Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Review of Serve God, Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth MD

I'd just like to start out here by saying that this could be the best book you'll ever read in the realm of living simply and focusing on God. Huh? you say? Yes really.

But first, who is Dr. Sleeth?
Dr. Sleeth used to be the head of medicine or something like that for some big New England hospital. After he became a believer, he started looking into what might be called the "creation care" message, believing that God would want us to care for his creation. He decided to quit his job and pursue God's environmental message which has been so ignored in the American church but not interestingly in the world church. He sold his giant wealthy neighborhood house, and bought one the size of his former garage. He grows much of his own food, drives a hybrid (an Insight I believe) and has pared his energy usage and trash production down to around 1/10th of the average American.

Serve God, Save the Planet is not just an environmentalist book. It is yes, but I don't believe that is the main purpose. I believe the main purpose is to expose people to the joys of living more simply. The environmental kicker is a wonderful side effect. So it's a two in one, live more simply and be closer to God, and live more simply thereby using fewer resources and energy, in effect saving the planet.

As a Christian, in this view, saving the planet should not be the goal. Saving the planet should be the outworking of my pursuit of a relationship with God who would certainly appreciate us not trashing his wonderful creation. It's just like the faith vs. works discussion. Good works should be the outworking of faith, if you have not the former, the latter should be suspect, but it's the faith that is the most important factor. Just like the pursuit of God is the most important factor, the rest should just fall into place.

Really, how easy is it to seek God with materialism in the way all the time? It's like Jesus said, you will serve one while hating the other. And materialism is the greatest destructor of the environment at the present time. To own a modest car is not materialism, but to own an Escalade when a Corrolla will do, is. To have electricity is not materialism but to use two thousand kilowatt hours of electricity per month, when 200 will do is. To produce waste is not inherently wasteful, but to produce 50 lbs. per week when 5 will do, is. You see, materialism necessitates excess and waste, someone or something somewhere loses when you win. Water, energy, and cheap labor are all very dirty, and we in America produce all three in abundance, water and the pollution resulting from energy consumption travel essentially unhindered around the world, and that is also where the cheap labor is. In essence, we trade cheap products that fuel our materialism, for dirty air, dirty water, and little money to the people who make those products.

See where it is all coming together? God wants us to care for people, especially those less advantaged than ourselves, and through our materialism, we are doing the exact opposite of that, and in ignoring Gods mandate for people care, we also ignore his mandate for creation care, one of his very first mandates. The whole system is like a sphere with an infinite number of tangents. You can go any direction you want, but you are always based on the same center.

So, read the book, seek God, get rid of what you don't need, care for the poor, be content with what you have, learn to be content with less, live longer, be happier, go slower, do less, but in doing so, do more for eternity. Saving your soul goes hand in hand with saving the world, and everything and everyone in it.

Grace and Peace,

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