Tuesday, April 22, 2014

DTK - Chap. 6 - Liturgical Education

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

We have made it!  Thank you Mystie for your faithfulness in hosting us.  I am sad that the middle turned so many away because the end is thought provoking.

As I read through this chapter I saw so many strains of educational practice that are found in diverse places.  I also thought of the Catholic University (I worked for one for a while).  Although not calling us to that - per se - he does believe that Christian education should grow out of a body of worshipers - not as a separate entity.  He talks about how Christian education is mostly aiming at the same things as a "normal" education with the right worldview tacked on to it.   To me, talk of worldview, arises from people who don't always have a great grasp on church history and the liturgical practices that he has been discussing.  It is an attempt to intellectualize the faith to make in more acceptable in an academic setting and to boil it down to basics.  As he talked about the impact of worldview on students I was reminded of a lecture I listened to recently where one teenager shared that all of her worldview training made her very judgmental and did not develop her loves - it taught her to analyze everything.  Which ties into what Kern talks about in analogy versus analytical thought.  James questions if worldview is a form of "domesticating the radicality of the gospel".

Although he is discussing Christian universities not tethered to congregations, it made me think about how most successful college student ministries are likewise not connected to a full worshiping body.  They do an incredible job and I know that they advocate for getting involved in the local church. They don't want to be a substitute - but they often do become one.  So kids move from specialized children, youth to young adult ministries and might never have participated in the full body of the church and its worship until after college and then we wonder why they aren't participating?

James really gets at the heart of the question and I appreciate his honesty.

As Hauerwas wryly observes, "to educate our children in such an alternative culture will mean that our children cannot presuppose that the education they receive will make it possible for them to be successful in a world shaped by a quite different culture."  Indeed, that is precisely the risk of an authentic Christian education.  Is that a risk we are willing to take?  . . . It is clear that those who support Christian universities would be quite upset if the qualifier came to mean that the education students received might put them at a disadvantage for being a success in America.

I heard echoes of Andrew Kern's recent series all through this quote.  This is what I struggle with constantly. In fact, Kern discusses how Christian schools, in order to be accredited, pretty much have to give up some of the mission of education.  Thus his strong advocacy for homeschool (I think it's talk 4).


Most of his proposals make me think of what UNIVERSITIES used to be about - with theology as the mother discipline.  Especially his discussion of interactions between students and professors because of proximity - if you read about the college system at ivy league schools - that's basically how it worked.

His curricular ideas are very popular on secular campuses - especially service learning (I did a stint with a state agency supporting service learning and knew all the university coordinators in our city).  I think it's a great idea. Actually, my university does have a hall on campus that deals with homelessness and you join that community and pledge to give some of your time to serving and learning about the homeless community in our city.  Most of the ideas James proposes are things that forward thinking, non Christian, departments are doing.  If you want to learn more about lectio divina you should check out Jenny Rallens lecture - fascinating!
Honestly, this is why I think his comment in chapter 5 that "In short, the kingdom is concerned with the stuff of sociology" is such a key statement.  My husband decided not to pursue that degree when one of his sociology of religion professors helped develop a "ground breaking" thought that showed that religion could be an agent of social change.  DUH!  James is right - prior to the invention of "sociology" as a study - we called it community and most of the rhythms were around the local church.

I believe that his later books will delve further into the topic of taking liturgy into practice - so this is just a foretaste of that.  I think there are many creative ways to bring lessons to life - but in the end it needs to be connected with what the Gospel calls us to do.  I have many friends who started with missionary zeal and in the end just have zeal and have lost the mission.  So, for me, community and daily, intentional practices are more important than interesting curricular changes and challenges.


I am glad that I stayed with the conversation to the end.  It helped me get a better understanding of why the liturgy is so crucial to me and to bringing up my children in the faith.  It has reminded me that the repeated (daily, weekly, annual) actions and words really make a difference in building character and faith - not the mountain top experiences.  Basically, it has called me to be faithful - which is something that I always need to be reminded of.


  1. Thank you, too, for sticking with it! It's been good food for thought this spring, for sure. :)

  2. Great post, but I especially love your last line!