Love in a Time of Climate Change

Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice

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Sharon Delgado
  • Minneapolis, MN: 
    Fortress Press
    , July
     2017.
     226 pages.
     $29.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781506418858.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice by Sharon Delgado accomplishes at least two important tasks. It provides a rigorous analysis of contributions from Wesleyan theological traditions for addressing our ecological crisis, especially the challenge of anthropogenic climate change; and it functions as a compelling call to action for church and society to engage in systemic work for climate justice in ways that are commensurate to the complexity and urgency of the problem.

The twofold function of the book may at first make it difficult for readers not conversant with or interested in the theological contributions of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, to make their way to an appreciation of Delgado’s persuasive call for climate justice. Readers who know Wesley and the Wesleyan theological tradition well may also be reluctant to take what might at first glance appear to be a tedious march through the Wesleyan quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. However, I would urge readers who may fit these descriptions to wallow for awhile in the wisdom of Wesley with Delgado, for she is an adept swimmer in these waters, taking the reader below the surface to see Wesley’s contributions in their depth and beauty and see their applications to ecological responsibility. As a United Methodist minister and social ethicist, I found myself coming away from the book with a renewed appreciation of Wesley and his relevance for inspiring both social and ecological holiness in our time.

The book is structured into three parts. In part 1, “Discerning the Truth About Climate Change,” Delgado lays out the case for the reality of climate change. She describes the profoundly negative effects that climate change is having and will have on human and non-human life, especially the most vulnerable among us who contribute the least to the problem; and she reflects on how love in a time of climate change calls us to action for climate justice. Delgado also introduces us to what United Methodist theologian Albert Outler famously called the Wesleyan quadrilateral, which provides her with “the tools for discernment” in her theological analysis of how we understand and honor creation and how we are to establish justice within creation—especially climate justice.

In part 2, “Honoring Creation,” Delgado uses the tools of discernment of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to express a vision of our place in and respect for all creation. Taking scripture seriously (not literally), emphasizing the Wesleyan tradition of God’s grace at work in the world, being open to new awareness of creation through science and reason, and experiencing God’s creation as a sacramental means of grace in which all are called to participate; Delgado makes the case that we are persons in both human and ecological community within the context of the whole of God’s creation. Delgado maintains that an awareness of our place within creation calls us to an attitude of respect and honor for all creation as we contribute to the work of God’s grace, love, and presence in the world.

Honoring creation leads to “Establishing Justice,” the theme and title for part 3. Delgado once again looks through the lens of the Wesleyan quadrilateral to discern what action is needed to work for justice for creation in our current context. In scripture she sees the focus on love and compassion, prophetic care for the most vulnerable among us, and an opportunity for seeing love of all creation as a deep expression of love of God and neighbor. Looking to the wisdom of the Good Samaritan story, Delgado is reminded that the ones who are most expressive of love, compassion, and wisdom in our world are often those who currently have the least amount of power. As we search for models of how to love in a time of climate change, we should listen to the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and especially indigenous persons who can show the world much wisdom that has been lost in the age of the economy of extraction in which nature is treated primarily as commodity.

The Wesleyan tradition of social holiness is Delgado’s starting point for her reflection concerning our moral responsibility on a warming planet. Building on Wesley’s vision of the world as his parish and his deep concern for justice for the poor and vulnerable during his time, Delgado expands social holiness to include liberating systemic action for justice for all creation, thus an expansion of social holiness to include ecological holiness.

Delgado maintains that reason and common sense lead us to recognize that free market capitalism is a failure. It may have been successful in growing the economy through ever-expanding production and consumption, but the cost to the planet is one that we cannot afford. Climate justice will require more than changes in our individual behavior, more than just recycling and more fuel efficient vehicles; it will require radical changes in our social, economic, and political systems. Climate justice requires systemic transformation that will only be possible with both political and spiritual will.

Going deep into the Wesleyan well of the experience of grace, Delgado hopes that our experience of God’s presence in the world (prevenient grace) and our experience of God’s love and forgiveness (justifying grace) will lead us into the experience and practice of growing into more perfect love in the world (sanctifying grace) as we grow in perfection for all of God’s creation. Delgado sees this growth in love as requiring more than reason alone. It calls also for a transformation of the heart. Perhaps her book can best be described in famous Wesleyan fashion as a call for a warming of the heart for climate justice in a world of global warming.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Mark Y. A. Davies is professor of social and ecological ethics at Oklahoma City University.

Date of Review: 
October 23, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Sharon Delgado is an ordained United Methodist minister and is founder and executive director of Earth Justice Ministries. A longtime activist and advocate for peace, justice, and the environment, she lives in Nevada City, California.

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