The release in June of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Praise Be to You: (Laudato Si’): On Care for Our Common Home, sheds new light on a conversation that spirituality and religion book publishers have been having for years, about how people of faith can lead the way in caring for the environment. The pope’s call to nurture the Earth drew wide attention and not a little controversy, which might raise the profiles of a number of books on the topic that are new this year and coming in early 2016. (Hardcover and trade paper editions of the encyclical itself are being published in August by Ignatius Press, Our Sunday Visitor, and Word Among Us.)
United Methodist publisher Abingdon released GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Save the Earth by Episcopal priest Fletcher Harper in March. Executive director of GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental coalition, Fletcher urges Christians to marshal both science and faith to care for the planet. Chapters include questions for personal and group study.
In May, Ashgate published Technofutures, Nature and the Sacred: Transdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Celia Deane-Drummond, Sigurd Bergmann, Bronislaw Szerszynski, et al. The book examines how religion and technology each affect humans and in turn shape their interactions with the natural world. The scholars use scientific research along with theology, philosophy, and cultural studies to illuminate the issues.
Also in May, Oxford University Press released Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism by Mark Stoll, associate professor of history and director of environmental studies at Texas Tech University. Stoll looks back at how religion influenced environmentalists like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, and forward to predict what American environmentalism might look like in the future.
Coming in September from Chalice Press is Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit. Environmental activist and Lutheran minister Leah Schade offers tools specifically for preachers who want to address the topic for Christian congregations, encouraging them to speak from an “environmental theology.” The book releases ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11); Schade will speak at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions (Oct. 15-19) in Salt Lake City.
Also in September, Eerdmans will publish For the Love of All Creatures: The Story of Grace in Genesis by William Greenway, associate professor of philosophical theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Greenway offers a “rereading” of the creation and flood narratives that focuses on the creatures, rather than the humans. Eerdmans says the book “[stands] at the intersection of animal rights, ‘green’ biblical studies, and philosophical theology.”
This October, Baker Academic will publish From Nature to Creation: A Christian Vision for Understanding and Loving Our World. Professor of ecology and theology Norman Wirzba, with technical editor James K. A. Smith, examines how Christian beliefs affect a faithful view of the natural world, and urges seeing it not as nature or the environment, but as God’s creation.
HarperOne publishes Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass in October. The author of Christianity After Religion and eight other books, Bass writes that while people of faith once worshiped a God above in heaven and feared a hell below, many now find God or the Spirit in the natural world between those realms. In opening chapters on “Dirt,” “Water,” and “Sky,” Bass paints a spirituality that makes environmentalism a spiritual practice and new form of worship.
In January 2016, University of Kentucky Press will publish Sacred Mountains: A Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal—an issue of urgent concern in the Appalachian region. Author Andrew R. H. Thompson, assistant director of the Center for Religion and Environment and postdoctoral fellow in environmental ethics at Sewanee’s School of Theology, looks at the environmental destruction and the sometimes-violent opposition caused by surface mining, proposing a Christian ethical approach that could unify the opposing sides.
In The Cosmic Common Good: Religious Grounds for Ecological Ethics (OUP, Jan. 2016), Daniel P. Scheid, professor of theology at Duquesne University, argues that Catholic social thought should embrace ecology (a view the pope would heartily endorse) and shows how faith-based environmentalism can emerge from a variety of religious traditions. Comparing and linking Catholic/Christian views of the natural world with those of Hindus, Buddhists, and Native-Americans, Scheid proposes interreligious cooperation to preserve the natural world.
Taking a different tack is When God Isn’t Green: A World-Wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide (Beacon, Mar. 2016). Instead of arguing how faith can positively influence Earth-care, law professor Jay Wexler describes religious practices around the world that harm the natural world. Publisher Beacon cites examples: “Hindus in Mumbai carrying twenty-five foot plaster idols of Ganesh into the sea or Taoists in Hong Kong creating poisonous fumes by burning bushels of ‘ghost money’ or American Palm Sunday celebrants contributing to the deforestation of Central American palm forests.” Wexler weighs the complicated social and religious issues and seeks ways to resolve them.
Finally, bestselling author Jordan Rubin (The Maker’s Diet) connects the outer environment with the inner one in Planet Heal Thyself: The Revolution of Regeneration in Body, Mind, and Planet (Destiny Image, Mar. 2016). The author of several books on nutrition and holistic health, Rubin calls readers to launch their own “Revolution of Regeneration” by eating whole, natural foods, growing their own food, and protecting the soil that feeds it. He writes, “Everywhere I look, I see people living lives with compromised health. I see the earth needing healing as well….we are simply pushing our bodies and the planet beyond what either was meant to produce.”