by David DeGroot
Christopher Wright's book, The Mission of God's People, places a very high emphasis on Creation Care because he sees it as a mission from God. He presents the reader with many arguments for this based on passages from the Old Testament. One of these reasons is that God commanded Adam in Genesis to tend the earth. The hebrew word for tend, can also be translated as "to serve". The apostle Paul also includes the renewal of the world (creation) as part of Christ's redeeming work. I would encourage people to read the book -- not only as a wake-up call to the biblical case for Creation Care -- but also to be reminded that we are all called to be missionaries and what that means. It's not as scary as I once thought (I thought it meant living in Timbuktu with little possessions).
by Ben DeVries
Craig Goodwin's Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living was birthed at the very end of 2007 in a conversation with his wife Nancy, co-pastors at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington. They were both weary and disillusioned from a "severe holiday hangover," not so much from the ministerial hecticness of the advent season but from the Christmas glut of over-the-top consumption, and a longer-standing sense of being part of an economy devoid of real personal or spiritual meaning. With only days left until the new year, they decided over a cup of Starbucks coffee that 2008 would be a genuine attempt at drastically different purchasing and living (which ironically would include avoiding the same chain coffee purveyor).
Craig and Nancy set up four basic rules for themselves and their two young daughters, who were amazingly good sports through the year despite the occasional and understandable hiccup; not that their parents claim to have been immune from instances of frustration or inconsistency. The first and foremost rule was that the family would only buy new goods from local producers, roughly within the radius travelled by vendors at their church-sponsored farmer's market: "We wanted to place value on things in a way that wasn't based solely on their price, forming a new economy of consumable goods anchored in caring relationships with people we know." However, they would allow themselves to purchase imported goods from Thailand (especially coffee and Jasmine rice), where Nancy had spent two formative years after college. Craig admits that this exception may seem a bit arbitrary, and while many of our self-imposed rules often are, he writes that their goal "was not to reject the economic realities of the world, but rather to enter them intentionally with eyes open to the impact of our purchases." The family would also be free to use items already in their possession at the turn of the year, and to purchase used products, if possible from another household directly. Lastly, but far from insignificantly as it turns out, they would make an effort to grow more produce in their own garden and to make locally unavailable goods at home, such as bread and ice cream, allowing themselves some flexibility to obtain the basic materials or ingredients needed.
I appreciated Craig's candid and humor-laced account of the days and months to follow, filled with numerous hurdles and breakthroughs, new experiences and awakenings both large and small. The family was faced with a steep learning curve right from the get-go, eager but virtually unprepared for their new adventure in the middle of winter. They found themselves immediately forced into a form of Sabbath in which they had to "slow down and wait" on God's grace and provision, like the season itself. Year of Plenty is in fact arranged around the four seasons, a natural theme for the progression of their calendar experiment and for learning to work more closely with the earthy processes of planting, tending and harvesting, not to mention one laden with spiritual analogy and connection to the liturgical church-year.
Craig compellingly describes how humbling it can be to subject oneself to God-created natural boundaries and systems, and at the same time surprisingly simplifying and rewarding. He writes of discovering a new kind of grace-filled abundance, one which prioritizes the values we long to hold dearest but don't often feel we have the time or resources left over to cultivate. The family's discovery of "proper complexity" is hilariously illustrated in Craig's description of trying to fabricate from scratch a flamingo for his daughter's birthday party, a near-disaster which took infinitely more time and exertion than buying a pre-made piñata, but which ended up providing a priceless shared experience and memory for the entire family. Over a more extended period, the day-to-day cultivation of an expanded garden with attention-needy plants, and caring for backyard chickens with sensitive personalities and needs of their own (all in a planned community, no less), both produced lasting skills and disciplines, not to mention an occasional blue ribbon at the county fair for the new suburban agriculturalists and 'farm kids.'
Speaking of chickens, as someone personally and professionally invested in the welfare of God's creatures, I greatly appreciated Craig's attention to the incredibly degrading and unhealthy way in which the vast majority of poultry and many other livestock are brought to our dinner tables. This industrial process applied to sentient beings (often referred to as 'factory farming') withholds some of their most basic, God-given needs, such as access to space, sunlight and natural diet. Craig notes many reasons and their biblical grounding for returning to a smaller, more compassionate and organic farm model, for the well-being of both the animals and plants being raised, but also for the health of the land and environment entrusted to us.
