Saturday, June 14, 2008

Book Review-Serve God, Save the Planet

As part of GreenBean's Bookworm Challenge I chose to read a couple of books this month.

First, I borrowed Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" from my daughter-in-law Traci. I can see why Traci liked this book. She's a dietitian, and a farm girl, so all the discussion of gardening, cooking, and nutrition was right up her alley. I liked the book mostly for Kingsolver's writing style. Having at one time had a very large vegetable garden of my own, it brought back memories of the hard work, seasonal business of putting up the produce, and some of the frustrations of that life. Actually, not enough of the frustrations, in my opinion. She doesn't seem to have had her green beans annihilated by bean-leaf beetles, or her zucchini plants killed by squash bugs, or her sweet corn raided by squirrels and raccoons. Maybe I'm just a pest-magnate, and maybe working with a bunch of small children underfoot was another distraction, but my experience was not as idyllic as hers seems to have been. I don't really do the vegetable garden thing any more.

I also felt the additional material inserted by her husband broke the flow of the narrative she was writing, and I wound up skipping those parts as I got further into the book. However, her visit to the Amish farm in Ohio was a lot of fun to read about. All in all, I found the book to be a pretty good read.

Next, I read "Serve God, Save the Planet" by Matthew Sleeth. This book was highly recommended to me by Donna. Sleeth is a physician who became alarmed at the increase in asthma cases he was seeing, as well as the uptick in cancer diagnoses. He could see their correlation to the increase in environmental pollution, and felt it was time to sound the alarm about what was happening to our health. He also comments on mental health issues that he attributes to lifestyle. He and his family chose to radically simplify their lives by reducing their material belongings, and , eventually, moving into a house that was comparable in size to the garage of their original house. He left the practice of medicine and began to speak at churches about the need for Christians, motivated by the command to "Love one another", to take seriously the care of God's Creation.

Sleeth's reasoned arguments, under girded with Scripture, as well as his appendixes that outline his methods of changing his lifestyle, outline for group study of the issues, and quotes from famous Christian thinkers about the subject of Creation Care, made this book valuable.

One of my favorite quotes from this book: "Love is not part of the rhetoric of global leaders, power brokers, or conglomerates. It does not make the evening news. It does not appear in medical journals". In contrast, he points out, "love one another" supersedes all of Christ's commandments except the command to love God. A Christian's motivation to live simply is to share wealth with those in need. The motivation to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle is to prevent harm to others and honor God's beautiful creation. I related to these motives far more easily than Kingsolver's. I recommend this book highly.

I appreciate the push from this challenge to read these books, which I might not have done otherwise. Thanks, GreenBean!!


Donna said...

Hi Joyce, Thanks for the mention -- I'm glad you liked the book! You wrote two really great reviews here, and you summed up the message of Sleeth's book perfectly. I think what he says still continues to sink in for me, almost subliminally.

Green Bean said...

Ahhh, Joyce, I see that you are from the Arduous school of Animal Vegetable Miracle. ;-) I understand what you mean, though. I guess I'm a bit of a romantic and just enjoyed all the beautiful writing. Perhaps Kingsolver felt that it was not as compelling or inspiring to write about the bad stuff that happens. Or maybe she let the pests sift back and out of her memories. I have to admit that I've had my share of slugs, blight and deer this year. I forget about them once they are under control or I deem a particular plant a lost cause. I am only reminded when, like this morning, I went out front to find that the deer had visited again and nibbled some of my scarlet runner beans down to the nub.

That said, not every book is for everyone and I'm so happy that this next book, Serve God, Save the Planet, seemed to be a perfect fit. I'm really excited that you found this book, new to you, through the challenge and thanks to Donna for suggesting it. BTW, another participant, Green Teen, is also reading it.

I'll link to both reviews on my side bar. I appreciate you taking the time to review this books.

Joyce said...

GreenBean, I didn't dislike AVM, and I do really like Kingsolver's writing style. I just thought she was maybe prettying up the work involved in gardening.
You have deer coming into your yard? I'm not ever going to be comfortable with deer anymore, after our deer-in-the-house incident!

Dustin F said...

Hi, my name is Dustin and I work with a Christian environmental organization called Christians in Conservation: A Rocha USA. I saw your post about the book "Serve God, Save the Planet", and I thought that you might like to know that our organization sponsors its author, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, as a "creation care evangelist." We would love for you to check us out at our website, You might also be interested in the website for Dr. Sleeth's book,

Also, we occasionally ask those who post extremely favorable reviews of Dr. Sleeth's book to repost those reviews on,, or any other on-line bookstores they might have accounts with. If you have accounts with any of those sites, would you be willing to post your review on them? I know that Dr. Sleeth will be very grateful for your support if you are able to do so.