Bodies on the Line – book review

Bodies on the Line, Christians, Civil Resistance and the Climate Crisis, by Sue Parfitt, August 2023. Lab/ora Press, ISBN: 978-1-7397-1628-8, 200 pages. RRP £9.99

Book review, by Deborah Tomkins, Co-Chair, Green Christian

Sue Parfitt, retired psychotherapist and priest, has written a book for every Christian to read: those who know a lot or a little about the climate and biodiversity crises; those who know a lot or a little about civil disobedience. Clear and beautifully written, Bodies on the Line contains Biblical, spiritual and practical wisdom, carefully examining from a Christian perspective the imperative for protest and all aspects of civil disobedience in this time of climate and environmental breakdown, making the stakes very clear. The crises of nature and climate, unchecked, will mean the end of life on Earth, as we know it, and sooner than we hope or expect.

In a brief foreword, John Dear (who wrote the most influential text on civil disobedience in the 1990s) lays out the map. Climate change is real, and so is the climate emergency. The planet is burning, and flooding, and being set upon by hurricanes and typhoons, while juggling unprecedented and unpredictable extremes of temperature, all over the world. This is truly a crisis unlike any other humanity has ever known.

Sue Parfitt then takes the reader on a journey, beginning with one of her own experiences. Short and extremely readable chapters, interspersed with quotations, poetry, personal testimonies, and statements made in court by Christians involved in protest, explore different aspects of the current crises, and the Christian’s calling within them. Witnessing to the truth of climate breakdown (even more evident now, in September 2023, than in May 2023, when the book was completed), the challenge is to each of us. Should we protest, perhaps become willing to be arrested and sent to prison? What exactly is the personal calling of each of us?

Sue Parfitt draws on Scripture, history, and science as well as the work of John Dear, as she seeks to help us discern our role as Christians. She promotes nonviolent, compassionate and creative acts of rebellion against unjust systems and laws. There is much prayerful and loving wisdom in these pages; the book is not one-dimensional, insisting that everyone puts their own body on the line by risking arrest and prison, but recognises that individual circumstances differ. She asks, what would Jesus do? How can we make a real and lasting difference where we are?

Deeply rooted in Christian faith and in the radical person of Jesus, this book seeks to explain not only the how of protest, but the why: the need to challenge and bring into the light the embedded injustices which enable unbridled exploitation of nature, environment and human beings, leading to the rapidly worsening crisis in which we now find ourselves, together with the urgency to change laws, structures and systems.

This is an extraordinary book. I am glad to have read it, and recommend that others read it too.


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Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 19 September, 2023 | Category: Book Reviews Climate Emergency | Comments: 0


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