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Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action Hardcover – 15 May 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company (15 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392011
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 16.1 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,817,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Williams on 3 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Matthew Sleeth used to be a doctor, until the levels of asthma and cancer he was seeing convinced him that the environment was making us sick. He decided to quit his ER department and tackle the causes rather than the symptoms, starting by turning his own household into "a poster family for the downwardly mobile." This experience, both as personal journey and family experiment, provides a practical base to work from, and a refreshing willingness to practice what is being preached.

Sleeth's focus has been on persuading the church to take the environment more seriously, a tough task indeed in the US, so `Serve God, Save the Planet' mixes green philosophy and basic theology with the personal stories and somewhat harrowing emergency room analogies. It's honest, wise, and actually very funny.

It's also surprisingly broad in scope. Rather than get bogged down in the science and in educating people into lower carbon lifestyles, Sleeth explores the many ways that our consumer lifestyles are bad for us. He addresses disatisfaction, envy and the manufacture of wants, television and Christmas.

Through each of these the tone remains optimistic, a vision of better, healthier lifestyles found in simplicity rather than in the pursuit of wealth. Climate change is addressed, but in balance alongside air pollution, toxins, deforestation and so on.The book veers into pastoralism occasionally, but is otherwise a very readable and user-friendly guide to Christian environmental responsibility.
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Format: Hardcover
Worth a read. Gives a number of useful perspectives on green living that the '50 ways to be more green' newspaper features tend to miss out.

For people like me who are a lot less evangelical than we used to be - and who are already persuaded by secular arguments that we really need to do something on the environment - this is quite a useful reminder of a perspective that one can be in danger of losing. For example, there's a chapter on why we shouldn't watch television, which I wouldn't immediately have thought was the most pressing environmental issue of our times. Nevertheless, when our television set broke and we didn't replace it for a month or so, I discovered the truth of what he's saying. With less TV, we feel more fully alive. There is a spiritual dimension necessary to underpin green living, or you just get disheartened. The book presents spiritual/religious ideas that it would be quite easy to imagine hearing from the conventional church pulpit - and then makes links to the more obviously 'green' messages which some churches seem predisposed not to hear.

Comes across as a little smug evangelical in places - (eg with stories about how wonderful his children are) but you can't fault him the fact that he's taken the message seriously and is actually living it out.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 54 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Convicting while Instructing 6 Jun. 2006
By B. Spaulding - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an easy read although it does contain a wealth of information. Many of the topics confirm scripture and many are confirmed by life around me but all of the points are very motivational for change. Some of Dr. Sleeth's personal stories brought a chuckle and others moved me with deep compassion. I purchased four copies of the book to give to friends and family, including my son and daughter-in-law who live in Washington state. They both are marine biologists and are very interested in environmental issues. They struggle when it comes to convincing their church friends that we are all responsible to God to take care of this planet. This book is such a great tool because it makes it so clear...if we love God and we say we love what He loves, we must act like it. Taking care of the earth is one of our responsibilities before God and it is not optional. My husband is an oral surgeon and we attend a conservative, independent Baptist church. Our pastor read the book and now is planning to organize a workshop on stewardship for area churches using this book. I give this book five stars for convicting and instructing me to change. I thank Dr. Sleeth for helping to bridge the gap between environmentalist and Christians...a gap that clearly should not exist.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Christian Stewardship One Lightbulb At a Time 6 Jun. 2006
By C. L. Shoemaker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
'Serve God, Save the Planet', is a groundbreaking environmental book that presents the caretaking of earth as a biblically supported Christian mandate. Although Dr. Sleeth delivers his environmental message from a Christian point of view, this is a book which will serve all readers, regardless as to their religious affiliation or personal causes.

The former Emergency Room doctor and Chief of Staff of his hospital informs us that although the earth is indeed facing a critical time in terms of global warming and man's rampant and continual contribution to that warming, there are measures we can take to lessen and slow that impact---we need not feel helpless, there is something we each can do.

He tells the story of his realization that saving humanity ER style was not enough. As a result of both a practical and spiritual assessment of his life, Dr. Sleeth ultimately embraces Christianity, quits his affluent lifestyle and his practice of medicine and begins to work full time on solving the problem that brings so many to the Emergency Room to begin with, that of our ever warming and ailing earth.

Dr. Sleeth makes his case through sad and humorous emergency room and life stories. Through his experiences he connects us to the real human cost of continuing to use energy as we do. He shows us that the daily choices we make can significantly alter our impact on the production of greenhouse gases, further supporting his message of the need for a proactive stewardship of earth with scriptural wisdom.

