We believe in institutions: superb new magazine "Comment" with James K.A. Smith

I’ve just subscribed to the superb new Comment magazine, whose tag line is “Theology for the Public Good’.  You can preview the magazine here.

James K.A Smith is very involved with the magazine which was enough to get my interest in the first place.  There is a great piece by him in the first issue out now, titled “We believe in institutions”.

I’ve placed an excerpt below that speaks for itself.  I’ll be blogging myself about institutions and the aspect of cultural agency in capitalism of anti-institutionalism.  This anti-institutionalism springs from a previous cultural agency that gave ordinary people within capitalism the ability to create Christian identity and lives, that now masquerades as ‘authentic self expression’ destroying any ability to participate with others for the gospel.

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"So Christians who are eager to be progressive, hip, relevant, and creative tend to buy into such anti-institutionalism, thus mirroring and mimicking wider cultural trends (which, ironically, are often parasitic upon institutions!).

And yet those same Christians are rightly concerned about “the common good.” They are newly convinced that the Gospel has implications for all of life and that being a Christian should mean something for this world. Jesus calls us not only to ensure our own salvation in some privatized religious ghetto; he calls us to seek the welfare of the city and its inhabitants all around us. We love God by loving our neighbours; we glorify God by caring for the poor; we exhibit the goodness of God by promoting the common good.

But here’s the thing: if you’re really passionate about fostering the common good, then you should resist anti-institutionalism. Because institutions are ways to love our neighbours. Institutions are durable, concrete structures that—when functioning well—cultivate all of creation’s potential toward what God desires: shalom, peace, goodness, justice, flourishing, delight. Institutions are the way we get a handle on concrete realities and address different aspects of creaturely existence. Institutions will sometimes be scaffolds to support the weak; sometimes they function as fences to protect the vulnerable; in other cases, institutions are the springboards that enable us to pursue new innovation. Even though they can become corrupt and stand in need of reform, institutions themselves are not the enemy.: James K.A Smith