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Evening Conversation | Can Our Culture be Remade with David Bailey and Andy Crouch
At a time when the forces of atomization seem irresistible, many are questioning: is redemptive, unifying social change even possible anymore? What prospects are there for renewing the creative collaborations that make community possible? How might we approach remaking the connective tissue between people, places, and institutions that marks the common life we all crave and need?
On Monday, October 24th from 6:30pm – 8:30 p.m. the Trinity Forum and Comment Magazine hosted an Evening Conversation to unpack these questions with public theologian and cultural anthropologist David Bailey and author and Praxis partner Andy Crouch.
David Bailey is a public theologian, cultural anthropologist, and catalyst focused on building reconciling communities. David is the founder and Chief Vision Officer of Arrabon, a spiritual formation ministry that equips the American Church to actively and creatively pursue racial healing in their communities. He is the co-author of the study series, A People, A Place, and A Just Society and the executive producer of the documentary 11 am: Hope for America’s Most Segregated Hour and the Urban Doxology Project.
Read David’s essay in Comment, Reconciliation is Spiritual Formation
Andy Crouch is an author, speaker, and musician who has shaped the way our generation sees culture, creativity, and the gospel. In addition to his new release The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, he has also authored The Tech-Wise Family, Culture Making, Playing God, and Strong and Weak, and his work has been featured in Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He was executive editor of Christianity Today from 2012 to 2016 and is now a full-time partner in theology and culture with Praxis, an organization that works as a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship.
Ready Andy’s essay in Comment, Spiritual Practices for Public Leadership
Evening Conversation | Andy Crouch and David Bailey | October 24
CHERIE HARDER: Good evening to all of you who are here. I’m Cherie Harder. I’m the president of the Trinity Forum. And I want to welcome each of you to tonight’s evening conversation with David Bailey and Andy Crouch on, can our culture be remade.
All of us at the Trinity Forum are so excited to get to host this event in partnership with good friends of ours at Comment magazine, which is a part of Cardus. This is actually the capstone event to an entire series that we have done in collaboration and partnership, all on the theme that we’re going to be talking about tonight – can our culture be remade.
Over the last two years, we’ve had a number of evening conversations, as well as a number of online conversations. We’ve looked at the gift logic with Louis Kim and Tim Soerens. We’ve looked at ways to curb the culture wars with Yuval Levin and Brandon Vaidyanathan. And we’ve looked at what it means to go beyond ideology with Peter Kreeft and Eugene Rivers. And tonight we’re trying to pull it all together – no pressure whatsoever to Andy Crouch and David Bailey. [laughter]
As we start off, I’d love to acknowledge just a few special guests. You all are special, of course, but there are a few extra-special guests that I’d love to acknowledge. First I’d just like to say thank you to our board chairman, Richard Miles, and Phoebe Miles, who have joined us. Our senior fellows, I’m not sure where they are, Curt Thompson and Michael Wear; there they are. A previous Trinity Forum speaker, previous Comment speaker as well, and friend to both organizations, David Brooks. And of course, Ray Pennings from Cardus, the Comment crew. If you’ll beg my indulgence, I’d love to give a shoutout to my husband, Chris Siegal Meyer, who flew in and is with us as well.
And also just want to send our thanks on behalf of all of us at the Trinity Forum to the New Pluralists collaborative whose grant support has made not only this event, but this entire initiative, possible.
We so appreciate each and every one of you being here. I know this is post-COVID; people are still trying to decide whether they want to go out or not. So we very much appreciate you hardy souls who have made it here.
And I’ve met a few of you where this is your first evening conversation. If you had friends who wanted to be here tonight, but couldn’t make it, fear not, we will be recording tonight’s event. That recording will be on our website, on our YouTube page by close of business tomorrow. And we’ll also be posting photos from tonight’s event on Facebook. So it’s very rare that we encourage anyone to spend more time on social media [laughter], but you can go on tomorrow and take a look and perhaps tag your friends.
