The Lost Gospel of the Earth; A Call for Renewing Nature, Spirit and Politics

Overview

From Tom Hayden - a 1960s radical and longtime progressive California legislator - here is an impassioned plea for reclaiming our spiritual bond with the earth. Hayden argues that the basis of our present environmental crisis was laid long ago, when tribal systems of belief were replaced by formal religions. Nature-based mysticism gave way to human-centered theologies that desanctified the earth and taught people to see themselves as dominant over nature. If we want to heal the destructive divide that exists ...
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Overview

From Tom Hayden - a 1960s radical and longtime progressive California legislator - here is an impassioned plea for reclaiming our spiritual bond with the earth. Hayden argues that the basis of our present environmental crisis was laid long ago, when tribal systems of belief were replaced by formal religions. Nature-based mysticism gave way to human-centered theologies that desanctified the earth and taught people to see themselves as dominant over nature. If we want to heal the destructive divide that exists between the human spirit and the natural world, we must retrieve the "lost gospel of the earth" by which people live in kinship with a sacred natural world. Hayden finds that Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism have defaulted on the environmental crisis, but believes that their earlier currents of native mysticism can be restored and applied to the present. Technical fixes and economic incentives will not cure our pathological addiction to making progress at the expense of the earth. Hayden blends personal spirituality with concrete political vision into a new politics that is grounded in environmental economics with a moral core. This new "politics of the spirit," drawing on the tradition of participatory democracy as well as the theories of ecotheology, calls for nothing less than the transformation of our entire political culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a beautifully argued and well-written book, California state senator Tom Hayden argues that that Christian pastors must rediscover what he calls the "lost Gospel of the Earth" and rouse their congregations to environmentalist political action. Unless they do so, he contends, our governing bodies will never face up to the environmental challenges wrought by burgeoning population and what he calls a "dominion theology." Hayden's book is a call to political action of the sort that marked the civil rights movement, a political action that began in the churches. This is a clearheaded manifesto from a savvy politician who understands what it will take to oppose what he believes to be a rip tide of right-wing millennialist theology that has reconstructed Christian tradition to justify continued plundering of the planet in the name of Christ. Hayden's timely book is a dramatically argued eco-spiritual manifesto designed to reanimate the ecological wisdom of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Native traditions and bring it into the political sphere. (Sept.)
Library Journal
It was just a matter of time before the ecological movement entered the field of theology. Hayden, a member of the Chicago Seven and a California legislator, has written a reinterpretation of the wisdom literature of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Native American faiths in a plea for a reawakening of the human spiritual bond with the earth. He believes that a false reading of the literature has caused humans to create a rift between themselves and the earth, thus allowing the exploitation of our natural resources. Hayden argues that by finding the "lost gospel," which advocates the sacredness of all nature, we can halt the destruction. This area of study, informally coined "ecotheology," can be a wasteland of frivolous and poorly written fluff pieces, but Hayden has produced a provocative, well-researched, and well-argued book. His style is informal, and he mixes personal experience in the ecological movement with historical and theological expositions. A thoughtful, substantive work for public libraries.Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Kirkus Reviews
California state senator and former radical activist Hayden's (Reunion, 1988, etc.) prescription for our environmental malaise calls for a reinfusion of the spiritual to heal the divide between humans and the natural world.

We live in a miserable, greedy, bureaucratic, utilitarian, Machiavellian world, Hayden warns us, one in which nearly all of our institutions, from the state to the church to the business, urge us on to ever greater environmental destructiveness. Our spiritual underpinnings are absent, so Earth can't strut its stuff as a sacred presence, a realm of creation that inspires awe and reverence. 'Twasn't always so, Hayden suggests. Humans didn't always consider themselves Lords of the Universe, smug stewards of nature. He points to the lost nature mysticism evident in the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Job, charts the transition from earth-bound to sky-bound holiness, rues Genesis and the domination of nature; finds in Buddhism "kindness and pity for all living things," including the whole of nature, sentient or not. In ancient cultures he encounters one instance after another of sacred kinship with nature: From the dreamtime of Australia's Aborigines to Native American sweat lodges, vision quests, and sun dances, to the runes and sacred groves of the ancient Celts. But these sentiments, these guideposts, have been sadly marginalized in all the major religions, and in a number of the native cultures as well. After a lengthy reprise of American history since Columbus—all machine-age, industrial juggernaut madness, with no whit of sacredness in it—Hayden makes his pitch: It is time for a new sanctification of nature in all religions, time for a change in consciousness, for new ethical guidelines that will reshape the existing political and economic systems.

As a manifesto, Hayden's work is full of lofty notions, often artfully expressed, always passionate. As a guide for those desiring specifics rather than slogans, however, it is considerably less useful.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871568885
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 8/14/1996
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 8.47 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction
Thanks
Preface
1 Recovering the Lost Gospel 1
2 Overcoming the Divide of Soul from Nature 17
3 The Default of Organized Religion 45
4 The Lost Gospel in the Judeo-Christian Tradition 72
5 The Lost Gospel in Our Native History 103
6 The Lost Gospel in Buddhism 159
7 The Lost Gospel, Environmentalism, and Politics 184
Afterword 239
Notes 245
Index 271
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