Thursday, December 13, 2007

Serve God, Save the Planet (Part II)

My lovely wife recently finished this book and wrote out her resulting thoughts, and this reminded me that I never wrote the Part II of my review that would logically follow my Part I (uh, duh). So, in contrast to Part I which was mostly transcribed statistics, I’m going to throw out some more intangible thoughts that I’ve been rolling around as a result of this book lately.

Just to clarify, I never want to come across as claiming to be an expert in these matters. That’s certainly not the case (which is a notion that you should feel comfortable applying to pretty much anything I write about on this blog!:-). While I often enjoy getting into the science and tedious details of some of these complicated issues, I’m very certain that I’m only getting a glimpse of the larger realities, and thus I feel most comfortable simply talking about these matters from my perspective as a regular guy with a family in America who’s trying to pursue Jesus.

And it’s at this level of interaction where the author, J. Matthew Sleeth, connected with me. I don’t think everything he writes in this book is gold-plated truth or wisdom. But the framework that he proposes ideas within is what resonated with me. Instead of touting from a soapbox about how the sky is falling and that there’s a toasty place in hell for all of us who are contributing to the problems, Sleeth speaks plainly to our humanity... to the systemic mindsets that are manifested in problems of our physical world. Let me give you an example:
“The content mind is one of the greatest obstacles to a rich spiritual life. The content mind is a proud mind. It has nothing to learn; it has an answer to everything and no more questions to ask” (62).
The motivation of the book is not to persuade readers to be “treehuggers.” Rather, Sleeth is challenging all of us to strive for a proper sense-of-self... to view our actions within a global reality... to live radically and counter-culturally because this is what Jesus incited his followers to do. And when this is done, it just may end up looking treehugger-y... and it can be transforming & divinely beautiful.

While I’ve read some reviews from other folks who felt that Sleeth comes across as judgmental and preachy, I didn’t get that sense. While he does speak about some very specific lifestyle issues (e.g., electricity use, parenting, food, Sabbath observance, consumerism, etc.), I never perceived his statements as black-and-white declarations. I just took them as really challenging observations/propositions on his part. The fact that I felt stung a few times points only to my personal conviction, not a superiority complex of Sleeth. And that’s because, above all, he speaks to the condition of our hearts:

“It is not our possessions or our homes that will keep us out of heaven, but our unwillingness to set them aside in service of the Lord” (142).

So, yes, I highly recommend the book because it really stirs up some motivation to actually make some changes in my lifestyle (rather than just stirring up a bunch of head-nods and thoughtful “hmmms…”)


Enough on that.

(I was now going to transition to talking about a film I recently viewed, but this is long enough... so come back in a couple days and I’ll post my film thoughts then. Thanks for reading!)

*Photo Credit: Forestgladesiwander


Yard said...

Great stuff. I do hope that we (collectively, as Christians, as humans, everybody in fact) can see our duty towards life with a more holistic perspective. Rather than being thought of as hippies, as you mention (treehuggers), it can be thought of as simply realizing that choices have consequences, and that actions have reactions. Whatever the label, I'd like to be someone who simply thinks before acting, who has the maturity to reflect before jumping to conclusion.

AdamBam said...


Absolutely. I think this is a conviction that I keep coming back to on this journey of learning: the attraction and/or repulsion of these issues so often hinge on perceptions that ultimately don't matter. As an example, a fair number of people shy away from "green-talk" because they've equated it with Al Gore and the Democratic party in their mind (which apparently makes these people want to run for hills). Similarly, many people are drawn to these issues primarily by their cynicism and/or desire to take on the cultural identity of "hippyness." It seems that both of these perspectives are missing the point. It would seem most prudent to first look at these issues as a human being/citizen of the Kingdom, and then see how our conclusions interact with our political and/or cultural ideals.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Ariah said...


How's it going man?! Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to chat more on the nonviolence thoughts, etc. I'll try and write another post responding to some of the questions you brought up.

Hope all is well. Beautiful little baby you got there.

Anonymous said...

What makes the issue so difficult to indulge in with others is the extreme mindset that the debate is over as far as the cause of global warming. This has been Al Gore's mantra and it makes people tune him out. And the same can be said on the other side of the issue. It is irrational to believe there should no longer be any dialogue as to the cause. The truth is there are so many scientists that on both sides that disagree. The only logical approach is to agree that we do not want to breath polluted air and we want clean waters. So lets work together to achieve these things, instead of believing that anyone who doesn't buy into man made global warming is a loon.

An even greater threat to our civilization is terrorism. None of these issues matter if we are dead.


AdamBam said...

@ "anonymous": Thanks for contributing to the conversation. Although, you seem to be restating what I'm already driving at here: I'm not trying to argue the science surrounding these issues, nor have I ever promoted the notion that "anyone who doesn't buy into man made global warming is a loon." I think there's a common perspective based on our humanity that should guide these conversations, especially if we claim to follow in the way of Jesus.

In response to your tangential comment regarding terrorism: based on how I view the relationships at play within the world, I disagree. I see terrorism largely as a reaction, not an origin. The mantra of a school I recently attended goes something like this: "Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers." Bonds between people groups (even if by commerce) often pave the way for peace. And when these bonds are shut-out or manipulated, extreme factions will react (and it could be argued that extreme factions are likely to always exists regardless). From an American perspective, I don’t see “terrorism” endangering our “civilization” as much as inconveniencing our out-of-control lifestyles. Innovative approaches to our foreign diplomacy would go a long way, in my mind.

I do agree with your last word, though: “Peace.” And I’m pretty sure that producing dead civilians in impoverished countries as the collateral damage of our nation’s hard-line dealings with “terrorism” is no way to peace.

P.S. In keeping with the conversational intent of this blog, I’d appreciate it if you would be so kind as to at least sign your name to your posts here. Otherwise, I’ll have little motivation to respond to a person-behind-a-curtain as your thoughts will increasingly ring hollow.