Patrick T. McCORMICK.  God’s Beauty:  A Call to Justice. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2012.  pp.154.  $19.95  pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-8062-9.  Reviewed by Mary-Paula CANCIENNE, Georgian Court University, Lakewood, NJ  08701

God's Beauty: A Call to Justice, by Patrick T. McCormick, offers a liberating approach to how we experience and understand our call to act with justice, but why liberating?

Instead of championing the cause of justice because we have a duty or an obligation to do good in the world, McCormick argues forcefully and creatively that beauty is a call to act with justice and that justice, in fact, includes a right to beauty.
Beauty, according to McCormick, "generates something of a vocation to a larger, more generous —or at least less self-interested—self.  By nurturing our souls with a deep contemplative rest and summoning us to marvel joyfully at the wonder of the other, and of all creation, beauty can open our hearts to creature, neighbor, and stranger alike”(ix). McCormick’s text, richly immersed in Scripture, including the Genesis story of creation, is refreshing and includes challenging twists, good research, footnotes, and cross-discipline perspectives. 

McCormick explores beauty’s analogies and depths, beyond prettiness.  For instance, the “beauty of creation is its justice, and the harmony, symmetry, and clarity of this symphonic work of beauty is to be found in the rightly ordered relationships (justice) that tie all creation to one another and to their Creator”(12).  Within this dynamic, the story of a lonely human becomes a story of a community who is meant to care for others, but only when the first human recognizes in the second that they are partners.   

The steps of recognition, respect, and response are fundamental to McCormick.Recognition of beauty allows its power to take hold of us; that is, we are "drawn in by the indwelling lure of beauty that is the presence of God in the universe"(146).  Sensitivity and awareness of such also makes us aware of when and where the beauty of justice is missing or distorted.  Respect means you recognize the beauty inherent in the other, like those ravaged by slavery.  Respect also means asking questions about why our system of justice has so many young black American males incarcerated.  McCormick takes beauty to the raw, stripping it of its layers of saccharine.

Although the text is only four chapters, with a brief introduction, and a short index, its length is deceiving as it delivers a potent punch, challenging readers to think differently about beauty and justice, in a way that provides sustenance for the work of justice.  His final chapter, “Tending Eden's Beauty: The Human Calling to Care for Creation,” is exceptionally well crafted.  Here, he confronts Lynn White’s accusation against Christianity for its objectifying attitude toward the material world, by delving more deeply into the tradition with keen eyes and recovering a richness not often illuminated, while simultaneously connecting his own interpretations with the ideas of others as in the spirit of Aldo Leopold and his land aesthetic.

This text is well suited for upper level students, graduate students, and those interested in having their own call to justice nurtured … through the experience and summoning of beauty.  Recently a very good student described her experience of the text.  She claimed that her initial experience was a bit like being “unhinged,” and then it moved to “wow.”