Book Review: Jim Ball, Global Warming and the Risen LORD

Jim Ball was Director of the Evangelical Environmental Network for many years. He has been heavily involved in efforts in Washington to influence climate policy decisions, and this week is releasing his new book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD.  I’ve been watching the progress of this book behind the scenes for some time, and would encourage you to check it out.  It’s available on Amazon or directly from EEN.

Here’s my review:

Global Warming and the Risen LORD is not quite like any other you’ve read. Checking in at more than 450 pages, it might be best to think of it as three books in one cover: A very good analysis of the science of climate change and current predictions of havoc both in the US and globally; an almost devotional examination of theological principles wrapped around the theme of `walking with the Risen LORD’; and a call for a strategic response that is genuinely comprehensive in scope.

The first section is a necessary summary of current climate science and the effects we can expect from continued global warming both in this country and around the world. It is more up to date than those published a year or two ago as the science and our understanding of likely effects continues to develop, and Ball’s research and notes are truly exhaustive. There is something here that I at least have not run into much in other such books: A look at `black carbon’ (ie. soot from fires and diesel engines) as a significant contributing factor to the warming problem.

The final section on strategy and policy brings together a number of ideas and suggestions as no other book has yet done, to my knowledge. This part of the book could be a manual for those looking to draft policies in government or strategies for nonprofit organizations seeking to work in this area. Several of the author’s suggestions focus on encouraging democracy, enhancing freedom, and fighting poverty in ways that give the lie to those who would have us believe that we must choose between fighting global warming and reducing poverty. The opposite is the case: Global warming makes poverty worse, and it is only when we come up with a comprehensive answer to the climate problem that we will be able to really and permanently address the issue of poverty.

Ball’s theology/devotional section: On the one hand, it sometimes feels more comprehensive than it needed to be: Chapter 14, “Fulfilling the 5 Great Loves”, is good – but I wonder if describing these 5 loves (Loving one another, loving our neighbor, loving our enemies, loving the `least of these’, and loving God back) could have been done in less than 40+ pages. It’s all good material, but there’s a lot of it.

I hope readers don’t give up here, because there is a real gem in the middle of “Risen LORD” – Ball’s account of his own family’s roots in McComb Mississippi. This small town became such a center of anti-integration violence in the 1960’s that it earned the label, `Bombing Capital of the World’, even while the author was riding back and forth to church on a Sunday School bus and learning for the first time of a Savior’s love for him. His exploration of the disconnects between his personal experience and the headlines is eye opening. The point of the story, appropriately placed in a chapter called “Our Need for a Savior”, is this:

Just like civil rights in the 1960s, global warming is one of the great moral challenges of our time. Will we as Christians rise to the challenge? Will our witness encourage our spiritual offspring in the faith? Or will they have to issue a statement to the poor asking for forgiveness for what we failed to do? [P. 201]

The evangelical church spent much of the Civil Rights movement on the wrong side – from the perspective of history it is easy to see that now. Jim Ball’s hope is that this will not be the case where global warming is concerned. Perhaps `Global Warming and the Risen LORD’ will help the church as a whole to look at this problem through new eyes. May it be so.

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