201: Ecology and Religion by John Grim and Mary Tucker

by Gerard


201.77: Grim, John and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Ecology and Religion. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2013. 172 pp. ISBN 978-1-5972-6707-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 201: Religious mythology, general classes of religion, interreligious relations and attitudes, and social theology
  • 201.7: Attitudes of religion towards social issues
  • 201.77: Environment

How one views their religion has a relationship with how one views the environment in which they live. Since many religions have tenets on how to relate to members of society, they already teach basic values of respect and reciprocation, but authors John Grin and Mary Tucker take these teachings on step further. They postulate that each major religion contains parallel teaching that allow the adherent to form a relationship with nature. In Ecology and Religion, they expound on the theory that each major world religion gives the reader a piece of a larger way of connecting to nature.

Grim and Tucker establish four major tenets for a religious ecology—orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming. Orienting fixes the self in relationship with celestial bodies; grounding fixes the self in a community with nature; nurturing is self-explanatory; and transforming changes the self into a deeper human being. These draw on the major biocultural elements of air, earth, water, and fire respectively. The authors propose that each major world religion (or group of religions) belongs to each of these tenets. Christianity offers a way for the reader to orient themselves to the cosmos. Confucianism grounds the believer in their community. The vast array of indigenous religions emphasize nurturing the environment. Lastly, Hinduism relies on the continuous transformation of the self into a greater being. Each of these offer a way to interact with nature and insure a safe and viable ecological future.

The book is set up in many ways like a textbook, with distinct sections on each religion and questions for reflection or discussion at the end. But, the clear Jungian mythology informing the whole book was, in the end, just too much for me. While the authors are clearly very well-read and bring in a ton of different religious texts in one place, the whole thing seemed a bit too touchy-feely for me. While I do agree that each religion informs each other religion, the authors seem to want the reader to create a strange hybrid religious ecology that is both part of and separate from all the others. The entire thing is a bit of a stretch, but one can’t fault them for trying. It’s a rather odd book, but still interesting just the same.