Archives for posts with tag: materialism


“What is the defining event of America? World War II, because what Americans are dying to have is something worth dying for. War becomes the great event in American life, because that’s when we send the young out to die and be killed. To die in wars, to give us the belief as Americans that we think there’s something worth dying for—to die for who your democratically elected leader says you should die for, and to protect the sacrifices of the last war.

“It’s an extraordinary sacrificial system, but sacrificing to the wrong god—Mars. I admire people for making the great sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill. But it’s the wrong sacrifice. Christianity is an alternative to that sacrificial system. We believe the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and you don’t have to repeat it over and over again in the name of nations.”

-Stanley Hauerwas

For God, Not Country
The un-American theology of Stanley Hauerwas
by Mark Oppenheimer

Periodically I drive a stake in the ground, something concrete for my myriad thoughts to cling to. This is one. I am not a nationalist. I’ve wrestled with my nationalisitc demons since I was a young high school student. I couldn’t imagine anything life-giving coming from the nationalism and milistarism that was propagated in my community. The violence was stifling and incoherent.

I traveled a little. That was good for the borders of my mind. I moved to Chiraq. Taking up residence in a violent neighborhood was one of the strangest things I’ve ever done. I thought it would expand my understanding. But instead I have fortified myself from it. I’ve watched arrests, beatings, car fires, humans on fire. All from behind closed, locked, shuttered windows. Hauerwas posits that Christians are witnesses. They are the keepers of memory. Am I?

Each time I drive a stake, I can begin to gather my thoughts, projecting for myself a new way in which to be and live. What has taken up residence where nationalism most naturally resides? Some more passive version of the same thing? A penchant for materialism, a bent for capitalism, a heart for my own welfare above the welfare of others?

Good for me, I am not a nationalist. I declare it every week as I a partake of the Eucharist. Christ became death for us.

Have I become life for anyone?


I love the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of my favorites and I return to it frequently. When life turns me on my head, Ecclesiastes reminds me that life has always been turning people on their heads, even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most secure of people.

The most recent “disaster” in my extensive history of medical disasters was the sudden loss of 25 lbs, for which the only explanation are my ongoing surgical complications. On a five foot tall frame, 25 lbs is a lot of weight. Before I knew what was happening, my body could not stave off infection and became ravaged with fever, nausea, and pain.

But I am a lucky one.

When I am starving – quite literally starving – for nutrients and medicine and care, I take a short drive to the hospital. I can spend as many days as I need, get all of the attention that I need, have IV bags full of nutrition custom-made for what I need.

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. According to the 2012 World Hunger Education Service, 13.1% of them are hungry. That is almost 1 in every 7 people.

The numbers… the statistics… we’ve heard them all. We’ve felt them, too. We’ve felt the sheer immensity of them. We’ve grieved the complexity of the world in which we live, where food prices soar, governments exploit agriculture, and systemic violence and class systems ensure that the poor will always be with us.

For me these days, hundreds of milliliters of completely accessible nutrients course through my veins for twelve hours each night. I am fed with food that is more than sufficient for me. I look at the homeless man on the corner of Division St and the disparity between us makes me queasy. I feel guilty. The dizzy, spinney, sick feeling sends me back to Ecclesiastes. “There is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”

Ah. Ecclesiastes turns me back around. It is not wrong to enjoy. My guilt matures… if it is not wrong to enjoy food and drink, then the question becomes howhow to enjoyhow to enjoy and celebrate and still stand in solidarity with those who cannot join my feasting?

This is the Holy Frustration.

I want to dialogue in my community about this question of how. DL’s proposition is powerful… cooking theologically… inspiring.  It is incredible that we can turn even our eating and drinking into a holy experience and an act of solidarity: the kingdom of God coming like yeast in dough.

~Annie Bolger Quick, editor

Radical serves as a call to action for a church lost in the chaos of American materialism… David Platt’s words serve as a rude awakening: “We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to make the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.  A nice, middle-class, American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.”  In the very first chapter, Platt calls us to a life of complete abandonment to Someone worth losing everything for.  Throughout the book he continues on that theme, providing real life examples and suggestions for action.  Platt describes the persecuted and underground Church as being hungry and desperate for God’s word, busy about their Lord’s work, and passionately risking everything for the beliefs they hold to.  Platt encourages global missions, saying that one should devote 2 weeks a year to short-term mission trips.  Some people may disagree with his approach, saying that ministering to your surrounding area demands as much praise or that short-term missions can do more harm than good.  While emphasis on both global and local missions should be balanced, Platt’s main argument remains sound: the American Church needs to lose it’s unhealthy addiction to materialism and focus more on the Great Commission.  Radical abandonment to the follower of Christ means going out into the world and making disciples of all mankind.

Radical is a passionate book, and it deserves a passionate response.  The emotion it most instilled in me was excitement.  I was ecstatic that a writer had vocalized a belief that I was slowly coming to on my own.  Platt explained clearly and succinctly his goal: spreading the Gospel regardless of your own personal risk, in whatever form it may take.  Radical left me with the knowledge of my failure to live up to my potential in Christ and the determination to change what was inhibiting my spiritual growth.

~Meghan Bolger, contributor