Desiring the Kingdom Book Club, week 4: Social Imaginaries – Simply Convivial

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Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

This week we’re discussing the last of chapter 1, pages 63-73, about Smith’s alternative to worldview-talk: social imaginaries talk. It feels like we’ve wended a long, circuitous, wordy way ‘round the introduction, and should now be set up to get to the meat of it. But, I haven’t managed to get more than a few pages ahead of the book club assignments, so I am not sure if this impression is correct.

Summary: A concept by any other name

Worldview, narratives, social imaginaries, oh my! What’s the dif, really?

In Smith’s opinion, worldview talk often ignores practices, focusing primarily on beliefs, assumptions, and concepts. Worldview talk ignores the real working of culture, deconstructing it rather than building it up. Often, it teaches as if the world’s culture can be combatted with a lecture or with a critique, rather than bestowing a culture of its own.

Smith, instead, wants a term that encompasses practices (which is where culture is born), narratives, and the communal and traditional nature of culture and perspective.

I do think the critique of the first wave of worldview emphasis is worth rethinking. I’m not eager to pick up such cumbersome terms as social imaginaries, but I do think worldviewishness needs to include virtue, practices, tradition, and story more robustly. It is a fair stereotype to say (as Jenny Rallens did in her lecture on liturgy) that worldview-focused education tends to produce critical, analytical, haughty students who are too good and too smart for awe and wonder, and maybe even for virtue-with-legs.

I loved his comment that culture is more of a verb than a noun. I admit, however, that it brought up a quite uncultured memory of D.C. Talk’s rap-like song “Love is a Verb” that I thought was so good in middle school. Culture, culture is a verb. And is, perhaps, culture a form of love? Yes, that is what he is saying.

Further Book Club Conversation

Visit these other participants’ posts and keep the conversation going in the comment sections! You don’t have to have a blog to participate. Please jump on in.


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Next week: Chapter 2 (all of it), pages 75-88.

  1. Amanda
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    I have often thought that practices and not ideas are the only real safeguards in culture. For example…the baptism of infants is a safeguard against the culture of death i.e. abortion. The defined sacraments of the Church keep man practicing at humanity in a very organic way.

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