Archives For Ragan Sutterfield


“Called To Exercise Loving Care
and Cultivation”

A Review of
Farming as A Spiritual Discipline.
By Ragan Sutterfield.

Reviewed by Stan Wilson.

Farming as A Spiritual Discipline.
Ragan Sutterfield.

Booklet: Doulos Christou Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Press ]

Through Dec. 24, an ebook version of
FAASD is available for FREE to ERB email subscribers.

Farming as a Spiritual Discipline - Ragan SutterfieldRagan Sutterfield is a writer and a farmer in his home state of Arkansas. Currently he helps direct a farm at the Felder School, a public charter school for troubled youth, and he writes and lectures on the subjects of sustainable agriculture and the theology of creation. Farming as a Spiritual Discipline is a collection of essays born out of two lectures and a sermon given at Englewood Christian Church in November 2008.

One significant contribution Sutterfield has made in these essays is to help Christians recover spiritual disciplines as concrete, fleshy practices of the church. This is spiritual writing, which does not mean that Sutterfield is attempting to flee from the body, the earth, or the body of Christ like so many other writings about spirituality. It means that he is looking for ways in which the same Spirit who got involved with the creation is still working among us humans in the created order.

Sutterfield has written a balanced set of essays that flow well between concrete proposals for action and thoughtful contemplative reflections for the church.

Among the concrete proposals, Sutterfield wants us (the church) to act by finding small plots of land, building up the soil on them, and growing food together. He wants us to find and support local farmers. He wants us to begin producing rather than consuming, to raise chickens in our backyards, and grow tomatoes wherever we can.
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We have a special Advent gift for our readers who receive the ERB through email subscription: your choice of a free e-book from Doulos Christou Press.

Farming as a Spiritual Discipline - Ragan Sutterfield Water, Faith and Wood - Chris Smith Thomas Aquinas - Prayer and Contemplation
  • Farming as a Spiritual Discipline
    – Ragan Sutterfield
    (Limited Availability)
  • Water, Faith and Wood: Stories of the Early Church’s Witness for Today – (ERB Editor) Chris Smith
  • On Prayer and the Contemplative Life – Thomas Aquinas

If you are an email subscriber, send us an email from the address you use to subscribe and tell us which e-book you want:

EDITOR [ a t ] e n g l e w o o d r e v i e w [ d o t ] o r g

If you are not yet subscribed, it is not too late to subscribe and get your FREE e-book.  CLICK HERE to subscribe.  You must click the link in the confirmation email in order to activate your subscription, and then you may request your free e-book according to the above instructions.

This offer will end at 11:59PM EST on Thursday December 24.  Friday December 31 (deadline extended!)



Ragan Sutterfield’s FARMING AS A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE is now available from Doulos Christou Press.

Read an excerpt from FARMING

Order directly from Doulos Christou Press and save!
$5 each (plus $2.95 S/H)

Retail price is $7.95!


“Wonder, Gratitude and Guilt”

A Review of
The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
by Alain de Botton.

 Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.


The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
Alain de Botton.
Hardback: Pantheon, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The odd thing about the modern world is how little of it we think about.  We wake up under sheets manufactured in some unknown place like Mauritius, we drink coffee shipped from Latin America or Africa or Asia, we sit down to work using hundreds of bits of software and hardware that someone, somewhere created, marketed, sold, transported, bought, placed, and sold again.  And yet we think very little about who created these things and all of the people and places involved in bringing them to us.

Our own work is often a part of this same vast system in which we play one small part in a process that is far bigger than any one of us.  Unlike the workers of generation ago we usually never meet the people who made what we sell or buy what we made.  This reality has created an extremely efficient economy, creating wealth and commerce on levels never seen before, but at the same time our work has increasingly become disconnected from the very realities and interactions that make work meaningful and fulfilling.

In his new book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Alain de Botton delves deeply into the realities of modern labor and the complex and often alienating economy we find ourselves in.  His approach is one of unveiling the hidden undercurrents of our society and that exploration works not unlike Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in the way in which it opens up the mind to the deeper realities of our everyday lives.  The book is accompanied with excellent photographs throughout by Richard Baker that help to punctuate and illustrate the exploration.

