From Maki Ashe Van Steenwyk, executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination
I find myself increasingly drawn to a particular understanding of “grace.”
Perhaps the most dominant theological definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” Often, this is understood in contrast to merited judgement or punishment. We are so messed up, mired in sin, and rebellious against God that we have earned wrath…either in the form of judgement in this life or in the life to come (hell). Yet, God chooses not to punish his children, because of God’s great love.
Most of us know that this logic applied to our own children is cruel. Imagine telling a child that they deserve to live on the streets without food or care, but because of our own great benevolence, we offer them food and lodging.Continue reading “A Radical Understanding of Grace”
By Maki Ashe Van Steenwyk, director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination (please consider making an end-of-the-year donation to this compelling organization doing the work of radical discipleship)
You’re under no obligation, whatsoever, to maintain relationships with people who treat you dismissively or disrespectfully.
This idea that you need to embrace self-diminishment in a way that shows love or compassion or empathy towards others is toxic.
Christian folks in particular seems to misunderstand Jesus’ admonition to “take up your cross.” The idea that your deepest fulfilment is at odds with love and liberation of others is false.
Self-fulfillment in a capitalist way is a lie. But true self-fulfillment is bound up in collective liberation.
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”
By 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”
By 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”
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 re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination (originally posted to social media on September 23, 2019).
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”
By 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”
Another 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”