Walking Gently on the Earth: Making Faithful Choices About Food, Energy, Shelter and More
Lisa Graham McMinn
IVP Books, 2010
237 pp., $16.00
Kendra Langdon Juskus
Of course McMinn also relates farming practices and food consumption to the health of soil and water and the viability and cohesion of local communities, but the call to Christian character distinguishes each of these discussions and those that follow.
Consequently, Walking Gently explores its topics in greater depth than do most non-academic creation care texts, in part because it isn't preoccupied with justifying itself. All too many well-meaning writers attempt to convince their readers of the importance of earthkeeping by stitching Bible passages or church trends to every point they make. But McMinn and Neff don't subordinate Scripture to a cause, no matter how legitimate the cause or how well Scripture can substantiate it. Instead, gently but firmly, they put us in our place. Scripture is not called to be accountable to environmentalism. We are called to be accountable to a life of Christian character as governed by Scripture. We are re-ordered.
These injunctions and revised perspectives demand a lot from us—which, as McMinn notes, is just as it should be. But to say that this book asks us to starve ourselves of happiness or frivolity, or to grin and bear choices of austerity, would be far from the truth. Alongside reassuring passages about McMinn's rejection of an ascetic lifestyle (she confesses her indulgence in rain chains and hot-tub soaks) is the encouragement to live abundantly, if not materialistically, and to give extravagantly: "When Mark [McMinn's husband] and I decided to purchase only fair-trade chocolate bars, chocolate chips and cocoa, I expected that to mean we'd eat fewer chocolate chip cookies since fair-trade chocolate chips are expensive. Mark thinks it ought to mean we eat more of them, not less. Why not be extravagant, he asked, and buy a lot of fair-trade products that benefit the communities from which they come?"
Here, too, McMinn destabilizes what we assume must accompany environmentalism—an emphasis on fear and scarcity—by upending it with the exhortation to be generous and joyful. "Our hope," she writes, "is that whatever emotion this book stirs, it will primarily invite you to celebrate God's good earth and to live in ways that foster the well-being of creation, this beautiful place we call home." After all, we are not only called to the virtues of justice, mercy, wisdom, and courage. We are also called to delight.
Kendra Langdon Juskus is a writer and editor in Illinois. She edits Flourish, an online publication that explores issues of faith and environmental stewardship (flourishonline.org).
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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