But we were made for neither theme parks nor wilderness - we were made for the place where we are challenged to become creators and cultivators. We began as gardeners.
Nature is neither our enemy nor our god. Culture is neither our god nor our enemy. The easiest path is the one that says either or both are either or both. Wilderness is nature at its extreme. Theme parks are the opposite. Crouch names the "extraordinary isolation from wildness" as "theme park." But, he argues, we weren't created for wilderness nor for theme parks. We were created for gardens. The garden is where man and God meet, not merely to meet, but to work together.
I see American Christianity today, right now, as a clear expression of these elements. There are Christians who see 'nature' as their god and culture as their enemy. So they fight hard to get the culture out of nature and return to the 'roots' where the wilderness is the landscape of the church. Then there are other Christians who see 'culture' as their god and nature as their enemy. So they fight hard to get the nature out of culture and they make sure they are relevant and noticed by those who hold culture in high esteem. The problem is not that we are all fighting. The problem is, we are fighting the wrong enemy: we are fighting ourselves. The problem is we are all trying to define or redefine what it means to be a Christian. What's your definition of a Christian? What actions prove your salvation? But at best, our conception of what it means to be a Christian will lead us to idolize nature or idolize culture. So we have to stop asking the wrong question.
"Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask -- half our great theological and metaphysical problems -- are like that."
Where is the garden of our question? Where does God and man meet? Where do we work together? Jesus said there were two great commandments that the Law and the Prophets all hinge on: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. The garden of this earth is where God and man meet: in the neighborhood. The garden of life is the toiling, planting, watching, waiting, waiting, watching, watering, and harvesting of relationship. Relationship to God, to self, to neighbor. We don't need wilderness extremists who are more concerned with protecting "how things ought to be" than with partnering with their neighbor. We don't need theme park fanatics who are more concerned with playing God than needing God. We need gardeners who see the beauty of nature and praise God; who see the beauty in culture and praise God, who see the negative potential of both and recognize their own ongoing need for Savior & Creator & King. It is in the garden that we learn both how to wait and how to work, how to stand and how to kneel, how to control and let go of control.
This world doesn't need Christians fighting over the definition of what it means to be a Christian. It needs Christians who get their hands dirty and neither idolize nature nor culture but see both as tools to cultivate relationships with God and with others.