‘L’ is for Lifestyle: Christian living that doesn’t cost the earth
Author: Ruth Valerio
Book Review by Tim Davy, Reviews editor for Encounters and Assistant Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Redcliffe College.
This book is an accessible, informative and practical guide to living as Christians in a world characterised by injustice and finite resources.
Much has changed in the world between the original publication of ‘L’ is for Lifestyle and this, the revised edition. It is hard to believe, but, states Valerio in her new introduction, when she first wrote the book (2004), fair trade products were not available in British supermarkets, and ‘climate change’ as a term needed to be explained. Much has also changed in terms of globalisation and the increasing and extraordinary growth, and consequent resource demands, of nations such as China, India, and Brazil. An updated edition was therefore necessary.
The format of the book is simple. After a brief introduction the main body of the book comprises a chapter of no more than a few pages for each letter of the alphabet (Activists, Bananas, Creation, Driving, Energy, Food, Globalization, HIV, Investments, Jobs, Kippers, Letters, Money, Needs, Organic, Paper, Questions, Recycling, Simplicity, Tourism, Unwanted Peoples, Volunteers, Water, Xenophobia, Young People, and Zeitgeist).
This particular format makes the book very accessible as it allows the reader to dip in without getting overwhelmed by information and calls to action. Valerio’s philosophy is that, while we need to do more than just tinker at the edges of our lifestyles, we need to isolate manageable changes that we can actually achieve. When we have made one change, we can then move on to the next.
Throughout the book, Valerio balances insightful descriptions of the issues with clear and practical action points. She regularly frames the discussions within accessible theological frameworks that helpfully bring out the biblical material in relation to issues of poverty, justice and creation care.
As I read ‘L’ is for Lifestyle, I kept thinking about how the world has changed even in the last few months. What do these issues mean in a context of global economic duress? Will an economic downturn help or hinder the progress of concern for creation and poverty? How, for example, does the current context affect statements such as:
“One of the greatest ironies of time is that time often seems to be directly disproportional to the amount of money we have. Time is one of the greatest dividers: between those who spend time to save money and those who spend money to save time.” (pp.135-136, S is for Simplicity)
I am not wholly convinced by this. Although it may be true in a general sense, it does not seem to account for the many people who, relative to their context, have neither time nor money.
In summary, though, ‘L’ is for Lifestyle is an absorbing and accessible read, full of insight, wisdom, passion and biblical sense. As the author herself would acknowledge, the reader may not want or be able to put into practice all that she suggests. Nevertheless, we can do many things to make our lifestyles more in line with how God would have us live.
This is an excellent introduction to a range of important issues, full of ‘wise passion’, and brimming with suggestions for further information and action.
Buy ‘L’ is for Lifestyle from St Andrew’s Bookshop.
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