Right now a group of us are studying the book An Other Kingdom by Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight. Basically, this book lifts up the differences between a consumer/market culture and a culture of neighborliness, and concludes that the consumer/market culture isn’t working to make our world better or healthier. It is time to bring back the values and practices of neighborliness for the common good, and the health and wholeness of the people… not to mention that these are the values and practices that are lifted up in our Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

First, let’s flesh out what defines and characterizes the two cultures:neighbors

Consumer/Market Culture

  • Profit driven
  • Competitive
  • Employee is expendable
  • Privatization
  • Scarcity
  • Institutions
  • Progress
  • Contracts
  • Get what we want when we want it
  • Individualism
  • Faster is better
  • Autonomy
  • Marketplace is God
  • Environment is for profit
  • Isolation

Neighborly Culture

  • Buy local
  • We have enough and enough to share
  • Employees are assets
  • Employee/employer loyalty
  • Relationships are important
  • Covenants – your word and a handshake
  • Common good
  • Trust
  • A place for God and Mystery
  • Values the environment as part of our ecosystem
  • Good stewardship of our resources
  • Subsistence farming and eating
  • Be kind to your neighbor! Leviticus 19: don’t steal, cheat, oppress, insult, judge or be unfair
  • Know and talk to our neighbors

We live in what we like to call a Christian nation (this may be arguable)… but the values that Jesus would support are not the values that are important out there today. It feels like people have compartmentalized Jesus into the church box, and conveniently leave him (and his values) there after worship on Sunday morning. I am frustrated that our faith and our lives outside of the churches do not intersect.

We have become a culture obsessed with money, with having more, with being the best and brightest and to hell with everyone else. Everything is about personal gain or making the most profit. Most could care less about the common good. Most could care less if what we do to the environment will affect our great-great-great grandchildren.

But there is a rising tide of people who have a deep sense that there is a different way to live. A way that values all people, a way that respects and cares for others and the environment, a way that builds relationships and connections, a way of neighborliness. We’ll have to step out into the wilderness of the counter-culture to experience it, but for those who do the result is aliveness and vitality, love and compassion, life in abundance.

It feels idealistic, I know, to think we could start to shift the culture. Yet I think it is already starting to shift in many, many small ways and even a few big ways. We can’t change the world, but we can change our little corner of it. It is about asking ourselves the question of how we apply these pieces of neighborliness to our lives, how we raise our children, how we interact with our neighbors, where we buy our food and clothes, how we treat the earth, what we teach and how we act as a community of faith.

Perhaps we could keep asking ourselves and those we work, live and associate with, the question the authors pose:

What would a system look like that built neighborliness and covenantal relationships?