Let’s Take Seth Godin to Church

 

I’m not going to lie. My first reaction when I saw the cover of this book? 

No! Of course you’re not indispensable. What use could this crap possibly be to the Church, or to me – simultaneously a pastor and a pastor-in-training.

Then, however, I read the book.

Seth Godin, bald marketing extraordinaire, is convinced that a paradigm shift has taken place. I’ll quote from his annotated table of contents (which, by the way, I wish all books had):

We have gone from two teams (management and labor) to a third team, the linchpins. These are people who own their own means of production, who can make a difference, lead us, and connect us. The death of the factory means that the entire system we have built our lives around is now upside down. This is either a huge opportunity or a giant threat. Revolutions are frightening because the new benefits sometimes lag behind the old pain. This time, the opportunity is to bring your best self to the marketplace and be rewarded for it (vii).

For the past few generations, we’ve grown used to the implicit deal: If you go to school, learn how to follow instructions, work hard, and show up on time, we’ll take care of you.

But, at least in many sectors, the bargain has fallen apart.

So, Godin advises us to become linchpins in whatever industry we find ourselves. We must treat our work as art, and combine a variety of skills to address complex situations.

We must be able to figure out what to do next, without it being spelled out for us in an instruction manual.

OK, great. But what does this have to do with CHURCH?

I believe pastors are uniquely situated to be linchpins.

They are the leaders of a largely volunteer organization. And, Pastoral Epistles notwithstanding, there is no instruction manual (God forbid we treat the Bible like an instruction manual!).

So they must treat their work as art. If they just phone it in and serve their time, they’ll be left with only the people who phone it in and serve their time as church members!

I believe Christians are uniquely situated to be linchpins in their workplaces.

I plan to write more about this in future posts, but it’s ridiculous how much of the self-help advice out there these days aligns with the things Christians should be the very best at!

A bunch of Godin’s advice centers around treating other people as full human beings, and on giving freely without the expectation of debt or compensation (See chapters “The Powerful Culture of Gifts” and “The Culture of Connection”).

I don’t know about you, but that sounds familiar.

As pastors focus on leading by example – by being linchpins themselves – they could start explicit conversations about the connections between worship on Sunday and work (which should also be worship) on the other six days.

Finally, I believe that each church is uniquely situated to be a linchpin in its community.

What if churches were known for showing artful, personal, and prodigal love to their communities, without expectation of increased attendance on a Sunday morning?

What if we were seeker-sensitive, without selling out to the “latest” corporate and marketing strategies (which, often enough, rely upon the old paradigm)?

What if, especially in North America, we stopped complaining about “persecution,” and started creatively taking advantage of the situations in which we find ourselves?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I’m convinced they’re worth asking!

Godin is convinced that people are starving for personal connection in a world filled with faceless factories and multinational corporations.
I’m convinced that the Church – the Body of Christ – has just the food to feed those starving.

~Josh (@joshuapsteele)

 

What are you afraid of?

I’m scared. Are you?

Specifically, as I wrote in my journal this very morning:

I’m scared – I’m scared of wasting my life, I’m scared of not being worth anything outside of the classroom.

Fear drives so many aspects of our lives – from how we dress, to how we raise our children, to how we elect our leaders. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, fear can play a large role in what/whom we worship.

For example, perhaps we worship God out of a fear of going to hell, or a fear of our inherited religion being wrong. We secretly worry that, like Donald Miller’s father accuses him in the movie Blue Like Jazz, we “only believe that stuff ‘cuz [we]’re afraid to hang out with people that don’t.”

Or perhaps we don’t worship God – and instead worship a god of our choice/invention – because we’re afraid of the implications of God’s existence.

Now, there is, I’m persuaded, a holy fear. A salutary reverence and awe in the face of the divine.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here, I’m talking about the paralyzing fear – the cold sweat, the white knuckles, the tension headaches.

I’m talking about the same kind of fear as Seth Godin:

The power of fear

Fear will push you to avert your eyes.

Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.

It will create a buzz that makes it impossible to meditate…

or it will create a fog that makes it so you can do nothing but meditate.

Fear seduces us into losing our temper.

and fear belittles us into accepting unfairness.

Fear doesn’t like strangers, people who don’t look or act like us, and most of all, the unknown.

It causes us to carelessly make typos, or obsessively look for them.