If you are one of those first-time visitors or are otherwise new to the Trinity Forum, part of our mission at the Trinity Forum is to provide a space for leaders to wrestle with the big questions of life in the context of faith and to host programs, like this event tonight, to cultivate, curate and disseminate the best of Christian thought for the common good, and ultimately to better enable each of us to come to better know the author of the answers. And I hope tonight will be a small taste of that for each of you.
It certainly seems increasingly undeniable that one of the biggest questions we face is exactly the one that we’ll tackle tonight. At a time when the forces of fracture seem irresistible, when polarization, fear and anger is on the rise, and even churches are taxed by political fissures, is redemptive cultural change even possible any more? And if so, how might we approach strengthening the bonds between people and institutions and help reweave a flourishing society?
It’s a big question. And it’s one that we are pleased and privileged to tackle tonight in collaboration with our friends at Cardus and at Comment. Comment is ably led by editor-in-chief and friend Anne Snyder, whom I’d like to welcome to the podium to further introduce the topic and the speakers. Anne. [applause]
ANNE SNYDER: Good evening to all of you. It’s wonderful to see you. I love the vibe in this room. So David, Andy, you bring the house, thank you.
So as Cherie just mentioned, we’ve gathered tonight to address the question that feels at once fanciful, but also urgent; timeless, but also renewably up for grabs. And that question is, how does redemptive social and cultural change happen anymore? For those of us who are Christians, who long for a world that reflects God’s heart for the flourishing of his created order, how do we cultivate the conditions for his renewing work? And how do we do so in a way that does not further alienate and divide the societies in which we live, but, rather, inspires, convicts, heals and transforms.
There are many adjectives I’m sure we could all use to describe the times through which we’re living, but the one that most consistently captures my mood these days as I wake up is bewilderment. I just find these very bewildering days. Now, some of that could just be aging; I’m maybe a little older than I look; I get told I’m 18 sometimes. [laughter] Maybe not unlike marriage where the longer you’re in it, the more you realize there is so much about your spouse that you have yet to understand; the mystery of marriage grows deeper, not thinner. It could just be that to grow in wisdom is to gain some wrinkles of humility before the wicked complexities of a large and complex world.
Perhaps our best bet is to simply try to be faithful to the task and the person right in front of us, to be present, not to seek anything bigger or more strategic. We are created beings, after all, not the Creator.
But I confess to feeling dissatisfied by that conclusion. We have some major tumult going on in the world right now, and the rumblings of truly dark and destructive possibilities in this country seem to beg for baptized vision and a coordinated moral response. Extremism and conspiracy are being granted spiritual permission and twisted blessing. Growing accounts of crippling anxiety, depression and suicide, politics tearing friendships and families, mass shootings, racial injustice, unhinged ideologies seducing a generation, digital avatars are displacing reality.
But where is the coordination of the light happening today? And who are the institutions, the creative upstarts and inspired spokespersons to weave an uncommon and new alliance for the defusing of the darkness.
Popular inertia seems to be on the side of sin growing sin right now. And while as a fellow human being I can’t say I’m surprised, for I, too, am totally distorted by my need to feel morally righteous, to seek justice at the expense of mercy, to fall for narratives that put me at the center of history, it just still seems crazy that people of prayer and quiet faithfulness, people who fear God and have grown in the capacity to spiritually discern good and evil, truth and falsehood, love and self-centeredness are not somehow rising up with effective unity and visibility to trumpet a different way.
Is it that there are no leaders that have been formed for such a time as this? Is it that we are afraid? Is it that we have allowed ideological narratives to confuse and distract us? Is it that we are assaulted with just too much muchness in a fast-paced digital age and can barely take a Sabbath to sit still and repent?
These are the questions haunting tonight’s conversation, as well as the next few issues of Comment magazine. And my request is just that you take them seriously because the question of redemptive, renewing change, whether that be in the life of an individual or a society, always involves a movement from what is to what should be. And so, to face the possibility of change seriously is to dive in to sometimes a strange theological journey that takes our own guilt seriously and dares also to trust in the promise of the healing of God. This is the delicate needle woven in every great sermon. And it’s also the basic arc of what a lot of us from a certain religious tradition call conversion.
