A Nun on the Bus – Book Review

A Nun on the Bus Book CoverA Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community by Sister Simone Campbell is a book for “We the People,” meaning everyone.

After watching twelve hours of video from the 2015 Bioneers conference, a talk by Sister Simone Campbell stayed with me.

I had expected her stories to be heartbreaking and they were. I thought she would probably have a compelling message about building community to solve problems and she did. What I did not expect was that she would be funny and she was.

I wished I could have been at the conference in person so I could have met Sister Simone and talked with her. Since that did not happen, I was excited to discover that she had written A Nun on the Bus and I selected it as my book to read in honor of Women’s History Month this year.

Book Review

A Nun on the Bus is an interesting and sometimes surprising book to read.

Readers will follow Sister Simone as she recounts her life story from her Catholic upbringing in Long Beach, CA to becoming a social justice lobbyist in Washington, D.C. She tells her narrative through the lens of her faith. Along the twists and turns of the journey, readers will gain insight into several major U.S. political issues.

National Health-Care Reform

Find out how Sister Simone and other Catholic sisters influenced the national dialogue around health care reform and contributed to the U.S. Congress passing the Affordable Care Act.

The Federal Budget

Learn about how cuts to social programs in the proposed 2012 federal budget led to the “Nuns on the Bus” tour, which garnered national media attention putting the spotlight on the plight of the working poor and the people who help them.

Immigration Reform

Read about how Sister Simone and other nuns set off on the bus again, this time to bring attention to the difficulties faced by undocumented immigrants (especially children) and to share ideas for comprehensive immigration reform.

Civil Obligations

In the final pages of the book, Sister Simone calls us to action.

“Civil obligations call each of us to participate out of concern and commitment for the whole. Civil obligations call us to vote, to inform ourselves about the issues of the day, to engage in serious conversations about our nation’s future and learn to listen to various perspectives. To live our civil obligations means that everyone needs to be involved and that there needs to be room for everyone to exercise this involvement. This is the other side of civil rights. We all need our civil rights so that we can all exercise our civil obligations.”

The Bottom Line

Sister Simone Campbell is a Catholic nun, a member of the Sisters of Social Service community, a lawyer, an activist, and the executive director of NETWORK, a nonprofit Catholic social justice lobby in Washington, D.C.

She has spent her life in the service of others and has been an outspoken advocate for economically disadvantaged people across the country.

I enjoyed reading A Nun on the Bus. It is a wonderful true-life story filled with joy and pain and humor. While reading the book, I occasionally ran across references or words that I did not understand. For instance, I did not know anything about Vatican II until I googled it and I had to look up the word encyclical in my Webster’s dictionary.

Throughout A Nun on the Bus, Sister Simone emphasizes the importance of including everyone in the conversation and building community for the 100%, not just the 99%. She is about inclusion and working on problems together.

“No one is left behind. That sums it up for me.” —Sister Simone Campbell

This is a good philosophy for confronting social justice issues as well as global warming. After all, we are all living on the same planet.

I recommend A Nun on the Bus because it is a good story and we could probably learn a thing or two from Sister Simone about political action strategy.

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Love God, Heal Earth – Book Review

Love God Heal Earth Book CoverWhether you are a person of faith or not, Rev. Sally Bingham’s book Love God, Heal Earth is both interesting and thought-provoking.

I first learned of Sally Bingham through the Interfaith Light & Power Campaign, a faith-based initiative addressing global warming that she co-founded. I have been curious to learn more about her so selected Love God, Heal Earth as my second book to read this March in honor of Women’s History Month.

Book Review

Love God, Heal Earth: 21 Leading Religious Voices Speak Out on Our Sacred Duty to Protect the Environment is the full title of the book that contains essays written by religious leaders from a variety of faiths with an introduction and afterword by Rev. Sally Bingham.

A line from the introduction describes what the book is about.

“It is a snapshot of a moment in human history – Earth history – when the future hung in the balance and communities of faith came together out of love for Creation.”

Readers will find essays by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist religious leaders who incorporate environmental stewardship into their respective ministries and daily lives. A few examples are included below.

  • Rev. Fred Small participates in political activism and endeavors to engage people of faith in caring for Creation by framing supposed environmental issues as issues of justice and compassion.
  • Rev. Pat Watkins seeks to connect faith and the environment through Biblical scriptures.
  • Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield leads the Faith in Place organization, which helps congregations make earth stewardship part of their religious life.
  • Laurel Kearns directs the Green Seminary Initiative that equips religious leaders with tools to help them lead their congregations to a more sustainable and just society that values a healthy planet.
  • Mary Evelyn Tucker studies and teaches in a university setting bringing together the fields of religion and ecology.

The following excerpt from the afterword succinctly wraps up the mission of everyone on Earth.

“Who are we, as human beings, if not caretakers of creation? Stewardship of the planet and our care for each other is our greatest moral duty.”

The Bottom Line

Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is an Episcopal priest and serves on the board of several environmental organizations and the Diocese of California Commission for the Environment. She is the founder and executive director of The Regeneration Project, whose mission is to deepen the connection between faith and ecology. Its main project is the Interfaith Power & Light Campaign, which helps congregations address global warming through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Although I did not learn as much about Sally Bingham as I would have liked, I was fascinated by the essays in Love God, Heal Earth. The authors approach the intersection between faith and ecology through the lenses of their own diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs, yet they are all on the same journey encouraging faith-based communities to care for Creation.

Love God, Heal Earth is about hope. Everyone should read it.

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