Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

For A Botched Civilization? Part 2

Written by: on April 18, 2013

The world is not right.  While philosophers, pundits, politicians and the like fret, worry, and propose solutions, this semester in my Doctor of Ministry program, my cohort and I have been on a journey of sorts.  We have been delving into the historical, social, philosophical, theological, and economic underpinnings of the late Western modern world.  As such, this week’s, and semester finale, reading, Murray Jardine’s The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can Save Modernity From Itself, feels like a capstone from everything we have read this semester from Weber to Taylor, and Bebbington to Cavanaugh. 

Jardine attempts to show why our world, built on so much optimism and progress, often feels so wrong.  He also argues with those who certainly still hold to optimism in markets and the liberal democratic system, that in fact these modernist imaginaries are unsupportable and may eventually collapse.  For Jardine modern society is characterized by expressive individualism, hyper consumerism, fragmentation, all based on the false hopes of liberal modernism.

Jardine argues that the anecdote is community, and while he certainly is not arguing for a form of imposed political Christianity, he still is urging a kind of full structural overhaul of our cityscapes and neighborhoods found in the New Urbanism.  This is something that must come from the top down of course, and this may be the biggest weakness of Jardine’s argument.  Certainly, his argument for a better sense of civic community is important, and maybe he is even envisioning a eschatological projection of what resurrection life will one day look like.  However, basically Jardine is arguing for communities that look more like Europe.

For the last 8 years I have lived in Spain, and I can firmly attest that the quality of life and community that Jardine argues for are fully capable within his New Urban paradigm.  My family walks everywhere, we see our neighbors regularly, are familiar with the people who work in our local market, bakery, and favorites bars and restaurants.  Families live close to each other or in some cases with each other, aiding each other with child and elder care.  The elderly can enjoy life as they can easily access points of community, family, and commercial life in a short walking distance. 

On the surface, this all seems very idyllic and certainly my family and I love living and working in Southern Spain.  Certainly, Jardine’s argument is commendable, but my concern is that it does not go far enough.  Scratch just below the surface in Spain (or any country organized as such) and one finds troubling problems: machismo, physical abuse of women, rampant prostitution (and sexual slavery), hopelessness, and massive, crushing unemployment to name a few.  Spain of course is dealing with its own societal shifts in its postmodern orientation, rending of the Christendom experiment, residual pain of fascism, and fragmentation.

Jardine’s ultimate point is that we need to live in communities where our human agency and freedom is celebrated, but where Christian limits are placed on freedom’s full on run into nihilism.  Here I would argue (and I think Jardine would agree, he is importantly thinking on a macro-societal level) that what cultures and peoples need is a personal encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, to be transformed by his love and then to transform the world and be further transformed by living in community with other Christians.  However, in a place like Spain (and maybe even the US) the religious community has often not looked like much of a transformative community.  In Catholic Spain, salvation is in and only in the church, thus it is meted out in a hierarchical way.  People attend mass, and have therefore received salvation.  People are then free to go on about their life.  David Bosch points out that what happened here is that “soteriology tended to get divorced from Christology and to be subordinated to ecclesiology (222).”  Spanish Catholicism is still very much operating in a Christendom mentality, and as Jardine points out, still a medieval (almost pagan) orientation.  I am more and more convinced that what Spain needs is real Christian community, small groups of committed Christians living radically in how they live out in word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently I have been researching monasticism, and even reading a bit about the New Monastic Movement that has influenced Protestant and Evangelical Christianity.  There is much to be learned from classical and medieval monastic movements: their passion for holiness, their intimacy with Christ that often spilt over into mission and service, their commitment to living in communities of prayer, and their radical lifestyle.  The New Monastics have attempted to construct a more Protestant monasticism that avoids some of the more excessive characteristics of classical monasticism, like separation, elitism, hierarchal structures, and the strict division and exclusion of women from certain vocations.  Possibly New Monasticism offers some clues for new forms of communities that can radically transform lives and communities.

What kind of communities have you seen which can transform lives?


Jardine, Murray. The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can Save Modernity from Itself. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2004.

Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis, 1991.

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