book reviews

The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job and the Scale of Creation—Bill McKibben

This is only a short three chapters and accessible to a broad audience. Some say the Book of Job contains the best nature poetry ever written. Familiarity with the story isn’t necessary. McKibben addresses a question inspired by the 2004 presidential candidates who espoused “Christian values” while failing to support environmental protection: “How can one believe deeply in God and yet be so cavalier about God’s creation?” In contrast, he asserts the Bible, has exquisite environmental relevance especially the Book of Job.

He posits that the story addresses worn out religious convention that is exploded in the final chapters as God directly calls Job to celebrate His glory by appreciating creation. McKibben expertly draws parallels to modern society.

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The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith—Walter Brueggemann

Brueggemann is a respected Christian theologian, seminary professor and writer specializing in Hebrew Scripture. This is a definitive and essential work about the importance of land in early Hebrew theology. Though written in the 70s, an updated preface addresses interesting new developments. The work is short and somewhat scholarly though he is an interesting read with an approachable style. He asserts that landlessness (wilderness exile), landedness (promised land), and land loss (exile, diaspora) are important keys and theologically charged concepts in Hebrew Scripture.

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The Story of B: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit—Daniel Quinn

This novel starts with a priest undertaking a covert operation to investigate a preacher by the name of B suspected by leaders of his order to be the Antichrist. The power and truth of B’s words create such dissonance within the priest that eventually his allegiance wavers. The writer is an adept storyteller and deconstructs the entire basis of civilization in B’s speeches. History is delineated between the millions of years of human existence prior to civilization and the last short span of ten thousand years in which “totalitarian agriculture,” the only human history we know, has predominated and led to intense environmental and human dysfunction. B makes interesting points: prior to totalitarian agriculture, humans lived in reasonable tribal harmony with the earth for millenia. Only under “civilization” has its destruction accelerated to the point of crisis. There is no inevitable original sin according to B, rather our civilization, is based on sin. What we thought was human nature may simply be the way people behave within the current framework. However, Quinn implies this is not inevitable, we can choose otherwise. Current first world society is only one of many choices, it is not the culmination of human achievement as depicted. The Church represents civilization in the story and uses violence to silence B and his followers. I found this a little far fetched for 2011.

Towards the end of the story, the path to healing is linked to a re-embrace of the natural world. The author confronts the truth of our society with a stunningly, brutal honesty, yet the path to wholeness and freedom is not entirely clear. This good storytelling, dense reading and provides lots of food for thought.

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My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization—by Chellis Glendinning

The title seems amusing until you delve into the preface. The author is a mental health professional who has researched issues of recovery and has begun to confront severe abuse in her own life at the hands of her father. She proffers the very interesting idea that personal dysfunction may be related to societal dysfunction. Can they have a mutual causation she ponders? Our societal severance from the natural world is referred to as “domestication” and she posits that it has caused a sense of dislocation and a traumatized state among humans. The author uses the term “primal matrix,” to refer to a healthy return to our roots of cooperation with the natural world. This is a fascinating read, well-organized, short and accessible to a wide audience. She suggests the way to find healing is in appreciation of nature and in recognizing it as a blessing. Interestingly, this is the same theme as the Book of Job!

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The land is mine: Six biblical land ideologies—Norman C. Habel

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At the Scent of Water, the Ground of Hope in the Book of Job—Gerald, J. Janzen

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Endgame, Vol. 2: Resistance—Derrick Jensen

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