If It Ain’t Subversive

From the prophetic imagination of Mark Van Steenwyk, re-posted from social media (July 12, 2021).

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” – attributed to Meister Eckhart

“If your only action is a ‘fuck you’ to the oppressive system, it is enough.” – Meister Van Steenwyk

* * *

When I say things like this, folks think I’m being needlessly provocative. I am quite serious. And while I affirm the insights of the former, I find the neoliberal spirituality scene’s inability to affirm the latter deeply upsetting.

Usually, white contemplative folks try to disarm the most challenging liberationist stuff by foolishly calling it “dualistic” as though there is a unique property of white middle class consciousness that is able to see the unity of all things without challenging the political and economic foundations of dominating society.

If it ain’t subversive, it ain’t the Spirit.

Holiness Entered Suffering

A recent social media re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.

At its best, Christianity isn’t about redemptive suffering. Suffering isn’t sacred. This is the classic mistake. That, somehow, enduring suffering is, in and of itself, something holy. This sort of thinking leads to the horrid idea that a soldier’s death renders their service holy. It is a lie that empires spin.

Rather, the way of Jesus tells us that holiness *enters* suffering. On the cross, God suffered. Holiness entered suffering, not to glorify suffering, but to be with those who suffer.

It is life that is sacred. In our suffering, God is present.

This is the powerful insight of liberation theology. God is uniqely present with the oppressed.

Continue reading “Holiness Entered Suffering”

10 Ways

MinnyFrom Mark Van Steenwyk of The Center for Prophetic Imagination, on the ground in Minneapolis.

Here are 10 ways to support the struggle for justice in Minneapolis.

1. Add your voice to this list of demands from Reclaim the Block and Black Visions.

2. Support the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a widely respected bail fund for those arrested in protests against oppression. Continue reading “10 Ways”

Divine Disobedience

CPIBy Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination

Christians in our society have a problem with authority—not that we are too disobedient, but that we aren’t disobedient enough. Howard Zinn once wrote: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.”

In the middle of the 20th Century, feminist theologian Dorthee Sölle coined the term “christofascism.” Sölle experienced an authoritarian church during Nazi Germany. However, she saw the same imperial authoritarian form of Christianity alive and well in the United States after the war…and even foresaw the way in which Christianity would be used as a weapon of supremacy in modern America.
Continue reading “Divine Disobedience”

A Spirituality of Disconnection

CPIBy Mark Van Steenwyk, executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination

Any spirituality that nurtures abstracted love, generic unity, and vague justice is worse than useless.

A Jesus-shaped spirituality moves us to love specific people, to struggle for tangible solidarity, and challenges us to work for particular justice.

If your spirituality provides positive feels and comfort because it helps you cope with the pain of the world, without ever addressing that pain, then it is, ultimately, a spirituality of empire. Continue reading “A Spirituality of Disconnection”

Merely Adequate

MVSFrom the Facebook page of Mark Van Steenwyk (right), executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.

I’m working on giving myself permission to be merely adequate. Otherwise, I hold myself to a ridiculous standard that I don’t hold others to.

Part of being a white man is internalizing a message that dominance and excellence is a birthright. And that to not achieve these things means one is a failure. Continue reading “Merely Adequate”

Contemplation Turned Outward

CPTBy Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination

Part of what makes contemplation important, both as a a regular practice and an overall posture of life is noticing inner thoughts, images, ideas, and stories that lead us away from deep connection to the Spirit, each other, and the rest of creation.

However, in a society where we have learned to disconnect mind from body and spirit from politics, there is a danger in contemplative practice. I’ve begun to increasingly suspect that many engage in spiritual practice in a way that is disassociative—they use spirituality to disconnect from anxiety and pain, rather than to allow them to give attention to suffering. Continue reading “Contemplation Turned Outward”

A Way of Love, Not a Way of Sin Remediation

A re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination (originally posted to social media on September 23, 2019). MVS

Sin isn’t a homogeneous substance that exists in human hearts. It isn’t a phantomous thing that can only be combated with prayer and good intentions.

The Bible doesn’t make the case that all of humanity is bad to the core and that sin is about individual human choices and that the only way to fight sin is to win people to Jesus. That story has been placed upon Scripture and, at the same time, fits so nicely within the framework of individualism and religious conservatism. Which is why it persists in the USA. Continue reading “A Way of Love, Not a Way of Sin Remediation”

Jesus and the Way of the Cros

CPTBy Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination in Minneapolis. This is from his weekly blog (June 24, 2019). To sign up to get these in your email inbox, click here (top of the page). Also, their two-year program in Prophetic Spirituality launches in September!

Jesus’ compassion led to the cross. In an unjust world, love confronts injustice. In an oppressive world, love challenges oppression. Because of this, love leads to the Cross.

When he broke bread with sinners and fellowshipped with outcasts, he drew the ire of religious gatekeepers. When, in the temple, he raised a ruckus over the exploitation of the poor, he upset the religious elite. And his words of dangerous liberation sealed his fate. He was betrayed and summarily executed by the state. And he decomposed in the grave for three days. Continue reading “Jesus and the Way of the Cros”

Thoughts on an Imperial God

CPIBy Mark Van Steenwyk of the Center for Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis, MN)

This piece was originally posted on Patheos.

Ours is a civilized god. He is distant, floating high above the world, refusing to be dirtied by it. He is the Supreme Hierarch, the Ruler of All. The Great Architect, looking down over all of creation and ordering it according to his Divine Blueprint. Of all of the things he’s created, he likes human beings the best. Sometimes he communicates to some of these humans, revealing to them part of his Divine Blueprint. Our primary relationship with this god is one of obedience; we are to do his will so that things can work according to the Blueprint. Continue reading “Thoughts on an Imperial God”