Desiring the Kingdom: Lecture by James K.A. Smith

This is part of the DR Book Collection.

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I’ve written about James K.A. Smith’s work before, especially his You Are What You Love. According to Smith, that was what he thought he was writing when it wrote Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural FormationInstead, he ended up needing to write a popular introduction to the Cultural Liturgies project, the first of which was Desiring the Kingdom. To recap, Smith argues against the modern idea that we are simply “brains on a stick” and that Christian life is achieved by downloading the right spiritual data into our heads. We are not so much thinking creatures as we are lovers, i.e. creatures of desire and habit. He points out the gap between what we think and what we actually want. More disturbingly, he notes that we may not actually love what we think. Our wants are often shaped by what he calls “secular liturgies”: repetitive practices and rituals that orient our desires and shape our habits. Take for example (as Smith does) the mall: the mall doesn’t tell you what to think. It doesn’t hand out a tract with a list of propositions that the mall believes. Instead, it shapes your consumerist desires as it assaults your senses with sights, smells, comforts, etc. This is why Christian liturgy is important and necessary. Christianity is not just a rival worldview, but a rival set of desires. And those desires are shaped through repetition.

The book is excellent and one of my favorites so far this year. It is far more in depth; the academic approach to the ideas found in You Are What You Love. As someone who is drawn to religious liturgy, but often bored by my own faith’s offerings of it, this was a much-needed read on a personal level.

You can see a lecture by Smith below.