Fear pushes us to fit in, so we won’t be noticed, but it also pushes us to rebel and to not be trustworthy, so we won’t be on the hook to produce.

It is subtle enough to trick us into thinking it isn’t pulling the strings, that it doesn’t exist, that it’s not the cause of, “I don’t feel like it.”

When in doubt, look for the fear.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s knowing how to deal with fear. And, for me, the first step toward dealing with my fears is frankly admitting them. 

  • I’m scared, because I don’t know what’s next after I graduate from Beeson in December.
  • I’m scared, because the thing I’ve felt called to for the longest time – getting a PhD in systematic theology – seems like an impractical pipe dream.
  • I’m scared, because I don’t know if I’ll get into a PhD program. And, if I don’t, I don’t know how I’ll react to not being able to rely upon good grades for self-worth.

Thankfully, none of these fears prevent me from being faithful with the day I’ve been given – today. The greatest failure would be to use fears of the future as an excuse for present faithlessness.

So, what are you afraid of? How are you dealing with those fears?

Have you admitted them to anyone? If not, I challenge you to do so today.

If you’ve got no one, not even a journal, to listen to your admission, I’m all ears, for what it’s worth.

~Josh (@joshuapsteele)

Kettlebell Swings: Back Balm for the Sedentary [Seminarian]

I love books. Books, however, do not like my back.

Can you relate?

Maybe it’s not sitting around reading books all day, but I imagine plenty of you out there suffer from back pain/fatigue.

Let me share a time-saving solution I’ve recently found: two-handed kettlebell swings.

Our small kettlebell family
Our small kettlebell family

How can these cannonballs with handles help your back?

Well, the kettlebell swing is one of the many exercises out there that activates your posterior chain – the muscles along the back of your body.

However, as BreakingMuscle.com clarifies:

for those with lower back issues traditional posterior chain exercises such as deadlifts, good mornings, etc. may exacerbate the condition, while swings may not. For those looking to strengthen the lower back and unable to use these traditional exercises the swing may be just the thing they’re looking for

Thanks to the full-body movement of the swing, you really don’t need to use a lot of weight to feel a difference. For example, I’ve been squatting 225 lbs. in maintenance mode recently, and after the first day of kettlebell swings with a 35 lb. kettlebell, my glutes and hamstrings were more sore than they’d been in months!

I’ve been very impressed with the results of a basic kettlebell workout, and it will enable me to get exercise at home during the semester, when going to the gym is more of a stretch.

Would you like to give kettlebell swings a try?

First, learn the proper form and then look for a kettlebell to give it a try.

For the CliffsNotes version, here’s the Tim Ferriss blogpost on the matter. For a more in-depth approach, BreakingMuscle.com, in addition to their article on why the kettlebell swing is such a great exercise, has this piece on how to do the perfect kettlebell swing.

If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a helpful instructional video from Eric Moss:

What weight should you start with? I began with a 35 lb. (16 kg.). Kettlebells USA has one of the best guides on choosing a starting weight, based upon your gender and current fitness level.

What brand of kettlebell should you purchase? I went with Sweethome’s budget pick: the CAP Cast Iron Competition Weight Kettlebell. But, the in-depth review of different brands by Mark Bixby at Sweethome can’t be beat. I like the CAP, but I now agree with his assessment that the grip tears up your hands a bit on one-handed excercises.

Give two-handed kettlebell swings a try! Your back and body will thank you (although, full disclosure, you’ll be sore after the first time).

If you have any comments or questions about kettlebell swings or other methods of easing back pain in the midst of a sedentary lifestyle, please leave them below!

~Josh

The Groom’s Big Day

READINGS

  1. Ephesians 5:21-33 – Wives and Husbands
  2. Psalm 67 – May God Be Gracious to Us and Bless Us
  3. Revelation 19:6-10 – The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  4. Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Ten Virgins

HOMILY

What makes a great wedding?

Is it the fragrance and color of the flower arrangements? The particular grandeur of the venue?

Is it the number and camaraderie of the guests? Or the quality and sound of the music?

Is it the menu at the reception? Or perhaps the selection at the (hopefully open) bar?

I hope it’s not the quality of the sermon!

But, really, what makes a wedding great?

Surely (gestures toward bride and groom) these two have something to do with it.

Is it, perhaps, their physical appearance? His rugged handsomeness? Her stunning beauty?

