And that place, Wirzba believes, is in gardens.
“Gardens are microcosms of the world in which human life and the forces of a creative and productive life meet,” he says. “As we eat, drink, and breathe we are bound to the biochemical processes at work in a garden for not only our benefit, but our survival. Gardens, and by extension farms and the land, are the places where our bodies and souls are fed.”
What does Christianity have to do with gardening?
Everything, says Wirzba, who is currently teaching courses on “Food, Eating, and the Life of Faith” and “Theology and Ecology.”
It was no accident that Scripture located the first human drama in a garden — the Garden of Eden, literally the “garden of delight,” he says. In Genesis, God charged people to “till and keep” the garden, thus giving them their most fundamental identity and vocation.
“A garden is the place where people first taste and fully sense the grace of God — with their eyes, mouths, noses, ears, and fingers — and Scripture tells us that this goodness of God is not only to be received but shared.”
Scripture communicates the idea that people’s relationship to the earth is like a marriage in that it’s a faith agreement, a covenant with the animals and land to take care of them and help create conditions in which they can be most fully the way that God wants them to be, says Wirzba.
Preserving healthy gardens and the work of gardening is essential not only because people have to eat to live, but because the world is facing an unprecedented and widespread ecological disaster. “Ecologists are warning of the possibility that someday we won’t be able to feed ourselves,” he says. “It’s terrifying.”
Making the situation even more precarious is that more people worldwide live in urban areas than in the country for the first time in human history. The result, says Wirzba, is increased estrangement from ourselves as biological beings and a loss of understanding of biological rhythms and ecological realities.
While most urban dwellers have been taught to think of food as a commodity that is available anytime they want it, exactly how they want it, and under their complete control, “gardening shows you that life comes as a gift, always.”