What drew me in to reading this was that this description rang important bells for me as someone who since my teens in (winces) the 1970s when I joined what was then the Ecology Party and shortly afterwards, became a follower of Christ, The latter in part because my understanding of what was needed for a just and sustainable lifestyle implied, to my mind, also challenging and dealing with the inner life that drives or supports unsustainable living. We need people to become less materialistic in the sense of seeking after more consumer goods and more materialistic in the sense of valuing the material of the world that God has made and upholds, and co-operating with the systems of sustenance that God has caused to be: cycles of water, gases, bacteria, fungi and all the rest; networks of mutual living and dependence. For us to live otherwise is to sin against neighbour and so against God.
The description that got my attention was this:
The Green Good News | The Green Good News finds a fresh take on the Gospels, painting a picture of Jesus as a humorous and subversive teacher, an organizer of alternative communities and food economies, as a healer of bodies and relationships, and as a prophet who sought to overturn an empire and restore a more just and joyful way of life.I think this is a fair, accurate, summation of what the book does and the kind of perspective it generates in a willing reader.
One of the things I've been enjoying in reading this book is that it feels like it is developing with or out of a reading of the gospels which resonates strongly with Ched Myers' Binding the Strong Man (which is explicitly drawn on and referenced) or the historical background work on the gospels that we can see in Dominic Crossan's work. This is so nicely reworked with attention to the ecological implications and interweaving. Much of the book is, in effect, an extended meditation on the linkage between exploitative systems which impoverish many and their extractive effect also on the environment. This is a critique on the current models of doing business and distributing resources: they are unsustainable environmentally and murderous in their slow-burn effects on humans.
The long look at parables (and I like the phrase "the pedagogy of the parables" to capture the way that parables in general open up issues by implication and reading them against Empire context) and helping us to unpick them from being sewn to authoritarian and exploitative habits of interpretation, and that's really helpful because we have a lot of unpicking to do.
I also enjoyed the insight about gardening being referred to Jesus in the Garden (of Gethsemane). It made me think of the strand of interpretation of Genesis 2 which reminds us that the best understanding of where the Garden of Eden was supposed to be is north east Palestine -and Gethsemane would be part of that. Then there is the play with the figure of the risen Christ -mistaken by Mary for the gardener -except that it's not a mistake for he is, in a sense, the prototypical gardener, it's just that it's not the gardener she thought it was.
Quotes I liked
to dwell with Jesus as a branch of the vine will require the loss of certain parts of themselves — the loss of their illusions of independence, the loss of the promise and security offered by the Empire, the loss of their numbing agents, the loss of the rhythms of their past life. But as both the images of pruning and cleansing underline, this loss is an addition by subtraction. It is a loss that makes possible fruitfulness and that is made possible by self-giving love (p.59)
We are called not just to teach a man to fish rather than simply giving him a fish. Teaching him to fish will not feed him for life if the lake is polluted and his community is decimated (p.62)
By telling them that they will fish for men Jesus is not recruiting them into the shirt-and-tie, door-to-door business of saving souls. Rather he is taking a repeated image out of the prophetic tradition and telling them that they are going to overturn the whole imperial order. In Jeremiah the Lord, in disgust at the idolatry and iniquity of the elite of Israel says: “I am now sending many fishermen, says the LORD, and they shall catch them... For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my presence, nor is their iniquity concealed from my sight” (Jer16:16–17) ... So to be made “fishers of men” is to be agents of justice who will fish out and remove the elite who have oppressed the poor and broken covenant with God. [p.67]
I enjoy the prayerful task of getting on my knees in the bulk food aisle and filling up our reusable containers with organic grains, beans, and flour. During the summers our small town holds a farmers market where we can purchase produce grown locally and regionally [p.72]
Handing the hungry person a box of processed foods is a bit like the Roman Empire pretending they are feeding the fishermen by giving them back a small fraction of their catch in the form of fish sauce. These acts of charity that are taken to be the solution to the problem rely on the unsustainable food systems that are producing enormous ecological debt for future generations and are built on the backs of impoverished food workers [p.85]
What effect does it have on our understanding of the Creator, creation, and creatures, when we repeatedly hear stories that portray the divine as a vengeful slave owner, a profit-seeking businessman, a condescending rich man, a petty and murderous king, or a capriciously forgiving ruler?Alternatively, what vision of God and creation leads us to read a story of terrible violence and exploitation and assume that the perpetrator is ametaphor for the divine? And yet, this is how the parables are too often still read. [p.116]
B y l o o k i n g a r o u n d , i n s t e a d o f u p , w e c a n c o m e i n t o d i f f e r e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p s o f t r u s t , s o l i d a r i t y , a n d l o v e t h a t h e l p u s f i n d w h o l e n e s s t o g e t h e r [p134]
Link-Love for this Review
The Green Good News Website
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