Flourish Magazine, Winter 2010
5 Questions For: Ben DeVries
After completing a final master’s degree project on the Christian foundation for animal welfare at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Ben DeVries was inspired to launch Not One Sparrow, a Christian voice for animals, just under two years ago. Not One Sparrow is a community that encourages Christians to develop affirming, empathetic relationships with God’s creatures, and to advocate for those animals’ welfare from a Christian perspective. Ben blogs regularly at Not One Sparrow, is part of the creation care community at SustainLane, and has contributed to Flourish, as well. He lives with his wife Cheryl, baby son Jadon, and three cats (Baby, Missy and Bitsy) in Kenosha, the southeastern corner of Wisconsin. Here we’ve asked him five quick questions about his life of faith as it relates to creation care, but you can also get in touch with him by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Facebook.
1) What creation care-related scripture is most meaningful to you?
Well, Luke 12:6 definitely holds a special meaning for me, being the ethos behind my work with Not One Sparrow: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” But I think Revelation 21:1-5 speaks most personally to me right now, and to my longing for a creation without violence or suffering for any creature: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (NIV)
2) What is your favorite spot in the outdoors?
My absolute favorite place outdoors is a small stretch of the Des Plaines River Trail, just a stone’s throw behind the retail store where I worked for seven awkward years in Lake County, Illinois. I sometimes think it was a miracle God did just for me, putting this life-giving spot (which I seem to have to myself more often than not) so close to a place which took so much out of me. It’s been close to a lifesaver for me on an emotional level, and where God seems closest to me, as if it’s our special place. It’s also been one of the most influential and steadfast motivations I’ve had to care about God’s creation and his creatures.
3) Out of the changes you’ve made in your life to follow God’s call to creation care, what has been the most life-giving or community-enhancing or faith-strengthening?
Our journey into vegetarianism, which began three years ago, has been incredibly meaningful for me and my wife, who has made that transition possible through her culinary prowess. While I certainly don’t think vegetarianism is the only expression of caring for God’s creatures, it’s been a real comfort to me personally to know that no living being has to directly die so I can eat. It’s also one of the single most meaningful things anyone can do to care for farmed animals, the environment, the earth’s resources, and our own health. But, in all honesty, what’s been most meaningful to me personally in developing my appreciation and concern for animals are the cats we’ve brought into our home, all of whom were adopted or rescued. I can’t tell you how much their personalities and presence in my life have taught me about how God loves and values each of his creatures individually.
4) What is your guilty environmental indulgence?
My guilty indulgence is actually cheese. We’ve cut down quite a bit, though I still love it. But it’s hard to enjoy without thinking about the underbelly of animal farming, and the dairy industry in particular, and knowing what happens to so many of the “byproducts” of the constant impregnation of cows for milk production, the male veal calves. It breaks my heart what short, truly miserable existences these beautiful baby creatures are forced to have when they would otherwise be so full of life and playfulness.
5) What would you recommend as a first step in starting a lifestyle of creation care?
Since I work in animal care specifically, I’d love to encourage you to spend time simply being around animals and taking them in, whether those in your own home, in the wild around your neighborhood, or even by book and documentary. Being exposed to them, you can’t help but sense how much intricacy, dignity, and life itself the Creator invested in them. And knowing these things, we can’t help but be more invested in their fate and wellbeing. That’s what stewardship means, after all.
New Reads and Must-Sees
Ana Sofia Joanes
It’s another movie about food. But while it still features difficult subject matter about the injustices and irresponsibility of the nation’s food and agriculture system, Fresh critiques that system through the lens of hopeful stories, highlighting the reinvention and reinvigoration of healthy food from rural to urban settings across the U.S.
Dirt! The Movie
Common Ground Media
Thought dirt seemed like a pretty simple thing? Think again. This documentary reveals that our relationship with this building material, biodiversity and nutrient storehouse, and foundation of all we eat and gather our strength from, is foundational not only to environmental degradation, but to human conflict. This is a film that truly gets the interdependence of humanity and creation.
BBC and Discovery Channel
An 11-part series currently being broadcast, Life is an eye-popping, dazzling complement to the critically acclaimed 2006 series Planet Earth. It charters, in extraordinary and captivating detail, the bizarre, beautiful, and fascinating lives and behaviors of non-human creatures.
Tending to Eden
By Scott Sabin
The executive director of Plant With Purpose writes this comprehensive apologetic for creation care from a life and career rooted in reforestation and sustainable farming efforts among the world’s rural poor. This is a great firsthand look at creation care from a global perspective. An excerpt from the book appears in this issue of Flourish.
Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet
By Tracey Bianchi
With lots of passion and no condescension, Bianchi, a busy mom of three, details the foibles and fun of embarking on a more creation-conscious lifestyle as a family, encouraging and equipping readers to do the same along the way.
The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book
By Matthew Sleeth
Matthew Sleeth’s second book travels the wide circumference of the creation care conversation, tying oft-ignored themes of simplicity, consumerism, rest, and hospitality back to their scriptural roots in helpful, even inspiring ways. (April 2010)
By Mike and Danae Yankoski
A comprehensive guide for Christians seeking how to live abundantly faithful and just lives, this book grapples with a variety of justice issues (among them: creation degradation, hunger, unclean water, and economic inequality) and equips readers to act with how-to’s, organizational resources, and reflections from well-known workers in the field like Wendell Berry, Shane Claiborne, and Francis Chan.
Numbers: What attaches us to place?
An extensive Gallup-conducted survey on community sought to answer the questions, “What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off?” The answers to these questions indicated that public gathering spaces, the openness of people in a community, and an area’s green spaces and physical aesthetics are what make a place a desirable spot for setting down roots. These reasons trumped concerns about crime and a location’s economy, but, on the other hand, citizens’ loyalty to a town or city was often found to be directly related to that location’s GDP.
Source: Soul of the Community
- Flourish is a proud sponsor of Renewal’s 2010 Green Awakenings report, an overview of the innovative ways Christian college campuses are pursuing faithfulness to God’s call to care for creation. From placing recycling bins on campus to feeding the local community through campus vegetable gardens, Christian students are weaving faithful stewardship into their colleges’ and universities’ teaching of the Gospel.
- Mark your calendars for April 21, when our friends at Blessed Earth will be hosting a free, live, international simulcast event on creation care. Participants will hear from speakers and musicians, get an exclusive look at a new creation care DVD series, and be part of an interactive conversation with other groups and leaders. For more information, visit Blessed Earth’s website.
- April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Keep up with the Flourish blog to find out how your church can be a winsome Christian witness at Earth Day celebrations, and to read one leader’s take on why Thanksgiving is an equally, if not more, important day to celebrate God’s creation.
- Plant With Purpose, which has been working in Haiti since 1997, has been helping with the country’s post-earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts by creating short-term economic opportunities for Haitian citizens through a soil conservation and tree-planting program. You can follow this immediate work and Plant With Purpose’s more extensive, long-term presence in Haiti through the organization’s blog.
- Flourish’s own Joanna Pritchard, a contributing writer to our website and resources, is continuing to work in Haiti with the International Organization for Migration. Please keep her in your prayers. You can read about Joanna’s experience thus far on the Flourish blog.
“If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.
“If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neighbors. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing).
“The overall impression from this research is that economic and professional success exists on the surface of life, and that they emerge out of interpersonal relationships, which are much deeper and more important.”
- New York Times columnist David Brooks in his March 29 article, “The Sandra Bullock Trade,” reflecting on several recent studies that evaluate the causes of happiness.