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All My Bones Shake

Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice

Foreword Review — Sept / Oct 2009

Our world is dying. Unsustainable environmental practices ruin natural resources. Our social systems destroy our souls. The rich and powerful leave the poor and underprivileged in pain. For these reasons and more, author Robert Jensen argues, our society must fundamentally change.

In All My Bones Shake, Jensen shares the spiritual perspective he applies to his progressive, and potentially controversial, social philosophies. Through his story, Jensen argues for a worldview that embraces a socially liberal, environmentally sustainable life and culture. While Jensen’s definition of God, and of being a Christian, differs from what traditional faith systems hold, he believes his viewpoint offers a more complete and intellectually honest fulfillment of the classic Christian command to love God with all one’s heart, mind, and soul. He devotes entire sections to discussions on what it means to love God in each of these ways.

According to Jensen, America’s capitalist, patriarchal, racist, imperialistic, and environmentally damaging culture is immoral and unsustainable. He envisions a society in which religion and science, working together, lead people past current social systems. He contends that one can be uplifted by religion, without fully accepting the tenets of traditional faith systems. True, much harm has been done in the name of fundamentalist religion, which he believes is grounded on ancient worldviews, irrelevant practices, and unscientific teaching.

Nevertheless, religious congregations offer community and a greater sense of purpose. On the other hand, Jensen argues, modern science also holds damaging fundamentalist beliefs. Lacking a humility that acknowledges our human limitations, it, too, has wrecked havoc on our culture and environment. Jensen believes that by accepting that neither science nor religion has all the answers, these communities can begin working together. In this way, Jensen contends, our society can forge new ways to do business, care for the environment, and love one another.

Jensen, who teaches media law, ethics, and politics at the University of Texas, explored similar themes in his other books, which include Getting Off; The Heart of Whiteness, Citizens of the Empire, and Writing Dissent. Jensen makes bold, controversial statements. He is outspoken and highly critical of our culture and its basis in capitalism. Some perspectives may strike some readers as boarding on offensive. Yet, Jenson’s tone remains gentle, almost loving toward America and other Western cultures. Words that in the mouths of others might be inflammatory, from him are tempered by his desire for a better world. Many people will disagree, perhaps vehemently, with the views expressed in this book, but they represent those of an honest heart grappling with issues we all struggle to understand.

Diane Gardner