As compelling as our calling to carefully steward God's creation and creatures is, Craig goes a step further in reminding us of our core responsibility to care for the well-being of our neighbors. As a society and even as the Church, we've tended to be unaware that our neighbors include those who labor, often under severe limitations and risk, to bring us our food and other goods, whether on the other side of town or the other side of the globe. Year of Plenty challenged me to consider that it just might be worth limiting my purchasing options and spending to form relationships with individual farmers and tradesmen and women, to make an effort to participate in local communities such as farmer's markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA), and thereby be a small part of God's grace and provision in my neighbors' livelihood and lives. As Craig's experience and testimony suggest, what better way for us to be a witness to the goodness of our Creator and Savior, as individuals or as a local church body?
(you can find out much more about Year of Plenty and the author's ongoing reflections at the book's companion website, YearOfPlenty.org)
Ben DeVries (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School '08) founded Not One Sparrow, a Christian voice for animals after completing his capstone project on a biblical-theological foundation for animal welfare at Trinity. He also blogs at With Those Who, a journal of empathy, and lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin with his wife Cheryl, two-year-old son Jadon and three adopted cats.
by John Murdock
These days there are lots of books out on climate change, but only one starts out like this:
We're Christians. We don't worship the earth. We worship the Creator of the universe. . . . We don't believe that life came from nothing or that humans evolved from apes. We don't believe in government running our lives or in destroying the economy to save the earth. . . . Now let's talk about global warming!
A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions is not your typical environmental book because husband/wife co-authors Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley are not your stereotypical environmentalists: both are smart Bible believing Christians. She is an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, and he is an evangelical pastor and a linguistics professor who was until recently highly skeptical of global warming science. Their book covers the climatic basics and the major alternative hypotheses from sun cycles to volcanoes. They also examine the current impacts of global warming on fellow Christians from the thawing Alaskan village of Kivalina (where thawing is not a good thing when sea ice no longer blocks Arctic storms and traditional ice caves are no longer cold enough to store meat needed to survive the winter) to the tropical island of Tuvalu (where rising sea levels are already having negative impacts and may well inundate the nation in the coming decades).
Theologically, the authors build a case for earth-friendly actions based not on guilt but on freedom in Christ. While fans of New Testament scholar N.T.Wright's recent Surprised by Hope will likely read scriptures such as Romans 8 differently, it is noteworthy that this call for creation care comes from authors who believe that the planet will be utterly destroyed and replaced, not redeemed and renewed. Eschatology debates aside, this book demonstrates that all sorts of Christians are finding common ground from which to care here and now for all that God has made and called "good."
Readers may sometimes be frustrated that depth on a particular sub-topic is sacrificed in order to cover the waterfront extensively, but the detailed notes and categorized bibliography provide ample tools for further exploration. Also, those picking up the book today will be somewhat disappointed that the lag of publication means there is no mention of the University of East Anglia email scandal, but Hayhoe (who constructed most of the books charts and graphs herself from raw source data) has since made clear that the so-called "Climategate" episode did not change the underlying science upon which her work is based.
Overall, the book fills an important niche. It is a very readable primer on a topic that engenders both confusion and curiosity. The book is dedicated to "anyone who has ever wondered whether climate change is real," and while A Climate for Change undoubtedly won't settle every debate, it will certainly provide those wonderers with some useful food for thought.
re-posted from Creation Care Magazine. For back issues to the magazine or to become a current subscriber click here.
by Brittany Bennett
I am truly astounded by how much has been put into this book. It is packed solid with the most accurate scientific information, true stories, and Scripture - yet it's very easy to read. I can't say it's not challenging, but I really couldn't put it down! I'm sure that you will be able to find the time in your busy life to read it as well, and will come back to it many times. I felt like I was literally taking a journey around the world and the Lord was holding my hand the whole time. I believe that's because He was at all these places and He sees what's going on. He knows all the people we meet and the places that are described. He also has a plan as ever, and that's where we come in.
This is a book to unite generations and denominations into the Church that had the courage to walk with Jesus across the earth, and the faith to believe that there could be healing in the midst of global warming. It's a strong bridge across the widening gap that the followers of Christ are called to stand in.
This book is written with the careful wisdom and understanding that most Christians simply didn't know that the future would look like this. We've tried to live our lives in obedience to the Lord, we've enjoyed what we worked for,and we given what we can - but along the way we became distracted from an understanding about our impact on the environment, and the ways that our neighbors and other living things are struggling to adapt.
This is where I was a couple years ago. I've come to general understanding of what is going on and why I should care. The biggest struggle I have is wondering how I can be more faithful? How can I keep hope and know that in a few more years I won't be devastated from the weight of these challenges? What does it mean to be a son of God in a world where millions are seeking refuge from a climate that is changing around them? How can I be in this world where these things are occurring, but not of it? What are the most accurate specifics about global warming? Where can I give? What can I do with my talents and skills? What can we do together?
So many questions friends! It is not easy to carry the cross down here, though it is an incredibly light burden compared to the alternative. Let me tell you that if you are wondering about these things too, please read this book. Don't be afraid. I have faith that it will bless you and give you sustenance as it has me.
