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Imagining the Kingdom, by James K. A. Smith

Posted in Life, and Thinking Out Loud

I recently finished Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Cultural Liturgies, vol. 2), by James. K. A. Smith. It’s the 2nd book in a series, but I (no doubt foolishly) didn’t read the 1st. I purchased the e-book as part of a mass book-buying event with gift cards I was given for my birthday, and so had to make tough choices in order not to go over budget. Thus, just as I purchased Alva Noe‘s Varieties of Presence, but couldn’t fit his earlier Action in Perception, I had to get Smith’s book on imagination rather than his book on desire.

The following is my summary of Imagining the Kingdom (or, rather, it is what I got out of the book without having read Desiring the Kingdom).

Imagination is the name for the center of the human being (something between body and mind), and is the true source of our worldview. Our imagination is shaped from one side by what we repeatedly do with our bodies, and from the other by the stories we have absorbed.  So, if we wish to live fully Christlike lives, we should pay attention to what we repeatedly do with our bodies, and what stories we absorb (especially in worship and education).

That’s pretty awesome and very suggestive. But it’s also the whole book. The book is essentially that one paragraph, repeated over and over.

I was left, therefore, with the following questions.

What changes in our worldview will result from repeating which actions?

How can I use this to become more Christlike?

What specifically should I do if I am designing a new liturgy for my church’s Sunday services, or a new daily liturgy for myself?

The book doesn’t say. Or, perhaps better: if it did, I completely missed it.

I want to insist again that the book’s premise is a really, really intriguing. I’m just not sure what to do with it, or why the book needed to be any longer than the paragraph summary above. I read the whole thing hoping there would be something more in it than that summary. But that was all I found. (Even the cool stuff about Merleau-Ponty and Bourdieu is just there to help convince the reader that Smith’s premise for the book isn’t crazy.)

I’m hoping that those who read the 1st volume first, as I should have done, will find the 2nd much more helpful than I did. It is such a cool project. I can’t repeat that enough. I really, really wish I could’ve found some kind of payoff.

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