What about their relationship? Is the wedding great because of the intensity of their love for one another? Their glorious dreams for the future? The optimism of this moment between them?

What is it that makes a wedding great?

I guess, if most of us had to pick, we’d say that a wedding is great if the bride is happy. Right? I mean, even if the weather stinks, the singers are off-key, and the sermon is just absolutely awful – if the bride is happy, everything is OK. Right?

Which is a great reminder that weddings are about people, not performances.

However, I’m here today to tell you all that, sure, you can have a good wedding if the bride is happy.

But, if you want a really great wedding – if you want a really great marriage – then it’s really all about the groom.

Great weddings, might I even say heavenly weddings, are all about the groom.

Now, either you’re not listening or I’ve probably upset you!

Really? Has the preacher lost his mind? Is he some sort of chauvinist pig?

This is the bride’s big day! That’s why her outfit is more impressive! That’s why we all stand when the bride walks down the aisle!

Are we really going to take this moment away from her and say that it’s all about this handsome chump here?

Well, no.

Heavenly weddings are all about the groom, but you (gestures to the groom) better not use this sermon as an excuse for anything resembling male chauvinism!

Because, for one thing, I’m an egalitarian!

And, for another, I’m not talking about you (gestures to groom), her (to bride) bridegroom, but rather to Christ, our (gestures to everyone) bridegroom.

Great weddings, and great marriages, are all about Christ, our Bridegroom.

Take a glance at the Bible readings on your order of service everyone.

Did you catch the names on the wedding invite in Revelation 19? We’re not invited there to this wedding, of this woman to this man, but the wedding of the Church to Christ himself!

This is the same marriage Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5. In both passages, the Groom, Christ, takes center stage.

You see, in the ancient Jewish culture out of which the Bible came, weddings were done a bit differently.

Modern weddings often center around the arrival of the bride to her groom, but these ancient Jewish weddings really hinged on the arrival of the groom to his bride.

First, what would happen is the groom would pay the bride’s father her bride price.

After this, the couple was betrothed – legally joined together, although not physically, for they still were not fully married.

Instead, they went their separate ways. He went to prepare their future living quarters as an addition to his father’s household. She went back to her father’s household to prepare herself – including the preparation of her beautiful wedding dress.

After the groom had completed their home, he would gather his friends to go and get his bride. She and her companions would have a ballpark idea of when he would come, but the exact hour was a surprise. So, the bridal party had to stay ready.

This is the scene we read in Matthew 25, where things went wrong. Five members of the bridal party were ready for the bridegroom to arrive, but the other five were not ready to join the evening’s lamp-lit procession.

Ideally, the bride and all her friends and family would be awake and ready to join the groom on the journey back to his father’s household and their new living quarters. Once there, the real party began!

Which, by the way, if things have sounded real intense up to this point, let me assure you: these people knew how to party! The wedding celebration would go on for days and days, launching the couple into their new life together.

Now, why in the world am I telling you all this? I mean, first I steal the bride’s thunder, and then I give you a Jewish history lesson?!

Here’s why (looks directly at bride and groom): your wedding, and your marriage to each other, finds its true meaning and glory as a part of Christ’s Bride – the Church – preparing herself for the Bridegroom’s return.

Great weddings and marriages are all about the Bridegroom.

What does that mean for you? Well, as we read in Ephesians 5, it means you are to love each other sacrificially and humbly.

After all, our Bridegroom died for us. He cleanses us from sin. And he sets us apart as his holy people. Will your marriage be an image of this kind of love for each other?

Look around the room, you two.

Now look at each other.

I think it’s safe to say that you will each bring the other more joy than anyone else in this room. However, I think it’s also safe to say that you will cause each other more pain than anyone else in this room.

Because you are sinners.

You each, like us all, have fallen short of the glory of God. And marriage is about to make you especially aware of your spouse’s sinful flaws!

Thankfully, though, that’s not the end of the story. Thankfully, your marriage can point beyond itself, and therefore be truly heavenly.

For you both have been bought by the very blood of Christ – a steep bride price if there ever was one!

You have both been betrothed to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is preparing a place for you both in his Father’s household.

And you are therefore both called to prepare your wedding garments through holy living – especially in how you love one another as husband as wife.

Should you love each other as Christ loves his Bride, your marriage will be a powerful witness – through both laughter and tears – to a world which desperately needs the Bridegroom. It desperately needs the Bridegroom to return and wipe away every tear, to right every wrong, and to make everything new.

