It is a singular cause for despair that, after forty-odd years of talking about the importance of finding a common date for Pascha--an issue so important it was addressed by the first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 no less--Christians still have not done so, an unhappy state that rather strongly suggests that more than a few of us are not, in fact, willing to do so. Talk is cheap: where is the action? In the absence of action, sometimes one cannot entirely escape the otherwise intolerable thought that perhaps unity really is an eschatological prospect. In that case, all of us had better be prepared for a very stiff trial indeed before the awesome tribunal of Christ.
Anyway, for the start of Great Lent on either calendar, we have a new book from Oxford University Press reminding us that Christians not only fast and abstain from food, but are called to askesis and discernment in all of life: Laura M. Hartman, The Christian Consumer: Living Faithfully in a Fragile World (OUP, 2011), 272pp.
About this book the publisher tells us:
Be it fair trade coffee or foreign oil, our choices as consumers affect the well-being of humans around the globe, not to mention the natural world and of course ourselves. Consumption is a serious ethical issue, and Christian writers throughout history have weighed in, discussing topics such as affluence and poverty, greed and gluttony, and proper stewardship of resources. These voices are often at odds, however. In this book, Laura M. Hartman formulates a coherent Christian ethic of consumption, imposing order on the debate by dividing it into four imperatives: Christians are to consume in ways that avoid sin, embrace creation, love one's neighbor, and envision the future. An adequate ethics of consumption, she argues, must include all four considerations as tools for discernment, even when they seem to contradict one another. The book includes discussions of Christian practices such as fasting, gratitude, solidarity, gift-giving, Sabbath-keeping, and the Eucharist. Using exemplars from the Christian tradition and practical examples from everyday life, The Christian Consumer offers a thoughtful guide to ethical consumption.