Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power is in print! It can be ordered in hardcover from Hearts and Minds Books or directly from the publisher, InterVarsity Press, where you can also buy a DRM-free eBook version. The Kindle edition is available now for Amazon, and the hardcover should be in stock at Amazon by the end of September.
With Playing God, Andy Crouch explores the subject of power and its subtle activity in our relationships and institutions. Giving more than a warning against abuse, Crouch turns the notion of “playing God” on its head, celebrating power as the gift by which we join in God’s creative, redeeming work in the world.
“In deft moves of integrating sound biblical theology with astute observations about culture, Andy Crouch wades into the immense topic of power—the powers, institutional power, cultural power, racial power—to offer the alternative Christian perception of power, a power that can be reshaped by the gospel about Jesus Christ, refashioned by love and reoriented by a new community called the church. In this book worldly power is deconstructed and replaced with a new kind of gospel power.”
—Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
“It’s likely that most readers of this book will both possess more power than they realize and feel uncomfortable with the amount of it that they know they’ve got. This book holds keys to liberation. It illuminates that power is, foundationally, good. It offers 3D pictures of what power is for (flourishing) and what its right use looks like (creative image-bearing that expands our own and others’ joyful ‘meaning-making’). Crouch’s Bible-saturated teaching frees us from guilt and guides us in the active, humble and, importantly, essential calling to steward our power, thus helping us avoid the equal dangers of abusing our power and neglecting it. Playing God is a wise, deeply insightful, imaginative work; by heeding its lessons, Christians will be far more fruitful in their efforts to advance Jesus’ kingdom in our broken world.”
—Amy L. Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling
“Perhaps no question with such urgent life-and-death consequences is more poorly understood among Christians in our era than the stewardship of power; but gloriously, in Playing God, Andy Crouch provides the clarity we need in this once-in-a-generation work of sweeping theological and sociological depth. It is fresh, rigorous, profoundly helpful and a delight to read.”
—Gary A. Haugen, president & CEO, International Justice Mission
These are the remarks I prepared for yesterday’s press conference sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table.
As a journalist, part of my job is to watch for change, and ask why that change is happening. There aren’t many changes more dramatic in American evangelicalism than the way its leaders have embraced the indispensable justice of immigration reform. How do you get to the point where more than 180 leaders and more than 10,000 people sign a statement of evangelical principles on immigration reform, and where 30,000 people sign up to be prayer partners in that effort?
I want to highlight three reasons for this remarkable consensus.
1) Evangelical Christians serve. They are involved in countless forms of service in cities and towns. And in those settings of service they directly experience the dignity and the needs of both documented and undocumented immigrants. And it’s both dignity and needs. This movement is not just driven by a sense of compassion for need, it is also driven by having been humbled by the dignity, commitment, and faith of immigrants.
2) Their churches and institutions have been enriched by generations of immigrants from every part of the world. A lot of pollsters like to break out the opinions of “white evangelicals.” But as you see from the group of leaders gathered here, one of the most remarkable features of evangelical Christianity in the United States is its ethnic diversity. [I venture to say that in any American city, if you look at churches founded in the last twenty years, the vast majority are evangelical or Pentecostal, and a great number are founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.] And the more you are a leader in this movement, the more you become aware of the strength of that diversity and how much of it comes from recently arrived residents and citizens.
3) They have read, and been converted by, the Bible. They have seen how directly Scripture addresses the responsibility of nations to welcome and protect the most vulnerable: widows, orphans, and ‘strangers.’ There’s a reason the Evangelical Immigration Table could put together a 40-day prayer challenge featuring biblical readings on immigration: There are 40 days worth of material in the Bible on immigrants and immigration. A just and humane system for recognizing and welcoming immigrants is a biblical non-negotiable for any nation that wants to reflect the heart of God.
One of my other jobs is to tell stories. For three years I’ve led a project called This Is Our City, telling stories about ways that Christians are seeking the flourishing of their cities. Last year we were in Phoenix, and we produced a documentary film about Ricardo, who came to this country with his family as a young boy. He became a star football player in high school, and was offered a football scholarship to college, and it was only as he filled out the forms for that scholarship that Ricardo realized not just that he could not receive the scholarship with his current legal status, but that there was no obvious pathway to ever be recognized as an American, a citizen of the country he loves and considers his own.
Ricardo’s story is a moving story. (You can view it at bit.ly/ricardoct.) But seven years ago my predecessors at CT told another moving story about another Christian who wanted to come to America, named Maria. The context was an editorial supporting immigration reform. That was 2006. It has been seven years. The stories are just as moving, the cause is just as just—it’s time for action. And that is what we are hoping for in 2013.
But what of the Empire Building? It was a thrilling experience to be whizzed in a “lift” a quarter of a mile heavenward, and to see New York spread out like a marvellous tapestry beneath us.
There was the Hudson – more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars.
We live in a time when many religious people feel fiercely threatened by science. O ye of little faith. Let them subscribe to Scientific American for a year and then tell me if their sense of the grandeur of God is not greatly enlarged by what they have learned from it. Of course many of the articles reflect the assumption at the root of many problems, that an account, however tentative, of some structure of the cosmos or some transaction of the nervous system successfully claims that part of reality for secularism. Those who encourage a fear of science are actually saying the same thing. If the old, untenable dualism is put aside, we are instructed in the endless brilliance of creation. Surely to do this is a privilege of modern life for which we should all be grateful.
If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
Wislawa Szymborska (1923–2012), from “Under One Small Star”
Voluntary memory, the memory of the intellect and the eyes, [gives] us only imprecise facsimiles of the past which no more resemble it than pictures by bad painters resemble the spring…. So we don’t believe that life is beautiful because we don’t recall it, but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead, because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
What if, instead of that playful word bubble, we tried something a bit more accurately descriptive when growth at any cost became the goal. Say, “tumor”: “the dot-com tumor,” “the subprime tumor,” “the derivatives tumor.”
Would anyone seriously gainsay the highest possible vigilance over the proper functioning of their own body or doubt the need for strong regulation? Who, facing the prospect of a tumorous outbreak or living with a body demonstrably prone to such outbreaks, would entrust that body to a band of physicians blithely committed to laissez faire regarding these fatal bubbles of flesh?
Words matter. Metaphors frame thought. Pay them heed and tend them well.
“Olympic National Park is the listener’s Yosemite,” Hempton said of his decision to locate his One Square Inch within the park’s forested realm. “In a single day, you can listen to an alpine environment, a wilderness beach, and a temperate rain forest. And it has the longest noise-free interval of any national park I’ve been to, and I’ve been to them all.”
Part of Olympic’s quiet stems from its location: It sits on a peninsula in a secluded corner of the country. The park is not crossed by highways, navigable rivers, or utility rights of way; and it lies west of the major cross-country plane routes. Only three commercial-airline paths encroach upon its borders. Alaska Airlines is the most active, flying overhead 37 times each day in summer, but it tries to avoid the park during routine maintenance and training flights—a concession the carrier made to Hempton after he wrote asking it to change its flight patterns.
Religions, he thinks, have the buttons and know how to use them. His book considers the Catholic mass, early Christianitiy’s ritual of agape or love feasts, and Jewish Passover rituals to explore how religions encouraged us to overcome fear of strangers and create communities. He then tentatively imagines a so-called “agape restaurant” where, instead of dining with like-minded friends, you would be invited to eat with strangers. It would be the antithesis of Facebook.