When stagnant waters become fresh

The dams on the Klamath River are coming down. Their removal reflects a very different theology than their construction.

When I moved to the West Coast, I began praying for rain. At first these prayers were provoked by wildfires in surrounding regions. Then by heat waves and drought. Then by shrinking rivers and dying fish. Living in the arid West—and with climate change only making things worse—I quickly learned that water is life.

The ancient Israelites knew this, too. Unlike their neighbors in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the people of Israel could not rely on river-fed irrigation projects. Their livelihood depended on the rain. But this put them in a precarious position. What if the clouds didn’t provide? Perhaps Baal, the god of rain and fertility, would pick up the slack if YHWH failed on his end of the bargain.

Though I pray for rain, I don’t depend on it. When I drive to the grocery store to pick up my daily bread, I gladly receive the gifts of irrigation. In the arid West, these irrigation projects rely on dams and the reservoirs they create. To put the matter bluntly, regardless of whether God sends rain, the dams will provide.