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Prophetic Imagination

19 November 2007

In this wonderful book, Walter Brueggemann sets forth a working description of the prophetic ministry of a community of faith:

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.

So much of what we do, and what we talk about doing – and by “we,” I mean the modern, enculturated church – is directed at changing the way things appear, setting out a more magnetic image, creating a world of religious fantasy that we believe will entice the unchurched at last to yield and to be churched. Our buildings are spacious and functional, our programs well conceived and efficiently run, our “worship” tightly harmonized and scripted and performed, our homilies practical and accessible, our small-group settings diversified and competently led.

But we are not good prophets, if Brueggemann is right. The fantasy world that we have created is the culturally mainstream world of Brueggemann’s Solomon, not the alternative reality envisioned and proposed by Brueggemann’s Moses. That in which we invite the world to participate is almost indistinguishable from the familiar world around us.

I suspect that McGuiggan might agree: if what we offer is just another way of packaging a culturally accommodated (is co-opted too strong a word here?) suite of wishful assurances that we can be better people, and our lives can be more blessed than they are, and our griefs can be assuaged by the presence of other people…then what is the point? Is that not the same offer that is made by Black Rock City, Cheers and the local Rotary Club?

No, what we offer is, or in any event must be, an alternative vision of who we are (made in the image of an eternal God) and what He is doing to restore that image in the center of our character by showing it to us in an incarnate version of Himself, an incarnate version who turns just about every cultural norm on its head.

Concerning ourselves with how we look to the world, then, is a fool’s errand. Rather, we as communities of distinctively Christian faith should be engaged in the prophetic work of evoking from one another a different way of thinking (Brueggemann’s consciousness) and a different way of seeing (Brueggemann’s perception).


One Comment leave one →
  1. 11 November 2009 1:51 pm

    thanks for sharing this. I’ve just come across brueggemann and am finding a healthy and wonderful ally.

    Also, I was wondering how you got that reading list widget. it’s wicked cool.

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