After relishing Imagining the Kingdom (link is to my longer review), I was eager to read the first book in the author’s exploration of cultural liturgies (that is, the practices and habits that form who we are and how we live). Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formationcertainly lived up to my expectations.
Of all of the books I’ve read in 2013, these two works have had the most impact on my thinking about the Christian life, education, culture, and worship. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith lays the foundation for his later arguments in Imagining the Kingdom (although I think you could read them out of order if you must), and proposes that our identities are shaped not so much by what we know as by what we love. You can’t separate the two, but neither can you rely on pumping yourself (or your children) with knowledge and hoping for the best. Our actions, Smith writes, flow from what we worship, how we define the good life and what we think human flourishing looks like. In other words, plenty of people who would espouse a “solid worldview” actually act in opposition to that worldview when push comes to shove, because at a deeper level of habits and unarticulated beliefs, they have a different story going on.
That sounds a little deep (and it is! I’ve been mulling this stuff over for about two months now!) but it’s also quite simple: it’s not enough to change someone’s mind, change has to happen on a deeper heart level. And the deeper level is about the story you believe about life, and purpose, and success and what those look like.
This obviously has huge implications for schools, universities, and churches, but also for individuals and families. I think Smith has a lot of valuable things to say about habits and literature and culture and art and education, about how the way we spend our time defines us, and where our allegiances truly lie.
After reading this book I’m thinking about Advent differently, I’m thinking about habits and stories differently, I’m thinking about time and daily rhythms differently…it’s hard to condense my reams of notes into one short review.
Suffice it to say, I would really love to discuss these books with someone, so I’m hopeful that one or more of you will read them! I think these would make excellent gifts for students, teachers, people interested in philosophy and culture, people involved in the arts, pastors, parents…basically anyone who enjoys sinking their teeth into thoughtful arguments and interesting ideas.
One idea I’ve been considering carefully is how I should spend Advent (Smith says Christians ought to be a “people with a unique sense of temporality”–that we should see time differently because of what we believe). Smith suggests that Advent is a time of careful reflection and expectation rather than a time of over-indulgence. So I’m thinking of ways to be thoughtful and reflective and meaningful this month, rather than getting caught up in a whirl of overdoing activities and food and shopping and whatnot. I’m interested: how do you make Advent a deliberate time of expectation and meaning?
If you decide to read Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, come back and let me know your thoughts!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.