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‘Love God, Heal the Earth’ – Review

{mosimage}As both a Christian and an environmentalist, I have often been disturbed by what I see as a disconnect between people of faith and the environmental movement. As I once heard a five-year-old say, “God gave us this Earth, and he’s not going to give us another one, so we better take good care of it.” In recent years, things seem to be changing, and this change is evident in Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment.

{mosimage}By Mary Pat Baldauf

Sustainability Facilitator, City of Columbia

As both a Christian and an environmentalist, I have often been disturbed by what I see as a disconnect between people of faith and the environmental movement. As I once heard a five-year-old say, “God gave us this Earth, and he’s not going to give us another one, so we better take good care of it.” In recent years, things seem to be changing, and this change is evident in Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment.

I was tempted to see the book as twenty-one individual perspectives on the role the faith community plays in protecting the environment. After all, what can Evangelicals, United Methodists, Buddhists and Muslims really have in common? However, after reading the individual essays and reflecting on them, three common themes emerged: the relationship between environmental stewardship and creation, the unique ability of faith and hope to create positive change, and the faith community’s vision for the future.

One of the strongest themes in Love God Heal Earth is the relationship between environmental stewardship and creation. The essayists contend that God’s creation is not an issue we need to pay attention to from time to time, but fundamental to whom we are as people of faith.  In particular, United Methodist pastor Pat Watkins challenges readers to “incorporate a relationship to God’s creation into everything we do as people of faith.” He says that of all reasons to make changes to protect the environment, the best reason by far is that “faith in a creator God compels me to do all in my power to care for creation.” He adds that as we “recover a good relationship with God’s creation, we will begin to see environmental issues included in the mission of the church, the same way caring for the poor has traditionally been.”

Throughout the book, writers examine the unique ability of faith and hope to create positive change. Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker writes that religion has a special duty because it has “the ability to change from within and to spark change from without.” Pat Watkins adds, “Global warming can be seen through the lens of science and politics, which is fine. But it can also be seen through the lens of faith. Faith will move us like nothing can.”

As Proverbs 29:18 puts it, “Where this is no vision, the people perish.” Each writer indicates his or her vision for the role of their people in protecting the environment, and these visions tend to fall in one of two models, external or internal.

“Your values are not your values until you act on them,” the Rev. Jim Deming of the United Church of Christ says of the external model.

From Drew Theological School’s Laurel Kearns who calls for seminaries to embrace sustainable building practices and facility maintenance to Catholic priest Rev. Charles Morris who believes the most powerful tool is to preach sermons that address creation and climate change, these voices call for people of faith to take action and to challenge the status quo directly and fiercely. Throughout the book, there are numerous stories about grassroots campaigns to change light bulbs, educate a congregation and model sustainable behavior in the community.

Others embrace what could be called an internal model. They ask us to look first at our relationship with our Creator and include care of creation in our lives of worship and prayer. They call on us to look again at sacred texts and scriptures to see truths that have been there all along: that our Earth is our home, our responsibility, a sacred place. Unitarian Universalist minister ClareButterfield sums it up best: “What we are trying to do is not to change light bulbs. We are trying to change people – with the assumption that they will then be the kind of people who will change their own light bulbs.”

Love God Heal Earth provides people from all walks of life an opportunity to get on board with saving this planet while growing closer to the Creator. As in any collection of writings, some essays will appeal to you more than others, and Love God Heal Earth is no different. Taken individually, you will find great examples of environmental stewardship that you can incorporate into your own life, ministry or congregation. Reflected upon as a whole, you will become part of a diverse movement working together for one common goal: healing our wounded Earth as one unified body of faith.

The book’s essays were gathered by the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham for St. Lynn's Press, 2009, ISBN: 798-0-9800288-3-6, $17.95)

 

 

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