What’cha Reading: Book 1, Part 2

unfettered-hopeI recently started a new blog series called Whatcha Reading. My inaugural post was part 1 of a review of a book called Unfettered Hope by theologian Marva Dawn. Due to the density of this book, I decided to break it up into two posts. Here is part 2.

So What?

There are many questions that have been haunting me since reading this book. I’ll mention only a couple.

First, how do I relate to technology? More specifically, am I aware of the ways technology may be using me instead of the other way around? For example, despite the ways technology connects me with others, am I aware of how technology (like my phone) pulls me away from relationships that are right in front of me? Since Dawn wrote this book before Facebook and the smartphone, cell-phone-addictionI can only imagine how much more relevant these questions are today when phenomena like nomophobia and FOMO are common experiences. Here are some diagnostic questions that have helped me think through the question of how I relate to technology. Because my phone is the most powerful piece of technology in my life, these questions tend to be phone-specific:

  • How many collective minutes per day do I spend staring at my smartphone (news, sports, facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs, snapchat, email, text-messaging, etc.)? How many minutes per day do I spend on my knees in prayer or reading the Bible?
  • Are people in my life often telling me to put my phone down because it’s keeping me from being present to the relationships or tasks right in front of me?
  • Is my phone the first thing I give my attention to in the morning and the last thing I give my attention to at night?
  • If I go somewhere without my phone, does it feel like I’ve lost a part of myself?
  • Do I regularly fast from my phone? What are some daily or weekly habits I could adopt that would create “technology-free” spaces in my life?

Second, what matters most to me? And is my answer to this question the determining force giving shape and meaning to my relationships, habits, and schedule? If Dawn’s right that what should matter most for Christians is love of God and love of neighbor (and I think she’s right), my life should be increasingly reoriented around these twin-commands.

love god love peopleIf you’re like me, the idea of “reorienting” anything in life sounds daunting (my wife and I are currently juggling two children who are two and under – we barely have time to change all the diapers that need changing, let alone relationships, habits, and schedules!). That being said, since reading this book I haven’t been able to stop wondering what it might look like to take tangible, realistic steps toward loving God and neighbor more deeply. Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself lately.

  • Am I intentionally taking time every day simply to talk and listen to God (could be in the shower, car, bed, etc.)?
  • Is there an activity that makes me more aware of God’s presence and love or that helps me see and experience the beauty of God? If so, make a weekly or daily (if possible) habit of doing that thing.
  • Identify someone in your life who seems to love God and others well. Then ask them how they think a person can grow in love of God and neighbor.
  • Are there people in your life whom you pray for every day by name?

Favorite Quotes:

“Because our society has been so good at inventing diversions, because the wired world is inundated with them, the media have to bluff us into the fettered thinking that consumption is our absolute duty – for if we do not consume, the pace of the economy will slow down, money will not circulate, and people will be forced out of work. Consequently, we are also bombarded with the bluff that we should follow the opinions and styles propagated by the advertising media. Thus we are always directed toward enslavement by self-concern and the various idolatries of possessions and the “Mammon” that purchases them” (19).

“How has the world become so unbalanced that part of the world struggles to cope with all the stuff it possesses while the larger part of the world scrambles to find enough” (41)?

“Can we learn in our churches that worship is for God and not to please our own tastes or express ourselves? Can we learn to be genuine communities in our churches so that we are willing to forego our musical preferences at times for the sake of our brothers and sisters in faith” (82)?

“…my concern centers on the large proportion of congregations that have thrown out everything that can be learned from historic worship and music and liturgies and leadership in order to “attract” the unbelievers. In the process, they tend to turn the practice of engaging in worship for the sake of our focal concern to love God into the device, or means, that will produce the commodity of greater numbers. But attracting neighbors is not loving them” (93).

“Do we blame liturgies or worship styles for not being user-friendly when we ourselves are inhospitable? … If I came to your congregation, would someone invite me to sit with her” (95).

“Many church budgets do not include even a line item for caring for the poor” (103).

“Why do churches measure success by how many souls ‘they’ have added in the past year? Could we look instead at how deeply we have nourished discipleship, how profoundly we have helped people learn to live according to their focal concerns of loving God and their neighbors throughout the world? The device paradigm has ruined our ability to think of quality instead of quantity… Why do I let society’s numbers game so affect my attitudes? I know: I lose sight of my focal concerns” (103).

“…many U.S churches become caught in a nasty spiral of needing to produce the commodities of plenty of programs in order to attract enough people to generate the income necessary to keep offering the programs. At root is the device paradigm and the undoubtedly culture-driven beginning of the attitude that delivering programs is what churches are for” (104).

“I am totally convinced that the main reason that churches fail to live by their focal concerns is because their members are not deeply committed to each other in genuine communities formed by the biblical metanarrative” (147).

“To call a local church into the mission of Jesus is to call its members into the same two behaviors. First we cry. Then we die. We let our hearts be broken with the things that break the heart of God. Then we die to the comfortable patterns of life that insulate us emotionally and geographically from those for whom Christ died” (Ben Johnson and Glenn McDonald, quoted on 158).

“…the Christian practice of faithfulness in marriage is a gift of the larger society – not only because of the stability it provides the spouses and any children the marriage might create, but also because it is another protest against the ‘instant gratification’ ethos of our commodified culture. People who choose deliberately not to participate in our society’s consumption of genital excesses (in the flesh as well as in the media) have habits of restraint and moral carefulness that affect many other dimensions of life” (167). ‘

“…the solution to the immense bodily needs of a great proportion of the world is not merely to give away more of our money, but rather totally to de-sacralize Mammon in our own lives so that it doesn’t have such a hold on us” (169).

“It is that willingness to suffer that we seem to lack these days, and therefore the abhorrent economic injustices of our world remain” (170).

Michael Carlson
Pastor / Chrio Church

This entry was posted in Michael's Blog, Theology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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