I loved Crouch’s two major previous books, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. I felt this one was also very profitable, though not quite as deep as his other two. All the same, I’m planning a second read-through. I want to get this. I think he’s on to something big, something abidingly useful and true. What really made me think so was when he finally got to showing how this thing—embracing a life of vulnerability on the one hand and authority on the other—is so thoroughly true of Jesus. He emptied himself, but spoke with authority. He humbled himself, but forgave sins. The Bible was a bit less evident in this book than in the others (particularly Culture Making); Crouch in this book felt Gladwellian more so than preacherish. But this connection of his thesis to Jesus is so strong that I was persuaded. Crouch writes as a Christian and a theologian, as a gifted popularizer and a not a self-help guru.
Crouch is one person whose books you don’t want to miss if you want to do what the Bible calls for: “Those who have believed in God [must] be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8). How can your good works make a difference, truly helping others? What is the best way to work with others to do good for your neighbor? Crouch got me thinking about the role institutions, in particular, play in answering that question. That was in Playing God. Now he has me thinking about the ways in which I must take risks and increase my vulnerability if I want to lend authority, authority to “make something of the world,” to others.
Here’s just one comment that he made that was wise and immediately helpful:
When media are tools that help those who have lacked the capacity for action take action, and bring them together to bear risk together rather than be paralyzed in Suffering, they can lead to real change. But when the residents of the comfortable affluence of Withdrawing use media to simulate engagement, to give ourselves a sense of making a personal investment when in fact our activity risks nothing and forms nothing new in our characters, then “virtual activism” is in fact a way of doubling down on withdrawing, holding on to one’s invulnerability and incapacity while creating a sensation of involvement. Only when technology serves a genuine, embodied, risky move toward flourishing is it something other than an opiate for the mass elite—the drug that leaves us mired in our apathy and our neighbors in their need. (87–88)
A little note on the audio: make sure to see Crouch’s 2×2 chart before you listen to the book, or you’ll have a little trouble following along: