The Green Bible
, published in the ever-popular New Revised Standard Version, is a dazzling volume. The book's highlights include "green letter" highlighting of stewardship-related verses, an introduction with an incredible selection of essays from a multitude of traditions, and a guide to further action. The book has made a huge splash among progressive and ecology-minded individuals of all stripes. Recently, Chris Faatz of Powells.com had the opportunity to interview Mark Tauber, one of the book's editors.
÷ ÷ ÷
Chris Faatz: I'd like to first take the opportunity of saying what an amazing project The Green Bible is. It must have taken an enormous amount of work and thought to compile. Could you give us an idea of the process you went through in bringing it to completion?
Mark Tauber: Thanks so much for that.
The editors (two of them) worked together to assemble an editorial and advisory board that helped manage the project by suggesting contributors, pieces, and ideas to the shape our in-house folks had already given it.
Chris: The New Revised Standard Version translation of scripture is seen as one of the most liberal in its approach to textual and other questions. It's also seen, in many circles, as being far more accurate than many of its competitors. Is there a reason you chose to work with this translation?
Tauber: I wouldn't call the NRSV liberal. I'd call it the most accurate, current, and readable translation. We are the official publisher (as licensed to us by the National Council of Churches in the U.S.) of this translation, and believe it is, by far, the best.
Chris: How did you come up with the "green letter" portions of the book? Who were the scholars and specialists that you worked with in determining which scripture verses were environmentally oriented?
Tauber: We worked with an editorial board made up of scholars, activists, ministers, and two of our own in-house editors. The list of folks is in the introduction (page I-9).
Chris: The blurbs are great, and extremely wide-ranging in terms of the denominational or confessional affiliation of their sources. So are the very excellent introductory pieces. How did you reconcile all of these people — liberals, Anglicans, evangelicals, rabbis, Orthodox — to working on this amazing book?
Tauber: Thanks, again. We didn't really have to do any reconciling. We found that everyone we identified and then approached about contributing was supportive and wanted to help. We are really grateful for that. I imagine if you gathered all these folks together in a forum setting, you might find some disagreements on various items, but I expect you'd get find more in common between them than not.
Chris: Why do you think the response to The Green Bible has been, for the most part, so overwhelmingly positive? What's the need that it's filling?
Tauber: I think that the various groups — progressive evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and even the non-religious, unchurched crowd — all recognize that sustainability is a serious concern today. People of faith are always looking for ways to integrate that faith with the real world in which they live. Most people of faith think their tradition, their practices, and their sacred texts have something to say about influencing and changing the negative parts of our world in the here and now. Given that, the sustainability issue is a critical one, and there is nothing like The Green Bible to serve as a resource. For the non-religious who are buying and using The Green Bible, I think they are green movement people who are curious and mostly very pleased to see that people of faith are taking the environmental crisis seriously.
Chris: Do you have a "target" audience? Are there people, or groups, who have responded with reservations or outright hostility? If so, why?
Tauber: Very few other Bible publishers (all the large Bible publishers are evangelical in persuasion) would be brave enough to do a Bible like this because of the perceived blowback they'd get from a small, but very vocal, minority. I am proud of our team and of all our contributors, and I'm proud that we did it now.
There has been some dissent. This resistance is reflected best by some bloggers. Mostly, however, the response has been really positive and embracing of the project, for which we are really thankful.
Chris: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his foreword to The Green Bible, writes that "we, who should have been responsible stewards preserving our vulnerable, fragile planet home, have been wantonly wasteful through our reckless consumerism, devouring irreplaceable natural resources. We need to be accountable to God's family. Once we start living in a way that is people-friendly to all of God's family, we will also be environment friendly." This, I think, sums up much of the gist of The Green Bible. Would you care to elaborate on this statement?
Tauber: I love these comments from the archbishop. (By the way, we are publishing the archbishop's own book next March.) I think what I love most about his comments is his focus on the poor and marginalized people of the world. Here in the U.S., and especially on the coasts in cities like San Francisco, Portland, New York, and D.C., one could not be faulted for thinking of sustainability as concern among the well-to-do people who need to start using different toothpaste, driving a different car, and printing fewer documents at work. As one of our authors (Van Jones, The Green Collar Economy) likes to say, sustainability is not really about light bulbs and bicycles. Tutu turns the rhetoric around — on its head, actually — and says if you focus on people first, and especially the marginalized oppressed of the world, you will see that the green movement is a necessity. So it becomes critical as a manifestation of what real, humble people are experiencing, and not as a cool organic lifestyle or smart business, primarily.
Chris: Lastly, how do you see people as being able to use The Green Bible in their own lives? What kinds of practices might it support, and what sorts of materials does it include to aid in those practices?
Tauber: I think it functions in the same ways that all good specialty Bibles do be they study Bibles or devotional Bibles. They help readers get more from the texts of Scripture via their resources and the way those resources are structured within the Bible itself. Specialty Bibles enhance the user experience for those already drawn to the text for meaning, inspiration, support, and further learning. Our Green Bible definitely fits with that description.