A recent tweet from Union Theological Seminary in New York City indicates that the institution, which once boasted luminaries of the intellectual stature of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, is now encouraging an innovative penitential practice: confessing sins to plants. To quote the tweet, “Today in chapel we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor. What do you confess to the plants in your life?” Sadly, the seminary does not report how the plants responded to these belated confessions.
This represents something I have pointed out to students many times over the years: Liberal theology may well be rooted in highly sophisticated theories and articulated by extremely intelligent people, but it tends to result in liturgical practices that are at best banal and at worst childish. Talking to plants is a fine candidate for the latter category. Better the robust atheism of a Bertrand Russell or a Christopher Hitchens than the infantile antics of a typical liberal Christian.
Carl Trueman, “Flower Power?” in First Things (Sep 19, 2019)