Saturday, April 9, 2016

Great Explanation of "You Are What You Love"

This review by Derek Rishmawy of James K.A. Smith's book, which I strongly recommended yesterday, is outstanding. Rishmawy captured the main message of the book with a clever title: Reading This Book Will Not Change Your Life.

What he meant is just what Smith argues in the book: it is not learning and knowledge and beliefs that change your life; it is how those things change or affect what you love and care about. If you simply read a book and it doesn't help you correct or reshape what you love and desire, you will still continue to follow the same habits and the same affections you did before you read the book, with the same results.

This is certainly not a new idea, and if you're a frequent reader of sites like you are familiar with this truism. What makes Smith's book compelling is that he is uncommonly insightful and helpful in identifying and revealing the unconscious patterns and habits that keep us in love with the wrong things, and demonstrating how to form habits and practices that build desire and love for God and the right things. You can see that from the first part of Rishmawy's review (but I really recommend the whole thing):

"My title’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it cuts to the heart of James K.A. Smith’s thesis in his new book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Over a number of works, especially his Cultural Liturgies series (Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom), Smith has argued that modern, Western Christians (especially Evangelicals) have been held captive by a false picture of the human person as “thinking thing.”
On this view, you are what you think and there’s something of a simple correlation between what you believe and the way you live. Discipleship, then, is mostly a matter of proper spiritual data input.
But we’re not just thinking things. No, following Augustine (and the Scriptures), Smith argues that we’re worshipers. We’re desirers. We’re lovers who are shaped by those things we love most.
The hitch is that our deepest loves aren’t necessarily those things we consciously think we want most, but those drives that reside within us at an almost unconscious level. And they show up in our habits, our basic patterns of life.
If that’s the case, then, discipleship is not mostly a matter of data input, or simply reading the right book, but about the long, arduous path of having your desires transformed through the power of habit. Yes, our loves show up in our habits, but it’s also the case that our habits and practices give testimony to and shape our loves.
And so, we are constantly being shaped in one way or another by the various practices (liturgies) we’re engaged in, whether it’s checking our smart phones, visiting the local mall, eating fast food, or consuming varieties of ideologically-loaded pop cultural artifacts.
For this reason, the transformation of desire isn’t simply going to happen by rearranging some of our beliefs, but by adopting the sorts of practices that shape our loves to conform to the Kingdom of God. These liturgies train our hearts, sort of like batting practice trains our arms or training wheels our stabilizer muscles, in the way they should go."
Click through for the rest of his review...

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