Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'm glad I was wrong!

I had worked myself up about our church’s “Making disciples for the transformation of the world” mission statement. I had started asking myself, “Are we saying enough?” I love being a part of this mission, but Vincent Miller’s Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture has had me thinking we often stop a bit short in terms of clarity as Jesus people.

Doesn’t this mission sound a lot like the same thing that is going on in the consumer economy? People are being pursued actively, and their desires are shaped—transformed—for consumption. Both this kind of transformation of desire and the varied forms of consumption incited are powerful transformers of the world. In fact, we simply cannot know the depth and breadth of the destructive “transformation.” This stuff is wrecking people and planet in ways we have yet to realize. Miller’s piece is a tough read, but what is happening to people’s relationships is an important highlight of his critique. Even as I write today, I also recognize my own susceptibility to being transformed wrongly—deformed—by my consumptive mentality. Obviously, this kind of transformation is a far cry from the healing of the Creator’s world.

“Transformation” is an evocative word, but left dangling without that clarity, it falls readily into the ambiguous tracks the seductive notion of “progress” elicits and runs on. It sounds great, and it is definitely generative, but motion does not inherently mend. Kinesis is not kenosis.

But--praise God—I was wrong! I went back to get the exact wording of our “transformation” piece and was relieved looking over how we changed our mission statement in the United Methodist Church last year. By no means have we dropped our call to “make disciples of Jesus Christ” for a fuzzy new or modern notion of transformation. As Bishop Palmer said last year, this addition is simply “the missionary piece of our making disciples of Christ, [and we] seek to join God in the redemption of the whole world." I wholeheartedly agree. We are “for” the right kind of transformation when we start with following Jesus!

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