This week I read this post over on Adventure Faith about YAR and was inspired to rewrite the YAR “about us” page. In his post, blogger Mike Barret suggests that radical Anabaptists is about as incongruous as radical librarians. I realized that we’re operating with different definitions of what radical means. Mike is about to publish a new book entitled “The Danger Habit”. I was curious about what “radical” means for him, so I read the first chapter that he’s posted on-line. In it, Mike describes his experience as a surfer, skateboarder and Christian. But it isn’t just another “Whoa, Dude, God is cool” book. Mike describes the experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD and realizing that his lifestyle wasn’t always compatible with being a dad. At the same time, he came to see risk-seeking behavior as a gift from God:
And God needs some of us to be change makers, not routine sustainers, to live dangerously, not just enjoy reading about it, to pioneer new ways of thinking and living because the old ways are tired and boring.
He backs this claim up by quoting from a study by Dr. Marvin Zuckerman of the University of Delaware that suggests risk-seeking may be “hard-wired” into some people’s brains. Therefore, radical behavior is something that God is down with. Makes sense to me. Radical people are necessary for change and innovation.
Of course, when Mike says “radical people” he’s talking more about the kind that base jump and less about the sit-in kind. Nonetheless, I think it raises some questions for those of us who tend towards risking arrest rather then risking death. Are we also motivated by chemicals in our brain as much as we are motivated by God’s vision of shalom when we participate in direct action? What about our Anabaptist ancestors. Did Felix Manz choose martyrdom because the snow board hadn’t been invented yet? Could be.
Reading the first chapter of “The Danger Habit” with a more political or social definition of radical in mind was interesting. There are some promising sentences, such as “Following Jesus actually requires a full dose of risk-taking or it will quickly become deadening religion, not the new life He came to give.” But then in the last pages of the chapter, radical Christianity is only discussed in the personal, spiritual realm with a fairly narrow focus. There’s no discussion about the radical ways Jesus calls us to care for the poor or love our enemy. Of course, I’ve only seen the first chapter, so perhaps there’s a broader discussion of what being a Christian radical can mean. I hope so, because there’s some real possibilities for conversation on this theme. Check out the About us page for more.