Saying Yes to Life – Review
Saying Yes to Life, by Ruth Valerio, December 2019. SPCK Publishing, ISBN: 978-0281083770, 216 pages. RRP £11.99 (paperback)
The Lent groups I was involved with this year did not get beyond the third week, as the pandemic began to bite and I suspect this will be the same many who followed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2020, Saying Yes to Life. Maybe some will take it up again next year, but it will need a certain amount of revisiting if it is to feel relevant in a post pandemic world. For example, the risk, in terms of disease transmission, that we take in encroaching further and further into wilderness areas for economic purposes may need more robust analysis than we read in the section on Yasha the Pangolin. However, it’s maybe unfair to criticise an author for not predicting a global pandemic!
The structure of the book is built around the six days of creation as outlined in Genesis 1. There is a helpful introduction which puts into context how the story of Genesis was told as a counterpoint to the Babylonian myth of creation, Enuma Elish, and then we are off to explore how “a good God who reigns supreme has created a very good world”. That sentence, which comes at the end of the introduction, sets the tone for the book as a whole, theologically and in every other sense. In the end all will be well as, like the survivors of the flood, we can walk two by two under the safe canopy of a formidable God, whose power and might is revealed variously through the testimony of Scripture (Job, the Psalms etc.)
Each chapter tackles the theme of a Biblical day – light, water land, lights in the sky, the waters and creatures and humankind: the scripture is laid out, then stories are told, from abroad or nearer to home, with the author and her family making several appearances. We are invited to learn, to act, to use our voices and our resources to make the world a better place. All of which is a good thing.
What was missing, for me, was much bite about the very real challenges we face about globalisation, inequality and environmental destruction that were, for instance, laid out so clearly by Pope Francis in his (much shorter) Laudato Si’. I do not share the author’s evangelical outlook and struggled with some of the language, for example, the formidable God, the God of power and might, and thought the use of biblical material was sometimes not very helpful. For example, the story of Jonah is indeed a great one, but I have never thought of its purpose as “giving a beautiful insight into God’s heart for people and animals.” Overall, though, if exposure to the material in Saying Yes to Life nudges a few people along the path of greater awareness of the massive issues that confront us, then that can only be good.
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