Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Psychology of Stuff (from's Thomas Rogers posted an interview with Randy O. Frost, one of the authors of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Frost, while providing a compassionate exposé of the beauty and neuroses of compulsive hoarders, strikes on an attitude in American culture that seems much more pervasive.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (James K. A. Smith)

I've just read through the first 182 pages of the 230 pages in James K. A. Smith's 2009 Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. This pages are well worth the read, and I'm looking forward to finishing the last chapter and a half over the weekend. Very well done.

In Desiring the Kingdom Smith (who also coordinates the Church and Pomo blog) puts the Body back into the Church, or, perhaps better put, put the Church back into embodied experience. The years following the Reformation and the Enlightenment witnessed a seismic fracture in the life and practice of Christians. Somewhere (Scholasticism? Protestant Orthodoxy? Pietism?) the Church entered in on a long out-of-body experience; faith became about the mind's beliefs rather than a full-bodied discipleship after Jesus. Desiring the Kingdom first problematizes this breakage and then proposes practices that can re-anchor faith in the body.

Toward the end of the Introduction, Smith briefly summarizes the project of Desiring the Kingdom:
Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather it's a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly--who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. We are to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship--through affective impact, over time, of sights and smell in water and wine. (32-33)
I like reading Smith. Desiring the Kingdom is approachable; it's funny. Smith sneaks in jabs and oneliners--referencing Old Navy fashion faux-pas and R.E.M. lyrics. Excurses on 1990s films (Moulin Rouge being the best) and the Catholic modern novel (I'm convince to pick up a copy of Walker Percy's Love In the Ruins) give the book a pleasant topography.

Perhaps more importantly than style, Smith parallels the way embodied liturgy ("faith as a form of life," 134) shapes Christian desire within the church with the way embodied practices without the church (what we might call secular liturgies) shape desire. The mall, the cinema, the university--what is the vision of the kingdom (the good life) that these want us to want?

Smith maintains that Desiring the Kingdom can be understood as a "theology of culture" (ecclesial and otherwise) that
-Understands human persons as embodied actors rather than merely thinking things
-Prioritizes practices rather than ideas as the site of challenge and resistance.
-Looks at cultural practices and institutions through the lens of worship or liturgy.
-Retains a robust sense of antithesis without being simply "anti-cultural." (35)
In short, the last time I was this excited about a book was when I read Nathan Kerr's Christ, History, and Apocalyptic (with Charles Taylor's A Secular Age previous to that, itself preceded by Graham Ward's Cities of God). Desiring the Kingdom is a book I plan read and re-read. Very well done.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mother's Day Movement

via Tall Skinny Kiwi and The Work of the People

A radical interpretation (in other words, getting at the root) of Mother's Day and its origins. This is good stuff.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith

This book from the Anabaptist Network looks to be well worth a read (if only Amazon would ship me one by mistake . . .).

A review by Alan Kreider over at Jesus Radicals sums up the force of the book:
The book is both modest in tone (we don’t have all the answers; we need other Christian traditions) and bold in content. The heart of book is an exposition of the “bare essentials” of Anabaptism, the seven core convictions that have emerged from lengthy conversations among members of the Anabaptist Network. I reproduce them below in a shortened form because they serve as a taster for the book. If you resonate with these convictions and are interested in a clear, earthy, undefensive discussion of them, and think that Anabaptism might have something to contribute to followers of Jesus today,The Naked Anabaptist could be an important book.

The Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network (UK)

  1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord.
  2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation.
  3. Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian.
  4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness.
  5. Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship.
  6. Spirituality and economics are inter-connected.
  7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel.
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