There have been a number of attempts by writers to get Christians to take the environment seriously as an issue. “Creation in Crisis” by Alex McDonald, “Jesus and the Earth” by James Jones, more recently “Cherish the Earth” by Margot and Martin Hodson and “Christianity,Climate Change and Sustainable Living” by Nick Spencer and Robert White to name but a few have covered the environment and faith from a variety of angles. The two former titles are more general and theological and the other two both theological and practical. Jones and McDonald don’t really mention climate change at all, whereas the other two titles concentrate heavily on it. An internet search throws up a long list of Christian titles on “Creation care”. It is into this crowded field that Rebekah Simon-Peter has in the couple of years entered with “Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!”.
Cleverly the book is structured around the well known expression “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but with “Repent” and “Rejoice” added. Theologically the book is centred around Genesis although with reference to lots of other passages in both the new and old testaments. Simon-Peter takes the reader through the creation story particularly in the first chapter “Repent” but keeps returning to the first few chapters of Genesis throughout the book.
There is no doubt that in many Christians minds the debate about “dominion” versus “stewardship” is at the heart of the environmental issue. Green Church tackles this head on in the “reclaim” chapter by arguing we are live in relationship with the creation. This is so obviously true since we are dependent on the natural world. Simon-Peter expresses this beautifully;
“This is as true today as it was then. For example, have you ever tried to make lunch without drawing upon the bounty of the earth? It cannot be done. Even if you are having a plastic sandwich, neon chips and a diet pop from the corner store, your lunch still finds its source in the earth. There is no life for humanity without a healthy creation.”
It never ceases to amaze me just how many Christians don’t apparently recognise this and what seems to me basic self interest (if nothing else). Each chapter ends on a practical note and Green church correctly diagnoses one reason for the ecological crisis. We are out of touch with nature. The remedy – get outside and enjoy it!
Perhaps because her Jewish background Simon-Peter is keen on the Sabbath (although due to modern day practicalities this is expressed as one day a week rather than necessarily a Sunday). Green church turns this into a day of rest for the earth (“Reduce”). Particularly from that American obsession, driving to church. However, this is a huge problem all over the West. I belong to a gathered church. In fact our family use a variety of ways to travel the mile and a half to our fellowship. Cycling, walking, bus and car (sometimes to the same service). Green Church gives some figures for potential CO2 savings (although based on US car consumption figures) and they make sobering reading. We have raised transport to and from church meetings as an issue in “No oil in the lamp”. There are no easy answers but this is one area of oil dependency which is not going to be easy to solve and it maybe that churches move or amalgamate.
Upcycling (in the “Recycle” chapter) is an expression which has passed me by until now, but since I read Green Church I’ve heard an article about it on the radio. As a European I’m surprised that kerbside collection is not more advanced in Wyoming. Much of what the author suggests you need to take somewhere to be recycled we have collected on a two weekly basis (and the UK is one of the worst for recycling in Europe). However, the plastic recycling facts given do make sobering reading. Recycling plastic means its being turned in lower grade material and is eventually unusable. I have felt too comfortable about this up until now. As a family we need to reduce our plastic consumption.
However bad things seem environmentally (and there is much to be pessimistic about lets face it) we should never despair. Green Church ends on a positive note (“Rejoice”) with a short section on Earthrise and examples from churches. It ends with a call to action;
“Somehow, God is using us to free the creation from the bondage of decay. Let the joy of that promise pull you, and the creation, forward into God’s good future”.
Green Church is a good general text for those Christians who have not thought about their faith and environmental care before. Its well written, challenging, easy to read, well referenced and thoroughly researched with lots of scriptural backing. There are boxes with challenging questions and facts (such as the oil dependency of paper) throughout every chapter. Its slightly short on practical action compared to our book, but there are companion publications to take it further. One or two of these practical ideas are simple but not ones I’d thought of which shows anyone can learn something from this book and not just newbies. Finally whilst it only mentions resource depletion in general terms this leaves an opportunity for books like ours…
Disclaimer. I paid for the book and have no financial reward from its sale.
“Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!” is published by Abingdon press.