“Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation…'” (Genesis 1.11)

In some parts of the world this is a flower: 

In my neighborhood it’s a weed.

And, in the basics of cultural grammar, weeds are “bad.” Flowers are “good.” So even though we could have neighborhoods filled with the above yellow vegetation, with no effort, no chemicals, no pollution of any kind to get a carpet of yellow for a few weeks each Spring–we do not.

Instead we spend oodles amount of time, money, and energy to get rid of these “weeds” so that we can have non-native (to our ecosystem) grass that costs even more time, money, and energy to maintain. No small wonder that humanity has issues…we can’t even live with the flowers we have without turning them into weeds.

There is a grand conspiracy against the dandelion. (For purposes of this essay, gentle reader, I have not googled the multitude of organizations, groups, and people who are working to change the dandelion’s reputation here in the USA from weed to flower…but I am sure they exist, I just don’t want to know that.) In 50 years I cannot remember any neighbor not wanting to “get rid of” the dandelion from his or her “yard.” I suppose if it got bad enough, various civic and city “gardeners” would be enlisted to help “manage” your “weed infestation.” I remember once in Bismarck getting a mailing from the city on how to “manage and mow weeds,” including our little dandelion. Yes, they are prolific, invasive, but they are also quite tasty…

Over the course of my life I’ve eaten every part of the dandelion. Flowers, stems, leaves (you pay big money for “organic” spring mixture salad that is mostly dandelions)…and in college we made dandelion wine. (I know, gentle reader this does not shock you, however, the ratio was 1/4 cup of wine to 1 gallon of water…and even then you could only sip it. Many people refused our hospitality in those days, but we attributed it to their disdain of the dandelion rather than our inability to be decent vinters.) I’ve even eaten the roots of a dandelion because I read in a book you could…in general, this experience led me to get two degrees in learning how to read books.

But vegetation is vegetation, what we make weeds has nothing to do with Genesis. Whether something is a weed or flower is our issue, not the issue of mother earth. The earth was asked to put forth vegetation, and I assume, in some laboratory that the earth uses to create new species, the dandelion seemed like a fine option for those of us in the sand prairie of of the Great Midwest. Alas, earth did not reckon with us and our inability to live in harmony with anything. (I find it interesting that the Natives to this part of my world couldn’t go two weeks without battling some other tribe, but they all lived in peace with the dandelion. My neighbors? We can live pretty well amongst each other, at least not going to war too often, but wow do we hate the dandelion. I guess people have to live in harmony with some things and not with others?)

What’s interesting about the Christian tradition is that Jesus Christ redeems the whole universe, including the dandelion. I don’t know what the dandelions are about in redemption, but it does leave me to believe that redemption is not just about Jesus “saving me.” Redemption is more about putting things in order, getting us to live in harmony with dandelions AND our neighbors,,,it is not one or the other it is BOTH. Until the dandelion is loved, what chance does my neighbor have? I mean, if we can’t love vegetation that feeds us, intoxicates us, colors our world, and shows us what fecundity means, how can I learn to love my neighbor? Even were I to feed them, intoxicate them, color them, and celebrate with them…well, look what we do to the dandelion. It’s just a weed. And when we say that? It seems like the judgement is against us, not the dandelion.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

Scott Frederickson, Ph.D., is a Lutheran theologian and educator. He blogs regularly at PrairieTableMinistries.blogspot.com.

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