Radical Preaching

Can preaching again have something to say?
This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Day One with Dan Bell

The title of Bell's work is drawn from an influential article written by Frances Fukuyama in 1989. With the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Fukuyama claimed,
"The unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism on the stage of world history, the triumph of consumerist Western culture, the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism" (1).
Indeed, Fukuyama claimed that history was moving inexorably towards a "universally homogenous state characterized by liberal democracy in the political sphere combined with easy access to VCRs and stereos in the economic" (1). The collapse of the Soviet Union and the movement of China towards a communist variant of state-sponsored capitalism would seem to bolster Fukuyama's case even further. Citizens in the Western powers are called upon to celebrate that "we are all capitalist now!" For Fukuyama, the end of history has come, and only those who refuse to realize this fact will remain bound up in history.

Dan Bell, on the other hand, declares,
"The end of history has not been brought near by the boardrooms of New York and Tokyo or the staterooms of Washington DC and Mexico City, nor does human desire find its satisfactions in the capitalist market. Rather, history finds its end far from the boardrooms and away from the marketplace, on a hill where a poor person, uttering the words, 'forgive them,' was crucified" (1).
Thus, Bell reveals that both capitalism and the Church proclaim the end of history. Capitalism proclaims the market and the supportive governmental and cultural institutional structures as the end of history and ultimately as humankind's hope for salvation. Bell, on the other hand, sees the end of history in Jesus' crucifixion and "what comes next" (1-2). The "next" for Bell ultimately is the Church working out the ramifications of the end of history, revealed in Jesus' death and resurrection, in her ecclesial life.

Bell highlights that more is at stake than just mere consumerism. How often do we reduce Christian critique to a simple critique of the excesses of American materialism?!? Instead, capitalism and Christianity operate with a radically different vision of God, culture, government, and daily living. To critique capitalism, Bell seeks to oppose it as a metanarrative that structures the world in a certain way. It is an ensemble of technologies that disciplines desire to deliver it to the market (This will be discussed in depth tomorrow). Consequently, the Church must again be able to pronounce and embody a way of life that offers an alternative to capitalist discipline, a language that exceeds the economic language of capitalism, and an account of history that does not end on Madison Avenue and Wall Street.


Blogger Eric Lee said...


Thanks for posting this. That original 1989 article by Fukuyama is here, btw, if you're interested.



November 21, 2005 10:34 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Interestingly, I used to think Fukuyama was absolutely correct. I was from the neo-institutional school of thought that argued getting your institutions correct would help bring about progress to society. It is interesting that I still believe about the same thing, I've just replaced liberal institutions with ecclesiology.

November 21, 2005 11:03 AM  

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