in 2006, set forth a revision of conventional theology. We need, he argues, to see Jesus not in static confessional terms, but as an ongoing source of creativity for our evolving culture. He doesn’t specifically analyze sustainability. Tom Hayden wrote a decade ago a still useful book, The Lost Gospel of the Earth. It focuses upon the whole Bible, and not upon Jesus and sustainability. Columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has written extensively and knowledgably on green as the new red, white, blue. He does not draw upon the Jesus tradition.

How is the book organized?

At the beginning of the book is an imaginary interview, set in our times with Jesus and Mary Magdalene. It reveals much about the first century green lifestyle and teachings of these two close friends.

Each of eleven chapters has a green principle based on sayings by Jesus. For example, the principle in Chapter Eleven, “Sustainability requires putting ecological value on clothing and money,” issues from the sayings of Jesus, “Don’t resist people who want to take your clothes” and “Give your money away.” Green principles in each chapter are followed by illustrations from our world of numerous green practices and green habits. A map of Galilee and visual sketches begin sections. One sketch is a laughing Jesus, and another an image based on a Roman sarcophagus of him as a child.

At the end are appendices which list 70 sayings of Jesus, green lyrics to familiar tunes, Aramaic words and phrases, several hundred sources, and a discussion guide for book groups.

Unusual features are an imaginary walk-about in Galilee with the first-century Jesus, a Green Dream for our day, principles for the formation of a new group dubbed Ecoholics Anonymous (patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous), a green restitution ritual for the human species envisioned for the Mount Kilimanjaro region of East Africa, and a fresh green interpretation of the Garden of Eden story.

What traits of Jesus most intrigue you?

The spirit of Jesus, powerfully alive today (he is probably the most well known figure in Western culture) is forgivingly and humorously ready to help us turn convention upside down so that we can see bottom up, for instance, that coal unless sequestered is not clean and that ravenous chomps off the tops of mountains in West Virginia to get at coal seams is toxic. The historical Jesus said that nursing babies and children, not the power brokers, were the greatest in the Realm of The One. Today he says, in the same kind of caricature, that bonobo and chimpanzee primates are the greatest in Earth Community. Then and now, he was and is as witty and ironic as our best comics. Today he offers his whimsy and hope about practical green wisdom to all people, poor and rich, non-religious and religious, and left and right.

What do you hope that your book will accomplish?

I hope that Green Kingdom Come! will help facilitate, for people of all political, cultural, and religious persuasions, the acceptance of formerly hidden green dimensions of the Jesus tradition and will help bring about a turning to a new Green Era within Earth Community.