I’m so grateful that I get to sit down amongst all of you for some reflections on these questions by David Bailey and Andy Crouch. I look to both of these men as brothers in the faith and exemplars on how to lead from a posture of service.
David Bailey is a peacemaker, bridge-builder, educator and has become a friend. He’s the founder and CEO of Arrabon, which equips and empowers Christian individuals and organizations to be effective in the ministry of reconciliation. He’s also the founder of the Urban Doxology Project; coauthor of the Race, Class and the Kingdom of God study series; executive producer of the documentary, 11am: Hope for America’s Most Segregated Hour; and the author of one of my all-time favorite comment essays, a very wise and practical helpful piece entitled, “Reconciliation is Spiritual Formation: A Framework for Organizational Practice.” He is married to a woman of great beauty and joy, Joy Bailey, who has graced us with her vitality tonight. Thank you for coming, Joy.
And Andy Crouch is a mensch. But he’s not just that. I think all who know his work find him to be one of the most trustworthy paradigm-framers of the moral terrain we are navigating today – I know I do – both as members of households and families and as Christians who may be working out our witness in public. Andy’s work never settles for the shallows, but probes ever deeper into the strange particularities of Christian living in a world and an age that provides few, if any, nudges to do so with integrity.
He’s a partner of theology and culture for Praxis, another organization; if you ever want to have hope, go to Praxis, hope and action. And he’s written several standout books, among them Culture Making, Playing God, Strong and Weak, and The Tech-Wise Family. But my favorite may actually be his latest, titled, The Life We’re Looking for: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, which the Trinity Forum featured in a super widely watched conversation online with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt earlier this year.
Andy’s wife, Catherine – I don’t know where she is, hiding back here, oh, hi – is also with us tonight. And I actually understand, you are the one who really brings the brilliance to the Crouch name. So thank you for that. And welcome.
So we’re going to open up this conversation first with some reflections by David Bailey, followed by a response from Andy, followed by a moderated conversation with Cherie. And I may try to throw in a kind bomb in there somewhere, too. Please jot down the most vital questions that hit you as you listen, and we will try a collective conversation at the very end.
Please join me in welcoming David Bailey to the stage. [applause]
DAVID BAILEY: When I got a call from Cherie and knew Anne was going to be involved, and then I knew Andy was going to be involved, these are literally some of my favorite people and I was really happy to participate. And then I get the assignment to start off the conversation. And then I hear this is like the culmination of the conversation. And so then I’m thinking, this is the Trinity Forum; you have to find a really great quote to start off a conversation. [laughter] So I decided to give a quote by Mitch McConnell: [laughter]
“We are drifting apart to two separate tribes, with a separate set of facts and a separate reality, with nothing in common except a hostility towards each other and a mistrust for the few national institutions that we all still share.”
Now, it’s really interesting because I started– Joy and I started the Arrabon ministry in 2008. We moved into a community really inspired by Dr. John Perkins, living in an underresourced community, starting to worship and work together. And I met Andy literally doing work in my neighborhood, meeting in a facility, and he was working for Christianity Today at the time and was doing a series called, “This is Our City.” About a year later, he published an article, through Christianity Today, featuring some of the work that we were doing in Richmond.
I didn’t know Andy at the time. Didn’t know Christianity Today at the time. Really was not that familiar with evangelicalism in general because I grew up in a Black church tradition and we didn’t really call it Christian community development; we just called it being a Christian. [laughter]
So Andy and I ended up developing a friendship. And what’s fascinating, I looked at the copyright of the book Culture Making that came out in 2008, and I read that book after meeting him and there are five ways of engaging with culture that Andy articulates that have significantly shaped my work over the years. Talked about how Christians sometimes can engage through condemning culture. This is a fundamentalism bent where we have a vision of purity and we try to stay away, keep ourselves pure, and we only condemn culture.