Do you know what that’s going to be like?

It’s going to be like a wedding banquet.

In Revelation 21(:2-4), John writes:

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Now, we can anticipate that joy and celebration at the reception later today!

But we also get a glimpse of what’s coming when we partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Just as God has not left the two of your alone, but has blessed you with each other’s companionship, Jesus has not left his Church on her own, but promises to be with her in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine.

Therefore, every time someone comes into contact with you as a Christ-centered couple, I pray they are reminded of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And every time the two of you, and all of you, partake of the Lord’s Supper, I pray you’ll remember that heavenly weddings, and the very best marriages, are all about the Bridegroom.

Amen.

 

Son of Man, Can Your Bones Live?

What would it have been like, on the first Holy Saturday?

What would it be like, tonight, if Jesus has been dead for almost 33 hours?

All the hopes and dreams of tonight’s readings – shattered. Blown away by the cold winds of death. Jesus of Nazareth lies in a dark grave, and we, his shell-shocked followers, gather to make some sort of sense of this week’s events – to salvage some sort of hope from this week’s wreckage.

And so, some sorry snots get up to try and encourage us. They open up the Hebrew Scriptures and read about our great God.

  • Remember, when He made the heavens, earth, and humans?
  • Remember, when He rescued Noah?
  • Remember, when he stayed Abraham’s knife-laden hand?
  • Remember, when he rescued us from Egypt?
  • Remember, when he promised to bring us back from exile, restore our fortunes, and open our… graves?

It’s too much, too soon. Shut up and sit down! Leave us mourn and weep awhile! Jesus is dead! The one we thought would save us is dead!

It’s been over a day. It’s been almost 2,000 years.

Can these bones live?

Can these bones live?

The question haunts us. The answer is so obviously “No! Of course not! They’re bones! No flesh, no breath, no life!”

And yet, God asks Ezekiel. And He asks us. Can these bones live?

And sure, we know the answer, but sit with this awhile.

Can these bones live? Can Christ’s bones live?

Surely this question must have flickered in someone’s mind on the first Holy Saturday. And, yes, we know the answer, but sit with this awhile.

Look at the world! Dealing in death, day by day. Wars. Famines. Floods. Diseases. Droughts. Death.

Can these bones live?

Look at the Church! Claiming with her lips to follow Jesus Christ, and yet so often proving with her life that she wants no such thing. Scandal. Hypocrisy. Idolatry.

Can these bones live?

Look at yourselves! I’ll be honest, the question “can these bones live?” is put to every preacher facing a congregation! If the Spirit doesn’t move, I’m throwing hot air at dry bones!

Can your bones live?

But then, look at me! Just as scandalous, hypocritical, and idolatrous as any – and yet here I stand, presuming to proclaim the Word of God to you.

Who do I think I am? Can my bones live?

Can all these dry, dead bones live?

Friends, there’s a reason why we’re here, though it’s so dark, so late. Sure, it’s to bring in, bright and oh so early, the celebration of Easter.

But it’s also because keeping vigil is what the Church does every day. We keep vigil for the sake of a suffering and dying world. We keep watch for our bridegroom to return and wipe away every tear, to right every wrong. We stay awake at the world’s late hour, surrounded by so many dry, dead bones.

Can these bones live?

Yes. They can. But, what do they need in order to do so?

First, they need some WATER. Did you notice how often water has appeared in tonight’s readings?

  • The waters of creation, out of which God called the dry ground – out of which He formed human beings.
  • The waters of judgment, through which God saved Noah and his family in the Ark.
  • The waters of redemption, through which God rescued Israel from the Egyptian house of slavery.
  • And the waters of cleansing, by which the Lord promised in the prophets to wash away His people’s guilty stains.

Water, water, everywhere! Except the dry valley.

I think the dry bones need some sort of water.

They also need some sort of SPIRIT. You know, God’s Spirit, His breath, His wind, who hovered over the waters at creation.

  • Who filled the first humans with life.
  • Who led God’s people.
  • Who inspired and preserved the words of Scripture we read this evening.
  • Who rushed upon the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision – making them into a great army, alive!

Dry bones need the Spirit.

But, the question isn’t “Can these bones get wet and windy?” It’s “Can they LIVE?!”

And, if they’re going to live, they’re going to need a RESURRECTION.

