Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Radical Roots. What Happened?

As I was growing up in the Reformed Tradition, I saw very little of that world-formative impulse so prominent in its origins. For me the tradition represented a certain theology and a certain piety. The piety came through most clearly in the prayers. As I remember them, they were of the structure “We thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you have granted us, and we ask you to remember those less fortunate than we are.” The attitude communicated was that it was God’s business to care of the oppressed and deprived of the world, our role was simply to pray that he not neglect to do so. If presented to me then, the thesis of Michael Walzer in his book The Revolution of the Saints, that “the Calvinist saint [is] the first of those self-disciplined agents of social and political reconstruction who have appeared so frequently in modern history,” would have seemed comically perverse as a description of my own tradition.

Since then I have learned of the radical origins of the tradition in which I was reared. Learning of those origins has given me a deepened appreciation of my own identity. It has also produced in me a profound discontent over my tradition’s loss of its radicalism. Why has it become so quiescently – sometimes oppressively – conservative?

-Nicholas Wolterstorff
in Until Justice & Peace Embrace.

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