After a busy first half of the summer, Mark Van Steenwyk (of the Missio Dei community and the www.jesusmanifesto.com webzine) and I met a few days ago to update our “Resources for Radical Living” course in anticipation of teaching both a Masters and a DMin version of it this coming winter. Over several hours of woodshedding, we made some significant changes, which will also ripple through to our proposed book. I’ll post on the changes in a moment, but first, here are the basic rationale and structure for the course and book, including the figures and movements we used in the first iteration of the course:
Resources for Radical Living
American Christians today—especially 20- and 30-somethings—are going to church and asking: “Is that all there is?” They are aware that those outside the church don’t want to hear about their religion unless they can see it in the way they act. They are aware of the critique leveled by such teachers as Ron Sider and Tony Campolo—that evangelical Christians just don’t look that different from the rest of the world in key areas of behavior and social practice.
Young Christians have a sense that Jesus calls us to a “radical” life. Most are not sure what this really means or what to do about it. They may know about intentional communities such as those affiliated with the self-identified “new monastic” movement. They may know that some young Christians have turned their backs on North American culture altogether and moved to impoverished nations to live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed—as Scott Bessenecker has chronicled in his book The New Friars. They may have a yearning to simply “do something radical for Jesus,” but they’re not sure where to begin. What is God’s particular call to them? What might he be asking them to do that goes beyond life-as-usual?
Pastors also know, acutely, the difficulties of living as Christians in our comfortable, materialistic American world. The sort of “seeker-sensitive” programs that camouflage the church to look like the world have seemed to thrive, evolving into prosperous mega-churches. Yet leaders in those same mega-churches have lately confessed their own failure to form congregants as Christians. In such a consumer-driven church culture, how can a pastor lead a church into a kind of life and worship that is distinctively and counter-culturally Christian? What is God’s particular call to the church today? What might he be asking us to do that goes beyond church-as-usual?
Resources for Radical Living is designed to help young Christians, pastors, and others examine their own lives and churches, seeking discernment in five areas of radical living that extend well beyond Sunday morning worship:
1: The prophetic life: resisting and challenging ungodly social standards, unjust political actions, systemic violence and oppression.
- case studies: Bonhoeffer and Oscar Romero/Liberation Theology [NOW CHANGED]
2: The compassionate life: compassionate action on behalf of the poor and oppressed, including practices of hospitality.
- case studies: early Christianity and Dorothy Day/Catholic Worker Movement [ALSO CHANGED]
3: The penitential life: disciplined simplicity through ascetic practices, anti-consumerism, stewardship and sustainability.
- case studies: The Franciscans and Wendell Berry/the New Agrarianism [UNCHANGED]
4: The communal life: mutually interdependent community in the service of Christ-centered living.
- case studies: the Benedictines, Koinonia Partners, and L’Arche [NOW CHANGED AND PLACED 5th]
5: The devoted life: biblical devotion that roots all other practices in a need for grace and an encounter with God in Christ.
- case studies: Wesley and the earliest Methodists, Thomas Merton and the Trappist/Cistercian tradition [NOW CHANGED]