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”

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”

Contemplative Resistance

CPIOn November 2-3, the Center for Prophetic Imagination is offering a 2-day retreat called “Contemplative Resistance.”

In a letter to his discouraged friend Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Merton once wrote: “Do not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit is not asleep.”

It is easy to be discouraged by rampant injustices in our world today. Children in cages. Fascism on the rise. Environmental collapse looming. The list is long.

Where is the Spirit at work in this world? How do we act in ways that challenge injustice while being rooted in the presence of God? Continue reading “Contemplative Resistance”

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”

An Opportunity to Connect and be Transformed

EmpireAnother important offering from The Center of Prophetic Imagination:

This weekend intensive explores the ways in which our society’s systems of oppression are legitimized by an imperial spirituality that we rarely recognize as such. The goal of this intensive is to examine the nature of this “spirituality of empire,” how it shapes our imaginations, why it is hostile to life, and and how we might begin to resist it.

Please note: The lecture portions of this intensive will be filmed, in fulfillment of a curriculum grant from FTE to create an 8-week online course. Our goal is to break the lecturing portion of the intensive into eight 30-45 minute sessions that will be enhanced with additional multimedia elements and turned into the core content for an online course, which will be released in January 2020.

Because of this, we are offering the weekend retreat for free. Continue reading “An Opportunity to Connect and be Transformed”

When Will We Rise?

ImageFrom the Center for Prophetic Imagination, working to live in a world where all walls of alienation are torn down and all people live justly with each other, with the land, and with the Spirit of Life. Sign up HERE to receive their weekly email updates!

Usually, we talk about the Risen Christ around Easter. But it is perhaps more fitting to explore the significance of the Resurrection on a day like today, the day after the election, when our collective imagination has been transfixed by party politics and we begin to ask “now what?”

Perhaps the juxtaposition between electoral politics and the Resurrection of Jesus seems jarring. Bear with me. Continue reading “When Will We Rise?”

Re-Baptized Through Liberation

MVSA social media re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination (November 20, 2017):

Any anabaptist theology that isn’t re-baptized through liberation theology reinforces oppression.

Anabaptism, on its own, only makes sense as a religion of the oppressed. Just like the Gospels are unintelligible to the middle and owner classes apart from the experiences of the oppressed.

In other words: Any calls for pacifism, meekness, and simplicity that come insistently from the powerful are attempts to keep the oppressed docile and poor.

Nonviolence must be a tool of the oppressed in their struggle, with the aid and support of repentant allies. Otherwise, in the hands of the powerful it becomes an ideology of oppression.

To be clear: I’m a pacifist. But pacifism and nonviolence must be in service to liberation or they become a force for oppression. If you’re a pacifist that isn’t working alongside (and following the lead of) those who struggle for liberation, then your nonviolence is just the velvet pouch sheathing the hammer of oppression

An Introduction to the Prophetic Imagination

LogoA message from Mark Van Steenwyk of Twin Cities-based The Center for Prophetic Imagination, who is offering two compelling courses this Fall, as well as “An Introduction to the Prophetic Imagination” weekends in August and September:

The Center for Prophetic Imagination is a member-based nonprofit. We offer education, arts, and activist initiatives to help people turn from the false promises of empire and embrace God’s vision for the world.

Will you join us in working to co-create a world where all walls of alienation are torn down and all people live justly with each other, with the land, and with the Spirit of Life?

By becoming a member, you will:

  • receive a 10% discount on all events and training we offer (workshops, conferences, retreats, and more)
  • receive a special quarterly newsletter with links to free resources.
  • have access to our fee-based webinars for free.
  • be invited to nominate/approve board members, approve our annual budget, and ratify any amendments to our bylaws.
  • feel warm feels for helping us do important work in the world.

Find out more here.

Peace and Resistance,


Mark Van Steenwyk
Executive Director 
The Center for Prophetic Imagination