Leah’s meditations were accompanied by the deft and insightful observations of Margaret Atwood, who detailed her fascination with utopian and dystopian fiction from an early age. Atwood traced the genesis of her work, The Handmaid’s Tale, to 17th Century Puritan America, the 1980’s Religious Right, and literary forms of dystopia, such as George Orwell’s 1984.
She pointed out that her novel was not an indictment of religion in itself, but rather she attributed oppression to the darker side of human nature. She referenced and quoted passages (even singing a hymn!) from her MaddAddam Trilogy, exploring the positive ways in which religious people can contribute to society.
Atwood delightedly observed how the Christian environmental stewardship organization A Rocha parallels the efforts of the fictional God’s Gardeners by seeking to cultivate a convergence of ecology, Scripture, and stewardship.
Leah Kostamo had the courage to publicly represent a complicated and sometimes damaging belief system to a crowd that probably wasn’t all that sympathetic. She had the courage to be a ‘sucker’ and to represent a vision of God’s creation and humanity’s role in it that has been neglected in Christian theology and liturgy.
Leah’s presentation and her work with A Rocha reminded the audience that there are other ‘suckers’ out there – ‘suckers’ who live and work and have their being in ways that honour God’s call to care and tend the earth and to teach and challenge the people. Leah Kostamo is clearly a ‘sucker’. And God’s eye is clearly on her, and the work of A Rocha.
While we need to hear Margaret Atwood’s timely warning of potential political and environmental disasters, we equally need to hear Leah Kostamo’s voice of hope that rings out in the midst of despair and cynicism and says – take small steps towards your vision of what the world can be with creativity and community.
This post was written by conference participants:
Rev. Dr. Kara Mandryk, Henry Budd College for Ministry
Dr. J. Keith Hyde, University College of the North