  • They need the defeat of their most ancient enemy: Death!
  • They need Death’s reversal! They need Death’s death!
  • They need exactly what God promised Ezekiel: to open their graves, and lift them up, living!

Amen! Glory, glory, hallelujah!

But, if I hear Ezekiel’s glorious vision read at the first Holy Saturday, I’m tempted to lose it at this point. To bitterly ask those gathered:

When?! That sounds great, but when?! When is God going to do this?!

For over five hundred years since Ezekiel, we’ve been falling into our graves over and over again – and staying there! Sure, it’s no longer in Babylon, but we’ve been invaded and harassed and dominated here in Judah ever since!

Is it really that much better to fall into the grave under Rome’s heavy heel, like Jesus?

Why not Babylon’s?

Why not Assyria’s?

Heck, why not Pharaoh’s?

When is God going to turn things around?!”

Thankfully, I wasn’t in the audience back then. But we’re here, tonight. And maybe you’re similarly tempted to lose it and freak out sometimes in church!

All this pretty Jesus-talk, when for over 2,000 years the Church has travailed in the midst of a deadly and dying world.

We thank Jesus for our oversized meals, cars, and houses, while thousands fall into their graves around us – tired, hungry, destitute, and alone.

So, on the first Holy Saturday and the 2,000th, the question is roughly the same:

When?! When is God going to turn things around?!

And the answer is likewise the same. We sang it, earlier:

When?

THIS IS THE NIGHT.

When did God open the grave?

THIS IS THE NIGHT, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.”

So, can these bones live? Yes!

Can Christ’s bones live? Yes! For on this night, some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ got up from the tomb. He was alive. He was dead. But he is now alive again.

Can our bones live? Yes!

How? Because Christ has provided the resurrection, the Spirit, and the water we need.

Because, through the waters of baptism, we receive the Spirit and the resurrection.

Now, we aren’t going to baptize anyone tonight. We’ll have to wait until later this morning to do so. But we are about to renew our baptismal vows.

  • Through our baptism, we are preserved, like Noah, from the waters of Sin and Death, in the Ark, the Church.
  • Through our baptism, we are ransomed and rescued, like Israel, through the waters of the Red Sea.
  • Through our baptism, we are cleansed with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, as God promised through Isaiah and Ezekiel.
  • Through our baptism, we are buried with Christ in his death, and are raised with him in newness of life.
  • Through our baptism, we are empowered and emboldened to proclaim the good news to a desperate world that JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN.

So, we can assure the world that their bones can live, because Christ has died.

We can rest assured that our bones can live, because Christ is risen.

And we can keep watch for the sake of a suffering world, because Jesus Christ will come again.

Amen.


(Sermon preached on Easter Vigil, March 26, 2016. For an idea of the readings which preceded the homily in this service, see here.)

Reading Recommendations? Barth's & Bonhoeffer's False Gods

Hi internet – especially all you Barthians and Bonhoefferians (-ites?) out there.

I’m in the process of compiling a reading list, and I could use your suggestions.

Here’s my goal: to explore the possible relationship between Barth’s critique of the “No-God”(Nich-Gott) and Bonhoeffer’s critique(s) of viewing God as a “stopgap” (Lückenbüßer) or “working hypothesis.”

As far as primary sources go, I plan to focus on the Romans commentary, Garrett Green’s recent re-translation of CD §17, and Letters and Papers from Prison.

As for secondary sources, right now I’m starting the list with Tom Greggs’ Theology Against Religion. I’ve read this twice now, and it has been a major inspiration for the project.

I’ve also got my eye on Michael DeJonge’s Bonhoeffer’s Theological Formation, Ernst Feil’s The Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Andreas Pangritz’s Karl Barth in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jeffrey Pugh’s Religionless Christianity.

I’m also working my way through Sven Ensminger’s Karl Barth’s Theology as a Resource for a Christian Theology of Religions. While this looks very helpful for a larger project on Barth, Bonhoeffer, and the theological critique of religion, I’m still looking for sources that deal more directly with Barth’s “No-God” and Bonhoeffer’s God as “stopgap” or “working hypothesis.” 

Do you have any reading recommendations for me? 

OR, even better: Have any of you translated Hans-Joachim Kraus’ Theologische Religionskritik into English yet? Because that would be fantastic.

