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Book Review: Global Warming and the Risen Lord

Global Warming and the Risen LordGlobal Warming and the Risen Lord
Book Review by Dan Boone

Why does he care so deeply about global warming? As Jim Ball recalls his childhood summers in McComb, Miss., (chapter 10) it is apparent that the Civil Rights movement made a deep impression on him (as it did me). But not in the way you might think. I grew up in McComb, too, though Jim and I never met until five years ago, and our memory of the Civil Rights era in McComb is the same. Christians did little to bring about racial equality. The people of God sat on the sidelines in safety - or willingly participated in protecting their town from integration. The result was the transformation of a peaceful city into a place of chaos, bombing, and violence. How can Christians be complicit in evil? Or how can they remain silent in the face of a societal wrong? In McComb, most of them did. And we both saw it. Never again.

Jim Ball has spent the last two decades honestly and reflectively exploring the devastating consequences of global warming. He comprehends the issue from every angle science, climatology, sociology, agriculture, forestry, business, psychology and industry. But his call for us to do something is rooted in another discipline Christianity. Beginning with our creation in the image and likeness of God, Jim views us as caretakers, stewards and co-laborers with God in responsible care for creation.

Global Warming and the Risen Lord is filled with biblical thinking about the sinful failure and loving redemption of the human creature as a called partner in creation care. But it does not stop there. Reflective of the Christian life, Jim calls us to express our faith in specific acts of love, mercy and justice for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick and the powerless. While his appeal to action may have been more likely to be received by a greedy, middle-class Christian America if presented as a way to save yourselves money, he refuses to play to the lowest denominator in a weakened-faith nation and, instead, calls us to a robust love of neighbor.

The guiding theology of Global Warming and the Risen Lord is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In good Anglican Wesleyan fashion, Jim (my Baptist brother) connects the resurrection to the in-breaking kingdom of God. The future comes to meet us in the present in the resurrection of Jesus. Easter Sunday is the beginning of a new week, a new time, a new age. God has poured out his Spirit, the Spirit of the Risen Lord, upon his people, enabling them to live out the kingdom of God in freedom. While Jim recounts the coming kingdom of God in chapter 15, more eschatology earlier in the book would have strengthened the theological argument for a Christian response to global warming.

One other note of improvement would be a stronger theological explanation of the corporate nature of sin. While Jim evidences a comprehensive understanding of societal evil in politics, economy and greed, it would have strengthened his argument to distinguish between the personal sin that we commit as individuals and the corporate sin that we participate in by our compliance. However, there is no lack of good news that Jesus Christ is sufficient for dealing with both.

I see two primary strengths of the book. First, Jim has connected the dots between local and global, legislation and practice, money and method. He takes us to a grieving family in New Orleans and a Selco customer in India. He meets the global community as it wrestles with the impact of global warming. In connecting these dots, Jim fairly assesses the responsibility of the United States for causing and curing global warming. He calls our government to act in tandem with leading businesses, energy producers and consuming customers. It is a joint effort whose workload falls equally on us all.

The second strength is that a man who has carried this banner for 20 years and has experienced opposition from those who share his faith in the Risen Lord, from those whose greed compels them to earn by polluting, from those in the halls of Congress whose wallets are thicker than his, from those who purport themselves to be fair and balanced, and from those who simply wish to be left alone to consume as they wish without regard for the future after all this, Jim is a man of deep hope.

The dying world has not squeezed the joy of Gods tomorrow from him. Not once does he become the angry, guilt-heaping, finger-wagging prophet of doom, consigning the church to hell for ignoring the obvious signs of danger. Instead, he still sees the people of God as the worlds best chance for change. And he roots this, not in our moral duty, but in our response to a loving God who also loves every global neighbor. In short, Jim gives me hope that together the people of God can respond to global warming as an act of loving the neighbor.

McComb taught us both a lesson well never forget. Thanks, Jim!

Dan Boone is the President of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN