HOPE IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE: Creation Care This Side of the Resurrection.
Chris Doran is Associate Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. His research and teaching have focused on a variety of areas related to the interaction between theology and science. His current work centers upon developing theological responses to climate change and its effects on the totality of God's creation. His main argument in this book is that it is easy to become hopeless when contemplating the destruction that climate change will bring to humans, nonhuman creatures, and the rest of creation. However, he argues that hopelessness "should not appear plausible or even reasonable to Christians who believe in the resurrection of Jesus" (p. 15). According to Doran, resurrection hope provides the foundation for creation care, and the third chapter of the book is devoted to an explanation and justification of this linkage.
A large portion of the book focuses on two particular issues of concern: the idol of economic growth, and the American association with food. In chapter six, Doran describes the "neoclassical economic model" which is based upon the assumption that persistent economic growth will provide everyone with the opportunity to achieve prosperity. He presents a number of reasons why Americans continue to consume in spite of the fact that they are not happier than other peoples in the world. One reason, simply stated, is that we define prosperity solely by our ability to consume goods and services. Another reason we consume so much is that the "priests" of the neoclassical worldview rely on a sophisticated group of advertisers and marketers who effectively shape consumer desire. This priesthood also maintains the idol's prominent position in our society by claiming that economics does not depend upon ethical presuppositions and can therefore be considered an objective science. In addition, this worldview presupposes that humans are individuals who make rational decisions based on self-interest and that the economy prospers when this so-called rational decision-making process is allowed to flourish. The neoclassical economic model is also based on the idea that scarcity is pervasive, which naturally leads to competition between humans and corporations. Finally, this worldview presumes that economic growth always generates useful technology and that technology will always be able to solve any problems that it might create.
Doran concludes chapter six by arguing that the neoclassical model of economic growth is founded upon faulty presuppositions and that it is a system stricken by hopelessness. He asserts that economics is not just about money, but it is also a justice issue. It is about sharing resources among all who need them, rather than encouraging developed-world citizens to live luxurious lives that fail to discern the real difference between wants and needs. Chapter seven then summarizes the characteristics of an economy of hope that includes the goals of justice, sustainability, ecological health, and climate change mitigation. Most of the chapter is devoted to the practice of one specific virtue that can help us live more hopefully. That virtue is frugality, a "subversive" virtue, which "strikes at the core of the idol of economic growth as it impugns our cultural belief in the idol's innate goodness and capacity to deliver on its many promises" (p. 136). Doran quotes a number of the church fathers who, while not using the term "frugality" explicitly, do spend a considerable amount of time explaining the relationship between humans and their possessions from a Christian perspective. For all of these church fathers, the purpose of human life is not to consume or accumulate but to do justice. Frugality, then, is the Christian expression of hope in a God whose abundance is sufficient if we are willing to live in such a way that distinguishes needs from wants and that creates the space to share with others, including the nonhuman creatures that inhabit our planet.
The second major issue of concern raised in the book is the American association with food, the subject of chapter eight. Doran delineates a number of problems that are associated with food production and consumption in the United States. Consumption issues include the massive amount of food that is wasted, the staggering amount of meat that Americans eat, and the fact that this country is one of the most obese nations on the planet. Food production concerns include the massive use of artificial fertilizers, soil erosion, pesticide runoff, and water pollution, all of which are closely associated with monoculture agriculture. Doran quotes Norman Wirzba who contends "that we have given food production and consumption over to the modern idols of control, efficiency, and convenience" (p. 151). The main targets of Doran's critique are the nation's many confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) which treat animals inhumanely, and the entire meat-processing industry that pays human workers low wages while exposing them to numerous health hazards. The chapter concludes with a timely reminder from the church fathers that gluttony was once known as one of the seven deadly sins.
In the chapter that follows, Doran lays out a number of reasons why eating should be an act of Christian hope. While he does not conclude that eating meat is immoral, as some vegetarians often presuppose, he does argue that American Christians should reduce their meat consumption significantly and should completely refrain from eating meat that comes from CAFOs. In order to eat hopefully, Christians should be aware of two important considerations: the care of the animal to be eaten, and the welfare of the humans that raised and slaughtered it. If Christians choose to eat meat, they must be willing to pay more for it by demanding that they will eat only meat "that makes dignity possible for the least of these" (p. 189). Reconnecting to the moral and theological aspects of eating through participation in the Eucharist should cause us to remember how eating connects us to our neighbors, to other creatures, and ultimately to God.
While the issues of economic growth and the American association with food are the main topics of this book, other aspects of creation care are also addressed. The biblical basis for describing God as Creator and Redeemer is presented in the first two chapters. God's care for nonhuman creatures, the Incarnation's affirmation of the goodness of the entire creation, and the concept of cosmic redemption are all discussed. In chapter four, Doran critiques the idea that humans are to be stewards of God's creation. After surveying other options, he examines a single virtue in chapter five that may help us be Christians "who better witness to the creation-care work the resurrection inspires us to perform" (p. 90). This virtue is humility, the recognition of one's proper place in God's plan for the universe. The book concludes with two chapters that describe several ways the church can be a beacon of hope in this age of climate change.
While all Christians need to be confronted with the central themes that are raised in this book, it appears to be written primarily for use in college-level courses that address the subject of sustainability from a Christian perspective. The book includes an extensive bibliography, and footnotes appear on nearly every page. The author draws on the Bible, the church fathers, and modern theologians to develop a thoughtful and practical ethic of creation care. The main message of the book, as stated on the back cover, is that "Christians should think, purchase, eat, and act in novel and courageous ways because they are motivated daily by the resurrection of Jesus." Unfortunately, far too many Christians fail to connect their belief in the resurrection with the daily witness of their faith, particularly as it relates to issues of creation care. Hopefully, reading this book will encourage many to make the connection and then to respond with action.
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Clinical Instructor, Department of Biology, University of Illinois at Springfield, Springfield, IL 62703.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Holland, J. David|
|Publication:||Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2019|
|Previous Article:||Semper fidelis: The Power of Friendship in Suffering.|
|Next Article:||DREAMERS, VISIONARIES, AND REVOLUTIONARIES IN THE LIFE SCIENCES.|