Unearthing Christian Environmentalism
小猪视频faculty members and alumni contribute to a milestone resource at the intersection of Christianity and environmental studies.
9 min. read
December 12, 2023

Research is an important part of 小猪视频. In the past year, faculty members held 25 research grants and wrote or contributed to 133 articles, books, external presentations and creative works. 25 per cent of full-time faculty鈥檚 time is spent on research and academic development. Faculty members are consistently engaged in cutting-edge research and creative work in the natural sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences, informed by the belief that academic inquiry is a form of worship.

Published in November 2023 by Routledge, is an example of this emphasis on research, featuring works from eight 小猪视频faculty members and alumni: Dr. Deborah Bowen (emerita), Dr. Karen Dieleman, Dr. Ben Faber, Dr. Doug Sikkema 鈥06, Dr. John Van Rys, Liane Miedema Brown 鈥17, Dr. Erin Goheen Glanville 鈥03 and Dr. Samuel Martin 鈥05. There is a strong 小猪视频presence in the book, as well as a cluster of works focusing on the Hamilton region. Few research endeavors in the university鈥檚 history have involved this many scholars from the 小猪视频community.

The book is a collection of scholarly essays and creative works, with contributions from 16 academics in disciplines such as English, theology and environmental studies. Through literary and cultural criticism and creative reflection, this collection explores a range of topics and vantage points related to the themes of Christian ecocriticism, environmental activity, practical ethics, environmental spirituality and human responsibility. The book is part of Routledge鈥檚 .

鈥淲e are so proud of our faculty and alumni for their work in this volume,鈥 Dr. Peter Neumann says, vice president, academic. 鈥淭his effort aligns well with our mission at 小猪视频to contribute thoughtfully and skillfully in scholarly and creative expressions to significant current issues.鈥

Sikkema, assistant professor of core studies and English at Redeemer, is the author of the included memoir, 鈥淧racticing Enchantment.鈥 The idea of re-enchantment found in the piece is inspired by American author Wendell Berry鈥檚 call to 鈥減ractice resurrection,鈥 recognizing and revealing the sacred around us. Sikkema seeks to recover the posture that, even independent of human use, there is intrinsic and mysterious value in our ecology.

鈥淭he natural world, as God鈥檚 creative word, as the song that he鈥檚 still singing and sustaining and upholding, is not just an idea. It’s actually a summons to us to respond.鈥

According to Sikkema, Christians have a distinctly important voice in environmentalism because of their belief that, rather than from its usefulness or divinity, creation鈥檚 value comes directly from its Creator. He feels hopeful that Christians can have influence in this conversation.

鈥淚n my opinion, there鈥檚 no other way that is as intellectually credible and existentially satisfying.鈥

What shapes, what new shapes, will hope take, especially in the face of devastations that seem so hopeless?

Van Rys, professor of English and associate dean of arts, is another contributor to the book with his short story 鈥淏andits,鈥 followed by an afterword. The story follows young Evan and Mae who move out to the countryside and encounter some mischievous racoons. This comical tale encourages readers to grapple with the position of humans in the created order and its implications on human responsibility.

鈥淚t鈥檚 about learning how to coexist,鈥 Van Rys says. 鈥淩ealizing that even with your best intentions, you can mess things up. Realizing that there is this difference between domesticated nature and wild nature, yet learning to live alongside both.鈥

Van Rys says it strikes him how the book is in line with other conversations being had across campus and that 鈥渋t speaks to a larger culture of concern at 小猪视频around this issue [of environmental stewardship].鈥

Martin, a high school teacher and creative writing professor, contributed the memoir 鈥溾楥an you make this all run again?鈥 The Art and Environmentalism of Margo and Rein Vanderhill鈥 to the collection. It follows the true story of a family鈥檚 encounter with a disastrous flood, followed by some reflection about what faith and hope look like in the face of environmental disaster and economic hardship, asking the foundational questions of Christian belief.

鈥淭hese questions are too comfortably answered when your home is untouched by flood and your job and income are secure,鈥 Martin says. 鈥淲hat shapes, what new shapes, will hope take, especially in the face of devastations that seem so hopeless?鈥

According to Martin, 鈥淸t]here are no pat or easy answers in the book.鈥 Instead, 鈥渢here are many deep, and some costly, encounters with real people facing real environmental devastations or problems.鈥 He is particularly fond of the text because of how it represents the necessary skill of listening to others, both inside and outside Christian faith, 鈥渆mbodying this sort of multi-voiced discourse.鈥

Dr. Katherine Quinsey, professor in the department of English and creative writing at the University of Windsor, is editor of the collection. She hopes that the book brings clarity on the intrinsic connection between caring for the environment and Christianity.

鈥淭he book is partly intended to correct some preconceptions, held by many secularists as well as by some Christians, that Christian belief is antithetical to environmentalism, reminding readers instead that sensitivity to the nonhuman Other as autonomously reflective of God鈥檚 glory, and our ethical responsibility of care (or stewardship), are historically orthodox principles, rooted in Christian spiritual practice and ethical imperatives.鈥

People will not be convinced to change based on data and graphs. They are going to be changed by poetry and art鈥攂eauty.

小猪视频faculty members are not new to approaching the environmental sciences with a Christian worldview. 小猪视频offers a number of related programs, such as environmental sciences, environmental studies, biology and biochemistry that prepare students to have a Kingdom-vision in scientific scholarship and beyond. 

Dr. Edward Berkelaar, professor of chemistry and environmental science and associate dean of natural sciences and mathematics, says that the topics in the book are commonplace in his classrooms: 鈥淲hat鈥檚 going on in the world, what鈥檚 broken, why do we think it’s broken and what are some solutions?鈥 To Berkelaar, it is important that Christians care about the environment.

鈥淭he flourishing of the nonhuman world is directly connected to our own flourishing 鈥 This world is made by God, it鈥檚 owned by God, we have a responsibility to care for it, and at the same time, we鈥檙e utterly dependent on it.鈥

Berkelaar believes that appreciation precedes action. This is why projects like this collection excite him.

鈥淧eople will not be convinced to change based on data and graphs. They are going to be changed by poetry and art鈥攂eauty. They might then want to go to the data and graphs to see, 鈥楴ow, how shall I live?鈥欌 

The book is dedicated to contributor Dr. Bowen. Inspired by her research interest in poetry and ecology, the collection represents a celebration of her academic legacy.

Christian Environmentalism and Human Responsibility in the 21st Century can be purchased at , the Christian bookstore at 小猪视频.

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