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For the past 30 years, Conlon, a Roman Catholic priest, has been a thought-leader in the drive to broaden traditional understandings of Christian ethics to include stewardship of the earth’s resources, egalitarian political mores, and greater lay participation in church life. In 1996 Conlon founded the Sophia Center in Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names University in Oakland, CA. Sometimes referred to as a “training camp for mystics,” the ecumenical program, which Jim directed until his retirement last year, is a hotbed for cutting-edge spirituality and ecumenism.

In Becoming Planetary People, Conlon recounts his days spent as a community organizer and civil rights activist in Chicago with Saul Alinsky in the 1960s—similar work to that which sparked the political career of Barack Obama. Conlon’s life was later transformed when he read the work of and later collaborated with fellow Catholic priest Thomas Berry in the 1970s and 80s. Berry was one of the first Catholics to suggest that the rise of secularism and the waning of religion was not a fact to be warred against by people of faith, but probed—even embraced. He spoke of the need for Christians and Jews to invent a “new story” of their origins that incorporates the Big Bang and evolution into their religious self-understanding.

My goal with this book,” says Conlon, “is to create a new kind of catechism. We are at a jumping off point. The challenge before us is to build bridges between the old and the new. Like Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages, we face the test of bringing the ideas of a new era of science and culture to bear on the lasting truths of our Christian faith.
— Jim Conlon

While at the Sophia Center, Conlon brought under one roof a great number of creative people, including cosmologists, historians, earth scientists, biblical scholars, artists, psychologists, dancers, musicians, sociologists, cultural workers, activists, and poets. Together they explored and celebrated the mysteries of life on earth. Says Conlon, “Part of the message of my new book is to encourage people to break down the walls of specialization that divide us. When people share their creativity across disciplines, that’s when real spiritual development happens and creative solutions to the problems that plague our planet emerge.”

Accompanying the book is a series of videos that Jim has produced to help orient newcomers to the messages and values of eco-spirituality. He says, “Throughout history, women and men of great spirituality have discovered that authentic spiritual experience inevitably leads to a life of concern and involvement in the social and ecological issues of the day. My goal is to foster the next generation of earth-activists.”

Jim Conlon received a degree in chemistry from Assumption University of Windsor, and later in theology from the University of Western Ontario, and a PhD from Union Institute and Graduate School. Deeply moved by the impact of the Vatican Council II, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War, Jim moved from pastoral work to the streets. Today he is one of the leading teachers of the new narrative of the cosmos. He lives in Berkeley, CA.

About the book

On-sale: May 24, 2016

Print ISBN: 978-0-9964387-0-4, price: $14.95
Format: Trade paperback original, pages: 152
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9964387-1-1, price: $1.99
Media contact: John Tintera ▪ (908) 265-6148 ▪ john@txt.buz