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Thursday, December 17, 2009


"Don't play what's there. Play what's not there."
--Miles Davis

I was flipping through a new book a few days back called The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani.

He talked about Walt Disney's vision for epcot to be a new kind of living community. When Walt died before bringing this vision into existence, the new Disney corporate heads decided to do something that pleased shareholders: just turn the whole damned epcot project into a theme park. It failed for lack of imagination. Jethani makes a parallel with today's church (in the U.S., presumably):

"Our deficiency is not motivation or money, but imagination. Our ability to live Christianly and be the church corporately has failed because we do not believe it is possible....Wanting to obey Christ but lacking imagination, we reinterpret the mission of the church through the only framework comprehendible to us--the one we've inherited from our consumer culture." p. 18

"Without imagination any solution we conceive will be rooted to the very system we must transcend." p. 19

Problems cannot be solved with the same consciousness that created them

I don't really recommend the book, because there wasn't too much that held my attention after Jethani made this initial point. Oddly, the rest of the book seemed to lack imagination......

What about you? How do you imagine church? What if you let your mind and heart go and just think up something crazy....I mean, something just fucking crazy!!! (Using the word "fuck" tends to stir the imagination, studies have shown.) This question is open to all, of course, the churched, the unchurched, the sincere and cynical, and everyone in between. What do you see when you let you think of "church" and just let your imagination go? What do you see?


Cynthia said...


It is funny that you ask this question. I read your's and Tamie's blog yesterday and wanted to leave a comment for you both concerning this very thing, but it didn't seem 100% pertinent to anyone's post. It is as though you read my mind!

The basic thought I had was to do "church" outside on a regular basis. There are so many of us out there that really value, to the core of our beings, what nature has to offer. Our society is so shut in. For people like me who can get somewhat claustrophobic indoors, this is a very bad thing. I believe if people did more living outdoors, you would not only see people become more spiritually aware, but you would also see them become more environmentally conscious. I do value beautiful architecture and can see something of God's glory in that, but, let's face it, most new churches today are not built with the concept of visually magnifying God's glory. And even those grand churches of old that do reflect God's glory and creativity don't come close to what God created with His own hands.

I do realize there are some practical issues in question here like what to do in bad weather, but I don't think this is insurmountable. And I am not opposed to using church buildings, I just think the outdoors could be seen more as a church-place as well.

Cynthia said...

Oh, when I hear the word fuck, my imagination almost always, for the briefest moment, goes to one thing. I suppose Freud would have fun with that.

Jason Hesiak said...

(Using the word "fuck" tends to stir the imagination, studies have shown.

LMAO i want to see the reference on this one!!! LOL!!

Jonathan Erdman said...


Great idea!

What if there was a building-less church that always met outdoors? Maybe they meet once a week, maybe not, but they just fellowship and worship among God's creatures. Go for hikes. Go on camping trips. Dedicate themselves to issues of environmental justice and protection.

That sounds like an imaginative idea that could really change us spiritually, but even more profoundly, it could help change our world that seems so hell bent on destroying the planet.

john doyle said...

"He talked about Walt Disney's vision for epcot to be a new kind of living community."

Not quite on topic here, but remember the TC Boyle story called "The Swift Passage of the Animals" that I recommended to you and Tamie (through her blog) while you were on your trip through the mountains? Well the next story in that collection is called "Jubilation," and it's about people living in the Disney community in Florida. My wife Anne hails from Lynchburg VA, where Jerry Falwell started building Christian housing developments as part of the sprawling Liberty University theme park, er, church community. Apparently the recession has snagged the rollout.

Jonathan Erdman said...

A Christian fundamentalist commune???

Probably not much in the way of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I imagine....

Cynthia said...

I would still like to see a "churchless" church practice lord's supper, baptism, and proclamation of word/gospel- all of which could be done with some degree of creativity and in accordance with the needs of the particular local group. Worship through song, simplicity, and prayer. Focus on love of God, love of humanity(esp in sense of bearing one another's burdens and celebrating joys), and creation/nature- realizing that we shouldn't separate ourselves from our surroundings. Hiking, camping, or just sitting in beautiful spots would all be great.

This would definitely be a way for the church to holistically engage the individual and the community.

Melody said...

What, Jon, you haven't heard? Christian, fundamentalist communes are the next big thing.

You've got the Jesus People (Jesus Project? Something) outside of Chicago living in an old hotel and then I keep seeing article by people who have crammed several families into one home in an effort to have a closer community and fewer possessions.

The idea is that you then have more resources to serve Christ.

At least until you all kill each other because no one will admit to drinking the last of the milk and not buying more.

John L said...

"Oddly, the rest of the book seemed to lack imagination......"


Good post. tks.