Three Recent Sermons

It’s been a grueling past few weeks at Beeson. Our Spring Break happens to coincide with Holy Week this year, and it can’t come quickly enough!

Part of the hard work has been preparing to preach three sermons for class. However, the opportunity to study and preach God’s Word is a joy that outweighs the burdens of preparation!

I have preached twice in the past month on Psalm 32. First, I delivered a sermon (“The Refreshment of Forgiveness”) designed for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C, for Dr. Doug Webster’s Preaching Practicum.

Then, I preached/presented on the same passage for Dr. Allen Ross’s Exegesis of Psalms (“Psalm 32: Psalm 1 for Screw-Ups”).

Preparing and preaching these very different sermons on the same passage was a good reminder of the inexhaustible richness of Scripture.

Most recently, I got to compose a “crisis sermon” for Dr. Webster’s Preaching Practicum (“Lamenting into Worship”). One of my classmates preached a post-9/11 sermon. Another, post-Pearl Harbor! These were great sermons, but I chose a different route: preaching to a congregation after the death of a well-known church family’s baby.

This was a stretching experience, to say the least. I pray I never have to preach this sermon in real life, but it was a good reminder to preach the good news to myself that God hates death more than we do.

You can listen to and/or read “The Refreshment of Forgiveness,” “Psalm 1 for Screw-Ups,” and “Lamenting into Worship,” along with my other sermons at the Sermons Page of this site.

Now, there are much better preachers out there in the world, so if you’re short on time, go listen to them preach! But, if you’ve got the time to give these sermons a listen, I would greatly appreciate your feedback as I try to improve as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word!

~Josh

Sermon: The Challenge of Christmas Light

There are better preachers out there. So, if you’re short on time, go and listen to them! However, if you’ve got 26 minutes to spare, I offer “The Challenge of Christmas Light” to you, and would love to hear your feedback.

I  preached this sermon on December 27, 2015 at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Mountain Brook, AL, as we celebrated the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

My sermon text was that day’s Gospel lesson, 1 John 1:1-9, expanded to include 2:1-2. But I also reference the Old Testament lesson, Exodus 33:18-23.

You can read the sermon manuscript here: The Challenge of Christmas Light Sermon Manuscript.

And you can listen to the audio here (note: it begins just as I finish reading the collect for the Feast of St. John and the collect for the First Sunday after Christmas):

Finally, you can read/listen to my other sermons here.

Grace and peace,

~Josh

 

Improvising Church & State: Overaccepting as a Synthesis of Anglican and Anabaptist Approaches

INTRODUCTION: ACCEPTING, BLOCKING, AND STATUS

From the church’s perspective, is the state a promising offer, or a threatening one? At the risk of breathtaking oversimplification, Anglicans have tended to adopt the former perspective, leading to accommodation, and Anabaptists the latter, resulting in separation.[1] Following Samuel Wells in his theological appropriation of terms from theatrical improvisation, the Anglican tradition has tended to respond to the promising offers (invitations to respond) of the state by accepting – maintaining the premise(s) of the state’s action(s).[2] The historical legacy of the Church of England has given Anglicanism, as Anderson notes, an “inheritance of a strong loyalty to the state and a conservatism that has led the church to promote the status quo more often than it agitates for reform.”[3] This inheritance from the established Church of England has coincided with a dual tendency to adopt a high status (a strategy for getting one’s way), in terms of relative privilege and political optimism, and a low status, in terms of frequent subservience in church-state relations.[4]

However, the Anabaptist tradition has tended to respond to the threatening offers of the state by blocking – undermining the premise(s) of the state’s action(s).[5] For many contemporary Anabaptists, as Joireman summarizes, “[T]he state has the function of ordering the social world, and the church should be the visible witness of believers, the primary affiliation of Christians, and separate from the state.”[6] Passively, blocking the state can be “a choice to shut oneself away and keep oneself unsullied by the world.”[7] Most often, drawing upon their sixteenth-century inheritance of facing persecution from Catholics and Protestants alike, Anabaptists have adopted a low status as somewhat of a fringe movement. Actively, however, blocking can be “a choice to take up arms,” as seen during the (admittedly rare) example of high status Anabaptist opposition during the Münster Rebellion of 1534.[8]

QUESTIONING GIVENS

Continue reading “Improvising Church & State: Overaccepting as a Synthesis of Anglican and Anabaptist Approaches”