What are you? James K.A. Smith gives two possible answers (my summary):
- I am a thinker. Information enters my mind, I think about it. I believe things about it. What drives me is my rational thoughts. I do things because I believe they are the best things to do.
- I am a lover. I am grasped by a vision. I want it. I desire it. I love it. What drives me is my insatiable appetite for the realisation of that vision.
If the second view is closer to reality (and I think it is), then what needs to happen in order for me to flourish?
In order to flourish, I need to be captivated by the right vision. Information isn't enough. Just knowing some facts won't make me love the right thing. That love needs to be formed in me. I need formation, not just information.
But how does that process of formation happen?
When we engage in our daily routines and practices (or rituals, or liturgies), that process of formation takes place. What we do in a bodily way from day to day sets the orientation of our hearts. The way to my heart is through my body.
The shopping centre (or mall) is one place where these formative practices take place. It is no use asking what the shopping centre believes: its purpose is not to make us (as thinkers) think certain things. Its purpose is rather to make us (as lovers) love certain things. As we stroll through the aisles looking at the images and seeing what is on offer, we are formed, and we are grasped by a vision of the good life—a vision of the "kingdom", as Smith puts it.
As churches gather to worship, that should also be a place where formative practices take place. We gather together to learn to love a vision of the kingdom—one which is antithetical to the vision of the kingdom enshrined in the cathedrals of consumerism. Worship should be formative, not just informative. It is in this kind of formative worship "that we are formed to be precisely those agents of cultural renewal who come as ambassadors of a coming kingdom".
So how can we become better lovers? We need to recognise those "cultural liturgies" that are shaping what we love, and we need actively to pursue those practices that will help us to love the right vision of the kingdom.