You will finish this unusual `environmental' book impressed by the integrity of the author and infused with a real hope that as a human family we can use our numbers to give our children a world more like the one our grandparents knew; one with clean water and clean air and a future filled with hope and not despair. And don't be surprised if you find yourself turning things off and changing light bulbs soon after reading the last page.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Inspired to change 8 Jun. 2006
By Former VT reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
After reading Dr.Sleeth's book I was inspired to change to flourescent light bulbs, stop using our dryer. get a clothesline and bike to work. Dr.Sleeth makes his appeal in a way that helps one understand how one person or family can reduce their impact on the environment. He appeals from a Christian perspective and connects in a way that strict environmentalists often cannot. I'd recommend his book to anyone trying to understand how their daily actions and lifestle impact the environment and what they can do to minimize that.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Good but not Great 12 Aug. 2008
By Tim Challies - Published on
Format: Paperback
Though I've gone on record as a skeptic of global warming and of the catastrophic man-made climate change that is so much in the news today, this certainly does not indicate that I care nothing for the environment. If anything, the reading I've done on the subject of global warming, while failing to convince me, has reinforced in my mind the importance of caring for the planet God has given us. I have become interested in a Christian response to environmental issues and decided to read a couple of books on the subject. One that was recommended to me is Serve God, Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth.

Not too long ago, Sleeth was rising through the ranks as chief of the medical staff at a prominent hospital on the East coast. He began to see more and more of his patients suffering from illnesses such as cancer, asthma and other chronic diseases. He began to suspect that there were environmental issues involved. Somehow the earth and those who live on it are in trouble of their own making, he concluded. Sleeth eventually quit his hospital job to focus on writing and speaking about environmental issues, seeking to do so from a distinctly Christian point-of-view. He sold his large home and moved his family into a much smaller one; he evaluated his family's lifestyle and found ways of drastically reducing their environmental impact. And then he wrote this book.

"Serve God, Save the Planet asks the following questions: How can I live a more godly, equitable, and meaningful life? How can I help people today and in the future? How can I be less materialistic? How can I live a more charitable life? What would happen if I led a slower-paced existence? What is the spiritual prescription for depression, anxiety, and anger? How can I become a better steward of nature?" It is a book meant to guide Christians as they first think through the issues and then begin to take action. He feels that Christians, with their understanding of the origins of the world and with their knowledge of its Creator, are uniquely able to lead the task of creation care.

Through the book's sixteen chapters, Sleeth deals topically with areas related to creation care. He looks at our society's fixation with "stuff," at the food we eat (and its origins) and at the homes we live in. He is occasionally overstated ("Nothing is worse for the environment than a broken family") but usually measured and deliberate.

The book is not without its weaknesses. One weakness is that Sleeth is better at suggesting easy solutions than working through the implications of the tough ones. For example, he states that the world's population is growing too quickly to be sustainable (and provides an excellent and understandable metaphor for this). But when it comes to a solution for this issue, all he can suggest is this: "Ethically designed and distributed birth control is an essential remedy if humanity is to survive its own success." That is easy to say, but the ramifications are massive. Do we allow wealthy Westerns to continue to procreate while forcing birth control upon impoverished Africans? How do we convince so many billions of people to go along with this plan? What if one massive people group (Muslims, for example) refuse to play along? It's an easy solution to propose but one that is nearly impossible to successfully implement. A second weakness, is that Sleeth seems to have "drunk the Kool-Aid." He accepts man-made global warming as a given and blindly accepts the usual solutions. For example, he stresses the need to recycle, but does not wrestle with the fact that recycling is often as big a polluter as simply throwing items in the trash. Consider, for example, that recycled paper needs to be heavily bleached to remove inks and that this bleach is fed into lakes and rivers. And consider that the material to be recycled has to be trucked to recycling centers and trucked to a factory and so on. All of these actions create, rather than prevent, pollution. Recycling is not the "golden key" he makes it out to be. Such difficult issues make no appearance in this volume.

Those complaints aside, the book is good and helpful in many ways. Sleeth offers some good thoughts on environmental issues and does so in a readable, compelling way. His anecdotes, drawn from a long career in medicine, add human interest to what has the potential to be a rather dry topic. Though not a big-picture, philosophical look at the issues, Sleeth's volume is worth the read for its practical value. The book's appendices are valuable guides to reducing energy consumption and reducing waste.

Having said all of this, I do intend to keep reading to look for a more satisfying book and one that can more fully ground creation care in the Word of God. To this end, I am turning to Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. I suspect he will fill in some of the gaps missing from Serve God, Save the Planet (while doubtlessly missing out on some of the practical value of Sleeth's volume).
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Five Lighbulb Rating 6 Jun. 2006
By R. Coddington - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Serve God and Save the Planet" is a truly challenging work that addresses current environmental concerns and their global and humanitarian implications. This book WILL make many squirm in their easy chairs, Christian and non-Christian alike. Though it is written from a Christian standpoint, it crosses all denominational lines and sectarian boundaries. It is at the same time easy to read but not easy reading. Dr. Sleeth, former emergency room physician, relates his experiences in the ER, personal life stories as well as his travels to third world countries with a gifted sense of compassion. While presenting the facts of our global condition and the impact that our daily habits and routines have on our planet, our culture and on other cultures, Dr. Sleeth provides realistic and obtainable goals for individuals to step up to the plate and begin assuming responsibilty, not only toward Mother Earth but her often overlooked and neglected inhabitants as well. Change is not easy. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door as call for change. "Serve God and Save the Planet", like Luther's 95 theses, is a present day wake up call to the church (Christendom) and our western culture of similar magnitude. Sit back in your favorite chair with this fascinating and excellently written book and prepare to get uncomfortable!

R.R. Coddington
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