An extended review of a 2021 book edited by Marta Bunnett Wiebe
Note: Our print issue contains a shorter version of this review. Faith Today welcomes your thoughts on any of our reviews. We also welcome suggestions of other Canadian Christian books to review: Contact us.
Publishing Partners: A Rocha Canada, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Canadian Mennonite University, Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba, 2021. 255 pgs. $20 (e-book $13)
Food. As I type this review, new fertilizer regulations are igniting protests, droughts and floods are causing devastation, and shipping constraints are impacting entire nations (just to name a few). Food discussions are prominent on the world stage.
To tackle these discussions, a dialogue called Germinating Conversations was launched in Manitoba about 10 years ago between food growers and eaters. This book collects presentations from over the years by 30 participants about stewarding land, people, resources and practices as Christians.
Germinating Conversations is not only a book documenting people and their stories, it is a reminder that the Church should be leading, by example, how to do controversy and conflict well. As someone who grows and raises food, I appreciate the fair representation of voices ranging from large food producers to small homesteads to those who simply enjoy the fruits of other’s labour. Real stories from real people with real experiences. It is both a rural conversation and an urban conversation.
The book showcases how through the struggle of diversity, we can sharpen our character and create a deeper community. Out of necessity, we come together to discuss food. The book is formatted as a travel map through the jungle of controversy and focuses largely on the win of preserving relationships. Listening, Discerning, Dialoguing and finally Continuing the Conversation are the four pins of the book’s navigational process.
The last portion of the book is a Facilitation Guide with the hopes of encouraging others to “dare the difficult.” The Manitoba Mennonite community has put in the upfront sweat equity to shape a well-organized and respectful process to start and continue the discussion.
The Church has witnessed, especially these recent years, how vulnerable we are when it comes to dealing with controversy. We’ve also witnessed how easily relationships can be damaged through our own different lens and perspectives on science, politics and social issues. The book is excellent exhortation on engaging well and continues to reinforce the high importance of relationships. Tenderly, each person’s story is celebrated and their own experience is shared well. If you’re looking for an honest, robust discussion, dappled with varying views and perspectives, this book has it in spades.
While building deep community and stewarding well what we’ve been given are indeed noble and God-honouring pursuits, as I read, I found myself fumbling on unsteady ground. Though I had a navigational map in hand through the jungle of human’s diverse thoughts, I had no ultimate goal in sight. I needed an unshakable framework. A foundation that could transcend subjective human thought. A foundation that was not human. I wondered, if the only thing missing in the book was perhaps the most important thing – a Scriptural framework that identifies, above all else, God’s end goals for His earth, His creation and His people. Without God’s goals in sight, I easily find myself wrapped in the maze of humanism – which I never seem to find my way out of. A maze that has no inherent ability to redeem.
Famine, drought, government legislation, evolving practices, new information and scientific discoveries will always be at hand. No matter our own experiences and thoughts, Scripture maintains:
For all flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
But the word of the Lord endures forever. (1 Peter 1:24–25, NASB)
What is God’s ultimate goal for His earth? Are we pursuing God’s goals as set out in Scripture or are we pursuing humanity’s own ideal? In the end, who will receive the glory – man or God? These were lingering questions that I was left with.
If you’re looking for a book that seems to approach loving God as equal to a loving your neighbour and yourself, this book won’t disappoint.
But if you’re looking for a book that emphasizes loving God with your whole heart, soul and mind, as your singular highest goal while secondly, flowing from that whole-hearted love of God comes loving your neighbour and yourself, you may also be left with lingering questions – hungry for more theological and devotional meat.
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