To see a general overview of Simpler Living, Compassionate Life click here.
In this section (Theology in Support of Simplicity and Eco-Justice): “Some Notes from Belshaz’zar’s Feast” by Timothy Weiskel (161-174); “Creation’s Care and Keeping” by Calvin DeWitt (175-179); “The Discipline of Simplicity” by Richard J. Foster (180-190)
Each essay in this section looks to the Bible as a guide in response to the ecological crisis. Weiskel echos earlier sections that call out our idolatry to over-consumption and money. For those wanting an exclusively hopeful response to the environmental crisis, this article will be a disappointment. It honestly looks at the reality of our parasitic co-existence with the Earth and its inhabitants. It argues that the only way forward begins with a deconstruction of what we have always expected, so that we may build a new priority and understanding of our place in the world. It holds cautious hope, but also realizes that it might be too late.
DeWitt’s reflections provide a useful Biblical grounding. This may be especially beneficial for communities beginning their journey in creation care.
In the final article, simplicity is considered as a way of life that is both an inward and outward reality. It establishes the necessary connections between a state of mind and actions. It begins to close the circle of the arc of this book that began with the necessity of affirming the sacred nature of the experience of every living thing.
In my opinion, if you chose to only read one section of this book, pick this one. It captures the Biblical and faith inspired foundation of the movement toward simplicity and implicates those of us who are participants in a culture of over-consumption for the damage we’ve done to the gift we’ve been given.
Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective (1998) grew out of a curriculum created by Michael Schut in 1996 and published by Earth Ministry. The early success of the curriculum led to its expanded publication as a larger collection. Featuring essays by Cecile Andrews, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, and many more, this collection touches many topics surrounding humanity’s relationship to our earthly home. In addition to the essays, the book includes 70 pages of additional material to help guide communities as they engage this book, making it a wonderful choice for book groups. This book is obviously meant not just to be read, but engaged, and engaged in community most of all.
Any work attempting to examine the global economy, everyday food choices, social structures, justice, and more will confront a problem of accessibility for readers without theological or ecological degrees. However, for those willing to take the time to move a little bit more slowly and intentionally through the selections, readers will find that Schut’s careful curation has created an accessible approach to the interconnected nature of our relationship to the natural world. The authors who contribute to this collection argue for a new way of moving through the world, voluntary simplicity inspired and grounded in a Christian faith that recognizes the sacred nature of all life.
Simpler Living, Compassionate Life can be found at most major book retailers, including Amazon here, and through your favorite independent bookstore. More detailed information on the sections of the book, including reviews for each section and author profiles can be found at the hyperlinks below. (Hyperlinks currently in progress.)
I Love God’s Green Earth is a three-month devotional for kids who want to connect their Christian faith to learning more about the world and how to care for it. The devotional offers ninety days of exploration of the creation and faith. Each day begins with a Bible verse and short devotional on the topic of the day. Daily connections link the devotional to personal faith and “What can I do?” gives examples of easy actions to take care of God’s creation. “Crazy facts” and jokes sprinkled throughout the devotion break up the serious topics.
A wide range of topics are covered including energy production, endangered animals, and creative solutions to recycling. In the first ten days, I was disappointed that many of the “What can I do?” sections recommended reflecting and “relaying” thoughts to God instead of specific actions that can be taken. However, after the early days, the book managed to find a balance of action and reflection in its recommendations. It also offered many websites for readers to learn more about topics they were of interest and take their own initiative in creating change. This section of the devotional also gives space for children to reflect and engage big conversations around creation care from nuclear power to endangered animals.
While it does not take as strong a stance on global warming as I would have liked, it recognizes the changing climate and acknowledges human influence on the changing climate. I was impressed by the range of topics it covered and pleased with the action suggestions. Though it was published in 2010, this book’s introductory approach to faith and care for creation has prevented it from becoming outdated. This is a wonderful resource for families and Sunday school leaders across Christian denominations. It can be purchased through most major retail sellers as well as the publisher’s website directly, which offers discounts for single and bulk purchases.
To visit the publisher’s website click here. For a 25 page excerpt of the devotional including the table of contents click here. A brief bio on author Caroline can be found here and one on Michael can be found here.
Radical Joy for Hard Times is a worldwide community of people dedicated to bringing meaning, beauty, and value to places that have been damaged by human or natural acts. Rad Joy educates, supports, and connects communities around the world to create Earth Exchanges, experiential gatherings in which people visit wounded places, get to know them as they are now, share their stories of what they mean to them, and make a simple, spontaneous work of art there. Often, this “gift to the place” is the Rad Joy Bird, made by the group out of materials found on site. To read more about Radical Joy for Hard Times, click here.
The Eco–Stewards are a grassroots community that shapes young adult leaders through place-based experiences that connect faith and the environment. Each year, the Eco-Stewards program invites young adults to immerse themselves in a particular place to study an environmental theme. In 2018, the program will be held in Hawaii and is called Aloha ‘Aina, which means love of the earth. To read more or apply for the 2018 program, click here.
This declaration from Interfaith Oceans discusses what is happening with the earth’s oceans and why people of faith must act to make people more aware and to change their ways toward more caring products and actions.
“There comes a time when people of various faith traditions need to declare together the truth of the destruction and injustice happening right before our eyes. And to work to stop it. That time is now.”
As polar sea ice melts, the ocean water rises and people all around the world are being overwhelmed by higher tides and storm surges. As 40% of people live near a coast, Interfaith Oceans believes that people must start to gradually eliminate their contributions to climate change, turn to alternative forms of energy, protect and plant trees, help coastal communities prepare, and welcome refugees. To read more about rising sea levels and refugees, click here.
“A rise in the sea level…can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas. . . .”
Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home
Interfaith Oceans has a plan for people of faith and science to join in caring for beautiful, stable, diverse oceans, and coastal communities. This plan includes their mission, priorities, ethics, approaches, and values. To read their entire plan, click here.
Interfaith Oceans is an organization that protects ocean systems and species, people, and cultures through faith and working together. The oceans support all of life on land with oxygen, food, weather, livelihoods, and beauty. Yet, ocean systems are being degraded by pollution and overuse. Interfaith Oceans believe that the voices of faith and science must work together to help protect and restore ocean communities. To read more, click here.
The EcoSikh Seed Plan is 5 year plan to cultivate practices, inspire on-the-ground action, address issues all communities face, and celebrate the ways in which being Sikh is being green. To read the entire Seed Plan, click here.