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“Freshness: An Easily-manipulated
and Always-Changing Concept?”

A Review of
A Perishible History.

by Susanne Freidberg.

 Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.


A Perishible History.

by Susanne Freidberg.
Hardcover: Belknap Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $23 ] [ Amazon ]


Fresh food is in.  With Michelle Obama’s organic garden on the White House Lawn, Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food on the New York Times Best Seller Lists, and a major documentary Food, Inc making its way across the country this weekend, it is easy to feel like the moment for a new food revolution has arrived at last.  And in many ways it has—what has been a rising protest against the culture of fast food and TV dinners seems to be coming to a head, even as global corporations try to rebrand their genetically modified seeds as “sustainability solutions” for “local food systems” to fit in with the new sentiments.


Of course things are never as simple as they appear, and the calls by people like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan to eat local, sustainably produced food are wrought with complexities.  Susanne Freidberg’s Fresh: A Perishable History goes a long way in illustrating those complexities and the many ways in which the movement toward local, sustainably produced food is tied up in much of the same global food system as the “corporate” food it intended to oppose.

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We are pleased to present an audio recording of Ragan Sutterfield’s talk, “Farming as a Spiritual Discipline”, given at the “Godspeed the Plough” conference last November.

The recording of this talk is split into three parts.  We featured the first part two weeks ago and the second part last week (check them out, if you missed them).  Today, we bring you the third and final installment of this talk.

Ragan Sutterfield is a farmer and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas, who has written for a number of diverse publications including Paste, Gourmet, Men’s Journal and The Christian Century.



We are pleased to present an audio recording of Ragan Sutterfield’s talk, “Farming as a Spiritual Discipline”, given at the “Godspeed the Plough” conference last November.

The recording of this talk is split into three parts.  We featured the first part last week (check it out, if you missed it) and will upload the final part next Tuesday.

Ragan Sutterfield is a farmer and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas, who has written for a number of diverse publications including Paste, Gourmet, Men’s Journal and .



Starting this week, we will be giving away a book from Doulos Christou Press via every Thursday at 11AM (ET) this summer.

Here are the contest rules:

  1. You must follow us on Twitter @ERBks
  2. At 11AM (ET) each Thursday,  I’ll announce the start of the contest, with a question to which you must reply
  3. The seventh person to reply to our question will win that week’s book!

The book that we are giving away this week is Liberty Hyde Bailey’s THE HOLY EARTH, which has a foreword by Ragan Sutterfield (see below).


We are pleased to present an audio recording of Ragan Sutterfield’s talk, “Farming as a Spiritual Discipline”, given at the “Godspeed the Plough” conference last November.

The recording of this talk is split into three parts and we will upload one part a week each Tuesday for the next three weeks.

Ragan Sutterfield is a farmer and writer from Little Rock, Arkansas, who has written for a number of diverse publications including Paste, Gourmet, Men’s Journal and .



Ragan Sutterfield on the “Social Value of Fruit Trees”

Imagine what it would be like to go to a long-neglected neighborhood where fresh fruits and vegetables are all but absent and find apple, pear, peach, pecan, and walnut trees everywhere. The amount of food these trees would produce would be immense—around 5 or more bushels from one apple tree. Imagine the productive power of a once empty lot with five mature trees!

Beyond the ecological qualities of trees and the food they produce, there is also a social value that fruit trees bring. As Liberty Hyde Bailey writes in his excellent pamphlet, The Apple Tree, “Life does not seem regular and established when there is no apple-tree in the yard and about the buildings, no orchards blooming in the May and laden in the September, no baskets heaped with the crisp smooth fruits; without all of these I am a foreigner, sojourning in a strange land.” Fruit and nut trees create a certain kind of domestication. In neighborhoods that have been blighted these trees could be powerful symbols of growth and vitality.

Read the full article:

The Apple Tree.
Liberty Hyde Bailey.

