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Book Review: Rooted and Rising by Leah D. Schade

Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis

Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis
Leah D. Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, editors
Rowan and Littlefield, 2019
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It is wonderful to find insights and practices like these getting into print. These essays voice for me just the sorts of issues our new and more selective faith(s) should be guiding us toward, climate above all. I’m also relieved that many of the pieces eschew doctrine and propose specific and activist good works.  One essay brings some iconoclastic freshness to the subject, daring us to reflect “on what it means to be uprooted from the gods we must leave behind.” I’d like to see this fervent message reverberate still more widely, beyond the merely devout, and on to the deeply concerned and conscientious. (And not just in Australia).

It’s rare when a book outperforms its “blurbers’” claims. It even exceeds the praise from the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who applauds the editors as “ministers, activists and scholars [who] know we must take bold action that heal the land, waters, skies and the whole family of God.” The title is a felicitous metaphor. “Rooted” confirms the organic connection of the climate to the workings of nature, what its editors cleverly call the “wood wide web.” “Rising” confirms the determined but realistic optimism the essays exude.

Each of the book’s seven sections offers three writers’ accounts of both their practical judgements and their proposed behaviors. These lead to stimulating questions, and they are followed in turn by an array of recommended spiritual practices. Now here this flawed (maybe insufficiently progressive?) reviewer must confess:  meditations and spiritual practices often leave me cold. I don’t relate to phrases like “Divine Presence” or “kinship with the Whole creation.” Instead, it seems to me that rescuing our globe from this crisis demands a more purely secular kind of kinship. We must grow more intimately aware of, and form alliances with, our fellow citizens.

Indulge me, please, while I try to articulate what’s either a daring or merely an eccentric view—a parallel I see between the vitality of these essays with the spirit that infused the first Gospel writers and lit that prolific penman, Saul of Tarsus, on fire. His fervor in spreading the Word about a revolutionary man resembles the spirit of our day, as the Rev. Jessica Shine, in a recent issue of Progressive Christianity urges: “The church and Churchianity must die. And thank God, it is, so that what can be reborn, or resurrected, is a new Community…. [W]hen the churchianity of North America dies, or implodes, it will make way for small organic, messy communities to gather like they did after Jesus death.”

In Chapter 21 Kiran Oommen’s “Confessions of a Post-Christian Anarchist” reminded me of me in the 60s: “I do not know if there’s a God out there. I do not know if there is a greater good. I do not know if there is a Knowable truth.” But he balances his frank uncertainty with an answerable and fruitful impetus: “I have an intrinsic need to find purpose, and that is essentially tied up in community. I’m not here to win, I’m here to fight.”

This combination of deep concern and determination with a humble appreciation of our limits nicely captures Rooted and Rising’s spirit and mission.
~ Jamie Spencer

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Jamie Spencer Ph.D. is professor of English at St. Louis Community College. He has taught various adult education classes on Phillip Larkin and C.S. Lewis and reviews books and music for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Riverfront Times.

Jamie recently published his first novel Modified Raptures. (Sentia Publishing – ).

Review & Commentary