Archives For Capitalism


“The Grotesque Nature of
Disembodied, Modern Christianity”

A Review of
The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race
By Willie James Jennings

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race
Willie James Jennings
Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Many readers of The Englewood Review will recognize that there is something deeply wrong with Christianity in these early years of the twenty-first century and most of these readers would argue that these problems are hardly new and have plagued the church for decades if not centuries.  There are, of course, an abundance of books published each year that detail these shortcomings, and posit solutions for how we might repent of these sins.  Few books, however, offer as broad and holistic a picture of our brokenness as Willie Jennings’ new theological masterpiece, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, and even fewer books (perhaps none) can come close to the depth of Jennings’ historical account of how we wound up in the mess we are in today.  Jennings concisely sums up the aim of the book in his conclusion:  “I want Christians to recognize the grotesque nature of a social performance of Christianity that imagines Christian identity floating above land, landscape, animals, place, and space, leaving such realities to the machinations of capitalistic calculations and the commodity chains of private property.  Such Christian identity can only inevitably lodge itself in the materiality of racial existence” (293). Continue Reading…


Book Forum: “What Would Jesus Buy?”
Two Books on Consumerism and Evangelical Culture

Books claiming to decipher evangelical Christianity for the secular reader are nothing new, but the Bush years ushered in the genre’s golden age. Following the 2000 election, scores of pundits sought to explain the rise of the Christian right, and some of their efforts were worthwhile. For The Great Derangement, Matt Taibbi went undercover at a fundamentalist retreat that culminated with a mass exorcism where he was encouraged to vomit up demons, and he walked away understanding how easy it could be to “bury your ‘sinful’ self far under the skin of your outer Christian.” D. Michael Lindsay conducted interviews with evangelicals in business and politics for Faith in the Halls of Power and (perhaps to a fault) allowed them to speak for themselves.

Read the full review:

Witnessing Suburbia:
Conservatives and Christian Youth Culture.

Eileen Luhr.

Paperback: U of Calif. Press, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

To Serve God and Wal-Mart:
The Making of Christian Free Enterprise.

Bethany Moreton.

Hardcover: Harvard U.P., 2009.
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $22 ] [ Amazon ]

Jesus Manifesto Reviews

Why should Christian radicals – ordinary and otherwise – read Brennan Manning’s books?

We need to read Brennan Manning — a former Franciscan priest and self-described ragamuffin — because, while affirming both community and action, he calls us back to that which is the universe’s lone life source: intimacy with God. In Manning’s latest release, The Furious Longing of God, he reminds us that ours is not an egotistical deity who sits back and smugly fields the praise of indebted subjects, but one who chases after creation with a fury unlike the universe has ever seen.

Read the full review:

Brennan Manning.

Hardcover: David C. Cook, 2009
Buy now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ] [ Amazon ]

Movements toward the Beautiful
in the Theology of Charles Williams


In his book The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty, Paul Evdokimov compares the Creator God to a divine poet who brings the world into being from nothingness, each creative act summed up with these words, “[H]e saw that it was beautiful.” Evdokimov contends that in the Greek text, the word used for what God sees is kalon (beautiful) and not agathon (good), and the word used in the Hebrew text can sustain both meanings simultaneously. What God has created, he has made beautiful; creation is fundamentally beautiful. As Evdokimov continues his narrative on the creation text, he demonstrates that in Genesis “the Hebrew word to create is conjugated in the completed mood (Genesis 1). That is to say, the world ‘has been created, is created, and will be created’ until its fulfilment.” Here we feel the pulse in language of the process of becoming: God in his divine wisdom began a drama in which he created in the “completed mood,” and in so doing, he invited the participation of his creation in its own fulfilment. As the twentieth-century Russian theologian Sergii Bulgakov teaches, all creation is longing to be revealed as what it is, as fundamentally beautiful, and “all things press towards beauty.”


But how are we to understand beauty, and what does it mean that God has invoked the synergistic and historically bound participation of his creation into its consummation? In this essay, I consider these questions using the theology of Charles Williams, an early twentieth century lay theologian and poet. As I pursue the idea of beauty within Williams, I will invoke other authors whose thinking might fructify and enhance Williams’s thought. Then I will turn to the question of sanctification. If beauty is our fundamental nature and that to which we are pressed, then we must seek to know how “beauty saves the world,” as Fydor Dostoevsky once said. To explore this question, I will examine Williams’s understanding of the poetic and its relationship to the life of the church.


“Rooted in Economic Discernment?”

A Review of
Being Consumed:
Economics and Christian Desire.

by William Cavanaugh.


By Chris Smith.

Being Consumed:
Economics and Christian Desire.

William Cavanaugh.

Paperback. Eerdmans, 2008.
Buy now from: [ ]

When William Cavanaugh’s little book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire was published earlier this year, no one could have guessed how relevant it would become with the recent economic turmoil.  This little book of four essays is a tool for helping us reflect in our churches on why we got into this economic mess.  The book’s essays are structured around the contrast between pairs of key ideas related to contemporary capitalist economics: “Freedom and Unfreedom,” “Detachment and Attachment,” “The Global and the Local” and “Scarcity and Abundance.” 

                In the first essay “Freedom and Unfreedom,” Cavanaugh uses Augustine’s concept of freedom as the basis for a Christian critique of the modern capitalist notion of “free markets.”  The thrust of his critique lies in the distinction that the capitalist concept of freedom is a “freedom from” that has no clear end, whereas Augustine views freedom as a “freedom for” which has a specific end in mind (i.e., reconciliation with God).  Cavanaugh also emphasizes that in contrast to the stark individualistic autonomy of capitalism, the Augustinian view of freedom maintains that others are “crucial to one’s freedom” (9).  Our desires, he observes, do not merely bubble up from within us, but rather our desires are formed in a social crucible, being shaped both from within and without (i.e., from our relationships with others).  Finally, Cavanaugh highlights Augustine’s notion that everything that exists is good, but only to the extent that they participate in the telos of creation – reconciliation with God.  Thus, when we desire things for their own sake, they become nothing to us.  Cavanaugh sagely observes that this provides a striking explanation for the addictiveness of consumer behavior:

A person buys something – anything – trying to fill the hole that is the empty shrine. And once the shopper purchases the thing, it turns into a nothing, and she has to head back to the mall to continue the search.  With no objective ends to guide the search, her search is literally endless(15).

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