The Greening of Christianity

Janet Trisk reviews The Greening of Christianity by Lloyd Geering. St Andrew’s Trust, New Zealand. 2005. 56 pages. £5.75. ISBN 0958364591

Lloyd Geering has an enviable ability not ‘simply’ to render complex theological concepts comprehensible (though this is no mean skill), but he also is willing to do so. This most admirable trait both opens his writing to popular understanding but also to possible challenge from a wide spectrum of readers, and not simply academic theologians. There is no doubt that this newest piece of writing will (if it is read by them) face criticism from many Christians of the fundamentalist type. As part of what seems to be an on-going project to render a believable and life-giving Christianity, Lloyd Geering has once again in The Greening of Christianity described the complexities of the global crisis, Christian contributions to the crisis and some creative ethical and practical responses, in under 55 pages and in the most accessible language.

The book consists of four chapters which originated as lectures. The first chapter deals with the frightening ecological crisis which faces us. The second traces the links between monotheism and the crisis. The third chapter outlines some ethical responses open to Christians. The fourth chapter is a creative re-imagining of Christian festivals in such a way that they may offer a liturgical basis for an ecological Christian practice.

By showing the links between ecological degradation and religious fundamentalism (the kind that predicts the ‘last days’ as a precursor to the establishment of God’s heavenly kingdom for the chosen) Lloyd Geering demonstrates that ‘green’ issues should not simply be the concern of a marginal group of bunny-huggers. ‘At the very time when the Christian community is being challenged to direct its energies to the ecological crisis now looming as a present reality, its fundamentalist wing is giving attention to a mythical global crisis expected 2000 years ago’ (page 15). ‘Green issues’ are inextricably connected to a this-worldly spirituality which rejects ‘the ancient expectation of a final Armageddon and the literal return of Jesus Christ’ (page 16). The crisis also invites (or perhaps ‘compels’ would be a better word) us to reconsider our images of God. This, I would suggest, is the responsible task of all spirituality, viz. to keep returning to the implications of the God whom we describe, or the highest values to which we ascribe.

The most innovative part of the book is the attempt to re-imagine the major Christian festivals in the light of a greener Christianity. Drawing on ancient creation-centred festivals as well as shifts which have already taken place in some Christian liturgy (for example the eucharist and funeral services) Lloyd Geering suggests reforms for Christian worship. These reforms will not be popular in all quarters (as indeed much of his writing is not universally acclaimed!). However, as the pun in the title suggests, for those who have become sceptical of the value of Christianity and its other-worldly focus, such reforms might just ‘green up’ the Christian church too.

Credit must go to Becky Bliss for a most attractive cover design. However, there are some editorial details one might wish to see corrected so that the production matches the high quality of the writing. For example the type size for the heading to chapter 2 is different from the size of the other chapter headings. The word ‘God’ in the title of Sallie McFague’s book The Body of God (page 33) is not rendered in italics. The list of further reading (page 55) contains inconsistencies in the style and setting of the references. These of course are not hindrances to reading, but it would be good to see such a well-written book well-produced too.

Such quibbles aside, this is an excellent booklet and one which could usefully form the basis for local discussion groups in SoF.

Copies of this book are available at £5.75 postfree from Stephen Mitchell, All Saints Vicarage, the Street, Gazeley, Newmarket CB8 8RB

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