Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  

> Bookshelf > Serve God, Save the Planet
Join our mailing list
Join our mailing list
Send this page to a friend

Support explorefaith.org

Give us your feedback

Bookshelf home

Modern Classics

Popular Fiction
Commentaries on Religion and Culture
explorefaith.org books
History of Faith
Author Interviews
Online Book Group
Living Your Faith
Memoirs and Biographies

Bookshelf Index


Serve God, Save the Planet:
A Christian Call to Action

by J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D.
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006

review by Cindy Crosby

I recycle. I also garden a little and keep a compost pile. When I remember, I take my thermal mug to the local coffee shop instead of using their Styrofoam ones. I even console myself that my two-year-old Honda CR-V is a “low emissions vehicle.” But after reading J. Matthew Sleeth’s call for personal accountability in Serve God, Save the Planet, I realize I’m still falling short of what I could—and should—be doing.

Granted, not all of us are going to be as radical as Sleeth, a former emergency room director and chief of medical staff who decided to become “downwardly mobile.” He chucked his job in favor of becoming a writer, teacher, and preacher dedicated to faith and the environment. His family now lives in a house the size of his former garage, and he owns no clothes dryer, garbage disposal, dishwasher, or lawn mower. Does he feel deprived? No. “What I have gained in exchange is a life richer in meaning than I could have imagined, ” he writes.

While Sleeth doesn’t call for readers to make the same radical changes, he does say that “each of us can periodically examine our lives to determine whether we need a course correction.” How can you go from feeling overwhelmed by environmental problems to happily working to solve them? The key, he says, is to shift from worrying about the problems to becoming an active part of the solution.

Oversimplistic? Idealistic? Perhaps. But the questions he poses are important. How can I live a more godly, equitable, and meaningful life? How can I help people today and in the future? How can I be less materialistic? How can I live a more charitable life? What would happen if I led a slower-paced existence? How can I become a better steward of nature?

Sleeth answers these questions in the book, incorporating ideas about parenting, marriage commitment, and population control, and often brings scripture to bear on a specific problem. I especially like his combination of rhetoric and practical application. When he encourages you to make better food choices, for example, he offers several easy ways to begin. Garden. Buy locally-raised produce. Cut down on meat. Try shade-grown coffee.

His often-humorous anecdotes are colorful and personalize the text. (I loved the hilarious yet deeply poignant story of the commode). Once in a while he comes off sounding a bit holier than thou, but it’s easily forgiven when you consider what he’s given up.

He also offers a helpful “to-do” list for Christians. Simple things like washing clothes on cool, and doing dishes by hand. Pick up trash when we see it. Turn off the faucet when we’re brushing our teeth or shaving. He effectively uses a simple question and answer format in his chapter “A Christian’s Case for Earth Care” to address common arguments and misconceptions about creation care. An index might have been a helpful addition for readers looking for specific advice on different environmental matters.

On two subjects, however, Sleeth makes broad generalizations that should be more closely examined. One is Sleeth’s stance on health care. “…I choose not to see a doctor unless something hurts or stops working. I have high blood pressure, but I choose not to treat it.” To not recommend proactive healthcare seems short-sighted and could end up costing us (and our world) much more than if we see a doctor regularly. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and the daughter-in-law of a colon cancer survivor, I’ve seen the importance of pro-active healthcare.

His views on depression and the use of anti-depressants also gave me pause. After noting that it is common for patients to be on antidepressants for years, he writes “Has the nature of depression changed over the past few decades, or are more Americans depressed because we are ignoring a message that God wants us to hear? When God instructs his people, does he send pain to get them back on track?” Is Sleeth implying that if we are depressed, we have done something to displease God? I found myself alarmed. While it is important to realize that medication is not a solve-all solution, Sleeth seems to gloss over those who need medication to help them get to a healthy enough place in which they can deal with any underlying issues. Perhaps this could have been contextualized better.

Sleeth is otherwise a fine advocate for Christians to make a heart change, and from that, a life change. Do we need all the stuff we work so hard to attain? Does “more” really make us happy? And how do we save the earth? It sounds cliché, but if Sleeth is correct, it is one step at a time. Whether we begin by doing something as big as selling our home or as small as hanging out the laundry instead of using the dryer, the important thing is that we begin. If we truly want to care for creation, can we do no less?

Copyright ©2006 Cindy Crosby

Serve God, Save the Planet
To purchase a copy of SERVE GOD, SAVE THE PLANET, visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.


(Return to Top)


Send this article to a friend.

Home | Explore God's Love | Explore Your Faith | Explore the Church | Who We Are
Reflections | Stepping Stones | Oasis | Lifelines | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us |
Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org