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A Bluer Theology: Protecting and Restoring God’s Marine Creation

On the beach in Pacific Grove, CA, eight middle and high school students bend over the wet sand, digging as the wave water recedes to catch sand crabs. Blue Theology fellow Gabrielle Poli leads the group to catch the crabs (Pacific mole crab, to be specific), measure them, write down the data on a clipboard, and release them back into their sandy home. The students are part of a church youth group, one of many who will visit the Blue Theology Mission Station for a week over the summer.

Blue Theology was founded in 2008 by Rev. Dan Paul and Rev. Deborah Streeter. Streeter coined the term “Blue Theology” as a theological approach that weaves together marine biology and Christian theology. Over the next few years, the Church, only blocks from the Pacific Ocean, began hosting weeklong groups to engage in learning-serving experiences with God’s marine creation. Over the last two years, Blue Theology Outposts have opened in Newport Beach, CA, Texas City, TX, and Beaufort, NC. 

It is also a conviction that the bounds of our theology extends beyond the reaches of land into the aquatic.

The mission of the Blue Theology program is to provide learning and serving experiences in ocean conservation while fostering heart connections to the sea. The website description of Blue Theology reads:

Blue theology is a place where current science in marine biology meets a theology of creation justice. We host groups to engage in experiential learning, service projects, and contemplative practice with God's marine creation. At Blue Theology, we pray for the health of our oceans while exploring tidepools. We believe that ocean conservation is a spiritual practice. We become Blue Theologians, or faithful advocates for a healthy ocean, through our experiences. These experiences may include scientific data collection, kayaking alongside otters, participating in sand dune restoration, or collecting trash on the beach.

The Blue Theology program is a unique experience for young people to engage with the Ocean at a spiritual level; to foster a physical and spiritual relationship with the Blue. And, Blue Theology is more than just a program. It is also a conviction that the bounds of our theology extends beyond the reaches of land into the aquatic. A belief that the Ocean has much to teach us about God and about ourselves. Much of Christian eco-theology is land-based. This makes sense, given that the Bible is an agrarian text, written by people who were predominantly tilling the land. And yet, by focusing our theology and ethics predominantly on the land, we are missing a lot about God and our work as God’s people. By learning more about God’s marine creation and drawing closer to it, we may be better equipped to live faithfully in a climate-changed world.

Blue Theology is a particularly important program and theological approach in a year when Ocean-based climate impacts are increasingly-catastrophic realities. Earlier this month, surface temperatures in the water off the coast of Florida rose to triple-digits, feeling more like a hot tub than a refreshing ocean swim. These Florida temperatures are not an anomaly; they are an instance of the broader pattern of warming across the Ocean. The ocean is on the frontlines of climate impacts. Even though the ocean covers only 70% of the Earth’s surface, it has absorbed 90% of warming over the last several decades.

We see ourselves and we also see into the ocean depths: the world of life beneath the surface that exists for the joy and delight of the Creator.

The Ocean is not only a victim of climate impacts, however. It’s also an integral part of the solution. As Gabrielle reminds the Blue Theologians, every other breath we breathe comes from the ocean. The ocean is a crucial part of the global climate system. Its microbial life produces a majority of the world’s Oxygen, its currents regulate climate and weather patterns, and ocean wildlife is an important “Blue Carbon” sink, drawing climate-warming gasses out of the atmosphere and trapping them in its depths.

Perhaps the reason Blue Theology is so important at this moment is because when we look into the Ocean waters, we see ourselves reflected: people who are impacted by the effects of climate change and who are at the same time integral to climate action. We see ourselves and we also see into the ocean depths: the world of life beneath the surface that exists for the joy and delight of the Creator.

After the Sand Crab data collection is finished, Gabrielle leads the group in a ritual of letting the water wash over their feet. The group steps over the ecotone threshold from land to sea and immerse their feet in the warming waters, praying for the grace of God to meet a commitment to love and protect this Wild Blue Home.

For more information about the Blue Theology program, visit

Picture Courtesy of Gabrielle Poli

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