Pamphlet: Doulos Christou Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $5 ]

A Review of Bas Van Fraassen’s

What does The Haywain represent? Or Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie? How about Rothko’s Red on Maroon? In the case of the Constable painting, the answer seems straightforward, and we can even visit the site of the scene he sketched (more or less). Mondrian, rejecting the distinction between abstract and representational art, himself suggested that his work represented structure. But with Rothko, talk of representation seems inappropriate.

What about scientific theories? Certainly they’re not easily comparable to a Rothko, but are they more like The Haywain or Broadway Boogie Woogie? The notion of representation has recently risen to prominence in the philosophy of science, with arguments and examples imported from the world of art.

Bas van Fraassen has played a leading role in these discussions, grappling with representation and its mechanism from the perspective of the empiricist stance he first took in his now-classic text, The Scientific Image. Densely argued, erudite and rich in examples from both art and science, his latest book expands on his John Locke Lectures, given at Oxford in 2001, to cover not just representation, but also measurement and models, structuralism and, finally, the distinction between appearance and reality.

Read the full review:

Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective
Bas C. van Fraassen

Hardcover, Oxford UP, 2008
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The Christian Century reviews
Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Citizens
In Collateral Damage, Chris Hedges (author of War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning) and Laila Al-Arian interview 50 American veterans of the war in Iraq. Many talk freely about the atrocities against innocent civilians being carried out by Americans in Iraq. For some interviewees, this openness seems to be a way of dealing with their own sense of culpability and guilt.
One of the problems is that the rules of engagement aren’t always clear—or they don’t work amid chaos. Commanders seem to deliberately disregard the Geneva Conventions. One soldier tells the authors that the real rule of engagement is to “cover your own butt.” In other words, shoot first rather than be shot, then sort out the mess later. The main mission is to get out of there alive.

Many American soldiers and Marines also take with them a cultural or racial bias. It is common for Americans in combat to refer to Iraqis as “f—ing hajis.” (Among Muslims, “haji” is an honorary term for those who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca.) Iraqis sometimes are even called “camel jockeys” or “sand niggers.”

Read the full review:

Collateral Damage:
America’s War Against Iraqi Citizens
Christopher Hedges and Laila Al-Arian

Hardcover: Nation Books, 2008.
Buy Now: [ Doulos Christou Books $18 ] [ Amazon ]

Justice: Rights and Wrongs by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a gifted moral philosopher and among the most eminent Christian scholars in any discipline. His project in Justice: Rights and Wrongs is to ground—to “account for,” as he puts it—the language, morality, and reality of human rights and for the “deep structure of the moral order.” The book is, in some ways, a work of righteous anger—an “attempt to speak up for the wronged of the world”—but it is unfailingly warm, inviting, and humane. The exposition is unapologetically theistic, but never awkwardly apologetical. Even those who are not trained philosophers, and who might not appreciate the significance of each move executed or every distinction drawn, can appreciate his defense of “our moral subculture of rights.”

“There are,” Wolterstorff insists, “natural human rights,” and “human beings, all of them, are irreducibly precious.” This is true, but how is it true? What makes it true? Wolterstorff concludes that “it is impossible to develop a secular account of human dignity adequate for grounding human rights” and challenges his readers to confront squarely the “unsettling question”—the challenge issued by Nietzsche—that this failure raises. In the end, Wolterstorff proposes that “being loved by God” alone “gives a human being great worth.”

In the first part of his book , Wolterstorff presents and defends his basic thesis that the “inherent rights” of human beings—not right order, not social utility, not preference-satisfaction—are at the root of justice. His aim is to engage and displace a particular narrative—a “story of decline”—in which “the dominance in ancient and earlier medieval times of the concept of the right and the conception of justice as right order” somehow slides down to the “dominance in modern times of the concept of rights and the conception of justice as founded in natural rights.”

Read the full review:

Justice: Rights and Wrongs
Nicholas Wolterstorff

Hardcover: Princeton UP, 2008.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]