“Cursed is the Ground Because of You”: Flourishing, Fallenness, and a Relational Theology of the Land
Relational theology, so-called because of its emphasis on image-bearing defined by flourishing in interpersonal relationship with God and other human persons, will often similarly define the fallenness of humanity in terms of broken relationship. To be created in the image of God is to be created for loving, self-giving communion with God and fellow humanity; humanity’s fall alienated us from God and places us in enmity with one another. While relational theology is well equipped to make sense of these aspects of the Fall, one overlooked aspect is the fallenness of creation. The curse upon creation, while wrought by broken human relationships, is not as easily cast in relational terms, at least in Western theology. To make sense of “the curse upon the ground” within relational theology, I draw upon Wayne Te Kaawa’s tripartite Christological reading of whenua (land) and tāngata whenua (people of the land) in comparison with two recent theological accounts of relational flourishing to reconsider the role of land in a relational account of the imago Dei. When juxtaposed, it becomes clear that our belonging to the land and to creation is vital to human flourishing and plays an essential role in our personhood and identity. I extrapolate from the role played in flourishing to the role that this relationship, when broken, plays in the Fall of creation. I here draw on social psychological theories, including social identity theory and complex social identity, to explicate the role of the humanity-creation relationship in both flourishing and fallenness, concluding that the curse upon the ground is constituted by a broken relationship between human persons and the land they inhabit.
D.T. Everhart is a Post-Doctoral Researcher in Theology at the University of Leeds and an Associate Lecturer in Theology at the Westminster Theological Centre. He will also shortly take up a post as Senior Lecturer in Theology at London School of Theology where he will be the Programme Director of BA in Theology and Liberal Arts. Dr Everhart’s research focuses on theological anthropology and Christology, emphasizing the role that particularities like race and gender play in being in the image of Christ. Dr Everhart has also published on science-engaged theology, the doctrine of sin, ecotheology, and God’s relationship to time. When not researching or teaching, Dr Everhart enjoys martial arts, video and board games, and hiking with his wife (Anna) and daughter (Auria).