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Ecotheology and the Practice of Hope

Anne Marie Dalton, Henry C. Simmons

Publication Year: 2010

Looks at how ecotheology has created a new vision of the natural world and the place of humans within it. Is there any hope for a more sustainable world? Can we reimagine a way of living in which the nonhuman world matters? Anne Marie Dalton and Henry C. Simmons claim that the ecotheology that arose during the mid-twentieth century gives us reason for hope. While ecotheologians acknowledge that Christianity played a significant role in creating societies in which the nonhuman world counted for very little, these thinkers have refocused religion to include the natural world. To borrow philosopher Charles Taylor’s concept, they have created a new “social imaginary,” reimagining a better world and a different sense of what is and what should be. A new mindset is emerging, inspired by ecotheological texts and evident in the many diverse movements and activities that operate as if the hope imparted by ecotheology has already been realized. While making this powerful argument, Dalton and Simmons also provide an essential overview of key ecotheological thinkers and texts.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series on Religion and the Environment

Title Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-xiii

This is a book that puts together two realities that seem increasingly in tension—the ecological crisis and hope. This is so because the ecological crisis continues to seep into our beings, producing anxiety, sadness, guilt, and sometimes despair. The world seems, as David Rutledgesays of his own feelings, “out of control.”1 A similar deep anxiety sets Christopher Turner on a voyage to find signs of hope for a future for his...

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pp. 1-17

William Bradford’s description of the New World contrasts sharply with that of Thomas Berry. To Bradford the natural wilderness, although well inhabited by North American native peoples, was desperately lacking in the signs of modernity—that is, of human progress; it needed taming, subjugation, and human artifact. To Berry it was the Eden we have since wrecked; in his words: “When we came to this ...

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pp. 19-37

This chapter examines two contexts in which Christian ecotheological texts emerged—the sociopolitical conversation that heightened ecological awareness in the mid-twentieth century, and the theological conversation that eventually legitimized ecotheology in the academy. These contexts are substantially different. This is not to say that allawareness of ecology and even of a threatening crisis began in the...

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pp. 39-52

The Christian texts of the mid-twentieth century expressed the convictions of Christian preachers and scholars—some of whom became prominent ecotheologians and are still identified with the field—that a response to the ecological crisis was urgent. Early ecotheological texts initiated the reformation of Christian teachings about creation and human responsibility for its integrity. One did not have to choose, they...

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pp. 53-70

Christianity played a significant role in the creation of the Western social imaginary. Whether one is referring to the impulses toward the ideals of the enlightenment or the negative impact of Western civilization on the ecology of the planet, the case has been made for strong biblical and Christian bases for Western development. But Christian believers also see history through a theological lens, and this chapter...

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pp. 71-88

This chapter examines the use of science by ecotheologians. We have described the ecotheological texts as engaged. These texts take into account aspects of the world that relate to the ecological crisis and seek to promote meaningful Christian practice in response. Since their concern is with the natural world, physical science is one of the more consistent conversation partners. We contend that the force of the texts...

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pp. 89-104

Taylor’s designation of a social imaginary as Western recognizes the particular contextual nature of the imagination in the constructionof societies. First, this chapter examines some of the ways in which Christian texts have addressed the contextual nature of the ecological crises, focusing on ecofeminism and the evolution of its contextual richness. While air pollution, climate change, and toxic water do not respect...

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Chapter 7. LIVING AS IF

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pp. 105-124

This chapter considers lived practices of hope. Written texts can ultimately be judged to be effective practices of hope when they demonstrate that they hold the seeds of change that influence a social imaginary. Ecotheological lived practices that continue to reshape an ecologically conscious social imaginary are, in this sense, effective practices of hope, influenced by the texts we have been considering. In this...

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pp. 125-126

This book began in a spiral into despair. After almost a year of reading and rereading ecotheological texts, we became overwhelmed by the scope and seeming intransigence of ecological degradation and the long drift into chaos. Ours is a culture in ecological crisis. The grinding urgency of the problem and the cultural, political, and economic changes required by viable solutions stood in stark contrast to our...


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pp. 127-154


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pp. 155-179


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pp. 181-183

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432984
E-ISBN-10: 1438432984
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432977
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432976

Page Count: 197
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1
Series Title: SUNY series on Religion and the Environment