Featured Reviews, VOLUME 7

Jason Storbakken – Radical Spirituality [Feature Review]

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Review of

Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution

Jason Storbakken

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by Michael Anthony Howard
The Kingdom language of the New Testament implies an entirely new order. If we are not a part of that order, we participate in the disorder of the world. Sadly, much of the church today is self-serving, entertainment oriented, and has more in common with the disorder of the world than God’s Kingdom. By seeking to be attractional, the church has lost its ability to be transformational. Radical Living, a community of Christ’s followers embedded deep within the rhythms of Brooklyn, offers an alternative. As cofounder Jason Storbakken describes it, Radical Living is an intentional community of Christ’s followers aimed at impacting the world around them with the lived Gospel.

Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, and Revolution is Storbakken’s personal testimony mixed with an articulation of his radical ecclesiology. He articulates his own call to discipleship in light of the practices of the early church through the lens of his Hutterite ancestry. This allows Storbakken, who is a minister in the Mennonite Church USA, to tell the story of his journey to faith in a way that is rooted firmly in the gospel, yet simultaneously colored by his own nonconformist and anarchist convictions. By sharing his story, he illustrates how Radical Living embodies many of the same characteristics of other New Monastic intentional communities, while emphasizing its focus on liberation.
Storbakken’s ecclesiastical vision is unapologetically womanist and empire critical. Too many Christians today identify more with empire than they do with Jesus, who Storbakken rightly reminds us was a first-century peasant that began a nonviolent revolution. Thus, too many Christians today identify more with empire than with those who suffer from the consequences of empire. This danger is especially true for Christian men of European decent, like Storbakken. “If a straight white Christian man does not actively seek to identify with the marginalized and oppressed,” Storbakken explains, “he will easily find himself identified with the oppressor. Thus, to deepen in commitment to the way of Christ, straight white men must take a posture of continual repentance, in particular repenting of their complicity with white supremacist society” (107).
Dismantling the structures of societal injustices, for Storbakken, is what following Jesus is all about. This helps highlight why repentance, as he describes it, implies revolution. Metanoia, which can mean change, can also mean overturning.  This language of change and overturning implies a revolt against the present order, against the hopelessness and greed of the present system, against measuring ourselves according to the standards of this world. “In the Kingdom of God there is hope and justice and enough—enough food, enough resources, enough housing, enough love—for everyone” (97). Storbakken sees John the Baptist and Jesus as first-century revolutionaries. Unlike the violent revolutionaries of their day—such as Simon of Perea and Judas of Gamala, who are now merely side notes in history—John and Jesus never raised a sword or ordered others to kill. Nevertheless, they initiated a movement for peace and justice that continues today in communities like Radical Living.  “When Jesus sent his disciples into the world,” Storbakken tells us, “he began a perpetual revolution that will not end until it is ‘on earth as it is in heaven” (101).  Thus, discipleship is central to how Jesus chose to do this overturning and recreating.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. more and more I am felling the need to resist cultural norms the church has embody just to be Christian. I am excited to read the book.

  2. I haven’t read the book, but this gives me a good idea of what it’s about. It makes me want to learn more about the author’s view of what discipleship is and how it happens. The only improvement I would suggest, Michael, is to maybe add something about what you wish the author would have addressed if your thought something was missing, or that he would have addressed differently. Otherwise, great job!

  3. Linda Wiggins-Edwards

    Thank you for this review. It is important for us to remember that the role of the church is to preach freedom of the body as well as freedom of the soul, social justice as well as salvation and personal piety. I will definitely be reading this book.

  4. This looks like a very interesting interesting read with the conversation of race going on in our community a new church that is willing to break the social norms would be radical this is a great review I’m going to take a look at the book

  5. Thank you for this review! It is inspiring and challenging in many ways to me and probably other pastors who seeks to practice something radically Christian in negotiation with the church structure. It reminds me of the fact that I lost grasp on many things that I thought and concerned before.

  6. Upon finishing this review I not only went to seek the book on the Kindle store but ordered a couple copies for my Millenial generation brothers. I hope the book lives up to the great review you did of it. Your explanation of Storbakken’s social location helped me to know what to be prepared for and firmly pointed out that this is the type of book I could use for a discipleship group with young adults or anyone seeking something unique and prophetic. I’m excited for the potential maturity and outreach with this resource. Thank you for you thorough yet accessible review!