Book Recommendation: An Other Kingdom

An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture kingdomby Peter Block, Walter Brueggeman, and John McKnight.

If ‘departing the consumer culture’ makes you think of communes, victory gardens, and churning your own butter, think again. This book is about a different kind of departure: not from technology or citizenship, but from passive acceptance of the values of consumerism: scarcity, certainty, perfection, competition, and fear. Block, Brueggeman, and McKnight show these values, so lucrative for our media and our markets, for what they are: an ideology of empire that pits us against each other, against the planet, and against the image of God in our very selves.

In response, they invite us to consider what it would look like to embrace values grounded in Hebrew and Christian scriptures: abundance, mystery, fallibility, and covenant, to name a few. They mark the signs of those values emerging around us already.

This is not a book about how the Church can change or recover. It’s a book about waking up to each individual’s freedom to see clearly the toxicity of the culture we swim in, and to consciously choose an other way. Their insights have profound implications for how neighborhoods, associations, and faith communities live together, how leaders set vision and work toward it. It’s deeply hopeful while being clear-eyed about the work ahead.

Especially in this post-election season, I commend it to you. One of the strengths of this book is that it isn’t written to the Church: while there are references to Scripture, this conversation invites anyone into a deep reflection on how we are shaped by market values. So this will be a great book for discussion groups with neighbors and friends of many political and religious stripes. For those of us who follow the way of Jesus, this book will be a caution about letting the implicit values of the market infect our vision of the kingdom of God. Read it and prepare to be challenged.