I sat down and plowed through Desiring the Kingdom by James K A Smith over Fall Break.
When I say plowed through, I mean that. James is a smart dude and that came across in his writing. I found myself looking up more words than I care to admit. However, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book, just means I had to work at it a little harder than my typical read. I’m sure there are people out there who didn’t have to work hard at all to read his book, I’m just not one of them.
Smith’s thesis is that human beings are not primarily thinking “things” nor are they doing “things”, they’re loving “things.” That is to say that their essence is determined on what they desire or what they love. He makes a fantastic case for this in chapter one of the book. Frankly, chapter one is worth the entire read. It made me think about things in a way that I had not yet thought about them. It’s a beautiful thing to think about us as “things” that desire something. And whether or not we know it or not we are desiring things, they could be things of God or things not of God.
The Kingdom of God is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, which is a reason I chose to read Smith’s work (Also the Study Center here at UVA is hosting a talk by him in November that I want to attend).
After chapter one he begins to unpack how this all plays out in day to day life. I appreciated his thoughts on culture and how the things we do determine what we love. It is a good thing to consider that the mall is trying to form what I love and so is the football stadium (this is another thing I’ve been thinking about lately). These things are not neutral. They are forming us.
Coming from what I would consider a low church background made it harder to relate to all of the liturgy talk that goes on in the second half of the book. However, this did not make the reading impossible, there just had to be a little bit of translation. It’s lot like when I read CEO business books and have to make the jump to nonprofit myself. Not impossible, just different.
I found the book to be very engaging, difficult to read, and helpful all at the same time. It may not be the best book I’ve read on the Kingdom of God, but I have found it to be very helpful. If you feel up to the academic challenge, I would recommend it.