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With Roots and Wings: Christianity in an Age of Ecology and Dialogue.

Jay B. McDaniel, Ecology and Justice Series. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995. Pp. 243. $16.95, paper.

This book is as good as its name. Responding to the religious challenge of fundamentalism and the cultural challenge of consumerism (and the ecological violence it spawns), McDaniel offers a reading of Christianity that is itself enriched in the process. His complaint about fundamentalism, finally, is its "narrow theological nozzle," but he admits to knowing students whose lives were saved from drug habits by the clearcut path it offered them. His perspective is the mainstream doctrinal tradition, whose core motifs - incarnation, redemptive death, eucharist, resurrection- inform his vision, though they are more often articulated in creedal, rather than doctrinal, form.

However, the book is more than a "reading" of Christianity; its purpose is to sketch a way of living "that offers nourishing roots and unbound wings" and to describe his "own religious tradition - Christianity - as such a path." "Roots" is his metaphor for being "truly connected with the heaven and the earth, and with the God in whom they are enfolded"; "wings," for the sense of freedom and exploration that comes from an openness to the future. McDaniel is thorough in treating the Christian tradition, rigorous in facing the disparity between the biblical and scientific worldviews, and skilled in presenting the strengths of other religious traditions in ways compatible with Christian beliefs.

His work is both apologetic and constructive, and his narrative style is complex but accessible. Chapter headings are inviting; resources are cleverly named; and lists abound. Chapter Two, "Red Grace and Green Grace," evokes not only the Christian staple, "grace," and an ecological watchword, "green," but also hints at the violence of life. He introduces the five "opportunities" for green grace by describing an agnostic feminist therapist at a battered women's shelter, who uses animal-centered and nature-centered rituals, but he is not sure if she "believes in a cosmic Spider, a cosmic Heart," at the center of nature. Thus, in a few paragraphs McDaniel opens his readers to an areligious person, while demonstrating the possibility of a spiritual dimension in her. "Red grace" is illustrated with the blood of suffering and the wine of the eucharist, and, in the end, the healing of "green grace" is seen to be "red" also. This multidimensionality, attractive and very well controlled, is typical of his writing.

McDaniel's parrying with fundamentalism is evident in his effort to meld the "universe story" of such authors as Berry, Swimme, and McFague with the biblical story of creation. After presenting an ecological reading of the biblical story, he carefully compares the two. Finally, he combines the two stories, utilizing panentheism, making room for the biblical images of covenant and fallenness, and attenuating the effects of patriarchy in the biblical account.

A final section explores the riches available to Christianity in world religions, and the book concludes with a chapter on the necessity of community and spiritual practice. Explanatory footnotes complement the social-science style of reference to the excellent bibliography, and an index completes the volume, which is recommended for all readers and for classroom use.

Mary Barbara Agnew, Villanova University, Villanova, PA
COPYRIGHT 1997 Journal of Ecumenical Studies
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Agnew, Mary Barbara
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1997
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