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.
i like the new about us page! two thumbs up!
You have done a fantastic job catching the point of The Danger Habit. Thanks for the fair treatment Tim.
And to answer your question about the rest of the book, I do call the reader to take action against injustice – socially, politically and spiritually. In chapter 6, “We Were Made to Fight”, I call the reader to fight against materialism, pornography, consumeristic Christianity, hyper-faith (name it claim it) movements, and deteriorating family structures. Radicals of all kinds should be compelled to move off the worn path between home and church and take an inventory of the battlefields in their community, nation, and world.
What if all the Christians who love a little bit of danger in their lives invested themselves in the fight for Darfur rather than the next ski vacation? I guess that is the kind of Christianity we need.
Anyway, I love your site and I love more what you are stirring up within your community. Fight on!
Mike, I’m glad to hear you tackle radical work for change later in the book! It would be great if trips to Darfur and Colombia were as common among Christians as trips to go skiing. Perhaps your book will help people take a step in that direction. I look forward to finding myself a copy.
Mike, I’m curious what you mean by “deteriorating family structures.” Can you explain this more? I often see this and similar language thrown around, as if we all know what this means, but I’m not sure I am thinking the same thing you are thinking. That phrase reminds me of “family values” and “pro-family.” Is that the idea you are going for?
On another note, all this talk of “surfing (or skateboarding) for Jesus” reminds me of the book I’m reading right now. I’m not all the way through it but I’ve found it fascinating so far. Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler. I’ll give it my recommendation for folks on this blog, especially if you are interested in learning more about the “Evangelical lifestyle.”
Enjoyed the post. I read this book last month and really was encouraged by it. So many think that the Christian faith is nothing more than than a series of weekly potlucks (I guess for some that’s true). But Mike’s examples prove otherwise. Thanks for mentioning the book.