I thought that I had been hopeful, but I realized how little I've actually believed that the Risen LORD can so fully overcome. It is so easy to forget, but How good is He! How powerful and glorious is the Risen LORD that all our sin and weakness has been overcome! Many are the believers and great is the Lord. Let us walk together with Him as He brings redemption, and let us learn more about how we can love and care for all that He has loved.
Brittany Bennett is a recent graduate of Eastern University and has been actively involved with creation care.
By Dianne Glave
(you can find the original post on Dianne's blog Rooted in the Earth)
Barbara Kingsolver with Steve L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food. Harper Collins Publishers. 2007.
Barbara Kingsolver says in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food, "Our culture is not acquainted with the idea of food as a spiritually loaded commodity. We're just particular about which spiritual arguments we'll accept as valid for declining certain food. Generally unacceptable reasons: environmental destruction, energy waste, the poisoning of workers. Acceptable: it's prohibited by a holy text." (p. 67). I say both our land and the food produced on that land must be treated as unequivocally holy!
As I began to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I felt that the spirituality and holiness she describes is at odds with who does and doesn't have accessibility to green places including farms. Certainly, the upper middle- or upper classes could pull off living off the land as an experiment.
I had another response to the book: I realized I shared some of Kingsolver's ideological and practical concerns about American foodways. Louisiana Voices defines foodways as,"obtaining, preparing, serving food and stories and beliefs about food." Perhaps considering some of these concerns could be a bridge to the spiritual and holy when it comes to land and produce.
Stepping back a bit, Kingsolver describes the purpose of her family's foodways journey and book: "We wanted to live in a place that could feed us: where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up out of the ground. (p. 3). She got away from a life in Tuscon where distributors ship in food from far-away places and water is running so low that in the near future it will not support the existing population. Here are the costs: fuel must be purchased to ship the food and when water is diverted to desert places like Arizona someone else has diminished access to water.
Kingsolver and her family moved from Arizona to the southern Appalachia to live off the fruits of their labor on a farm and limit their purchases to local farmers. The Kingsolver clan made it sound relatively simple: relocate and then experiment on the land for a year.
Let's think it through. "A Year of Food" requires resources, which includes money for expenses, and comfortably owning or renting a working arable farm. Before actually arriving at a farm, the average working- to middle-class family would have to turn on the utilities in a new home"that would be the farm" which could be a challenge. One might ask: Can they afford the gas for the car to make the move? What about motels and food on the way? Can they pay the start-up for some of the utilities? Will they have to physically go and pay with cash or a money order to turn on utilities because of a poor credit rating that does not allow for easy transactions by phone, mail, or the internet? These are real questions and concerns for people living pay check to pay check. Forget actually getting to the point of owning a farm. Most people are not privileged. Kingsolver and her family already own a farm.
Class is a factor. So too is ethnicity. The farm families around her were probably predominantly white though she is not explicit concerning this point. There is a tension here for me. I grew up in Queens, New York in Rosedale, a working class neighborhood of people of African descent. Later as an adult, I lived in Lawndale, Californiain a working class Latino neighborhood. I'm not sure if many of the people in either ethic group would readily relate to Kingsolver's agricultural experiment. Some who work the land to survive might see it as a working holiday. The ethnic disconnect and lack of diversity was problematic, typical of broader environmentalism, including the foodway movements.
With that said, Kingsolver gives the reader much to think about through her beautifully written prose. Many of her suggestions are achievable without going through the financial duress of relocating and purchasing a farm. Consider two ways or reconfiguring Kingsolver's experiment for regular folks with finite resources.
Green tomatoes: it's only June.
So there is a bridge between Kingsolver's experiment and incorporating nature into the daily lives of regular people.
Going a step further, I feel a connection with Kingsolver because of my own environmental concerns. I worry about the planet. I worry about the limits and our dependence on fossil fuels. I worry about how many Americans are disconnected from the land and don't understand how plants actually get to the supermarket.
Kingsolver develops a parallel argument: when the oil runs dry, and we have to return small-scale agriculture to sustain ourselves, we will not have the skills to produce much needed food in rural settings.
Perhaps if we resolve to treat the land and our food as edible holy objects, we can save the planet for our children.
Dianne Glave is a fellow at the Church Health Center. She taught in the History Department at Morehouse College with a Ph.D. in United States social history with an emphasis on African American and environmental history. She completed her M.Div. at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University with a concentration on Faith, Health, and Science in May 2010. In 2006, I co-edited "To Love the Wind and the Rain": African Americans and Environmental History with Mark Stoll with the University of Pittsburgh Press. Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage will be out in August 2010 on African Americans and the environment. Please feel free to contact her by clicking here.