There’s another way, of being a critic, and this is kind of that Francis Schaeffer position where you analyze culture and see what’s true, what’s good, what’s beautiful.
Then you might have this kind of Jesus culture, a Jesus moment type of way of engaging where you copy culture and you do the Christian version of it. And again, growing up in a Black church tradition, I didn’t understand contemporary Christian music till I went to YouTube and I was like, YouTube is much better. And so, it was a copied version.
And then you have consume, where we basically engage with culture through just consuming. There’s not a lot of discernment happening when we’re particularly coping and consuming culture.
And then Andy had this idea of, what we could do is actually create culture. And so, that was very significant to me, particularly the first part of my career was a musician and a producer, and so this vision of creating culture was a really significant dynamic. And being in an undereconomically resourced community, thinking about the way formation and spiritual formation works, I realized that we had to create the culture because it wasn’t something to copy or to consume, even much to critique and condemn in this particular context.
And so, over the years Andy and Catherine, Joy and I, we became friends. We not only our commitment to Christ, but we had a commitment to spiritual formation and a commitment to engaging in some of the racial healing that’s going on. So we made a commitment to be pilgrims together. This probably started around 2015. So we would go to a few sites, like the Whitney Plantation or come to Richmond and do the Slave Trail walk. And we did this as trying to be people that were also practicing what we preach, allow it to form us, form us in community. And we have developed a friendship. So we’re looking at now 11 years of friendship.
So without disclosing all conversations that happened amongst friends, let’s just say I’m not as encouraged as I was when I first met Andy about the state of things right now. [laughter] Mitch McConnell’s kind of right. And I want to frame the thoughts about this time with Paul’s thoughts in Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes – not if the day of evil comes – when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand against your ground [sic] and after you have done everything, stand.
Now, I believe Paul was writing under the power of the Holy Spirit. I think there are some things that the Lord might give Paul or gave Paul under the power of the Spirit. But I actually think that this revelation came out of experience. And this experience is recorded in Acts 19 when Paul first comes to Ephesus. I would encourage you to read it later on this week and maybe spend some time on this particular text.
But Paul, you’ll understand and you’ll see in his writing, that he’s oftentimes preaching the Kingdom of God, but some spiritual forces of wickedness that he’s having to deal with is like Greek hedonism, which means the flourishing of life is coming through the engagement of pleasure; the Jewish religious system that is different than the Kingdom of God; and then also the Roman imperialism. And these are all things within his pastoral context which he’s tried to understand. What does it look like to be faithful in the middle of the Roman Empire in a culture of Greek hedonism, in a religious system that is not totally in line with the Kingdom of God.
So when Paul comes to Ephesus, he does what he normally does and he tries to find the disciples of the Way. These are people who are following Jesus that are about the Kingdom of God. And then Paul, what his practice is, he finds the disciples of the Way. He then goes to the religious system and goes to the synagogue and tries to reveal the understanding of the Kingdom of God. He will spend time, maybe this particular time in Ephesus he’s been about three months, until he just realized people did not want to receive and engage in the work of the Kingdom of God; they wanted to stay within their religious system.
So instead of trying to convince people that didn’t want convincing, he decided to work with the disciples who wanted to disciples. And so, he got to Tyrannus Hall and he spent two years working with people and making disciples and engaging in the ordinariness of life. While he was engaging in the ordinariness of life, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, making disciples, he was touching people along the way. And then people started touching him in return.
And in the ordinariness of life, God started working extraordinary miracles. If I was in the Baptist Church, I would have got an “amen,” but I know we’re at the Press Club. [laughter]
DAVID BAILEY: So as he’s doing this, people are seeing the power of God being demonstrated. And then folks in the religious system that did not want to receive the Kingdom of God, wanted to get the results of the Kingdom of God. And so, the folks that engaged with exorcism said, Hey, I see that he’s using this technique of Jesus.
So what they do is they try to exorcise and they try to cast out a demon and say, We cast out this demon in the name of Jesus who Paul preaches. Not the name of Jesus, the Jesus that we follow; the one that Paul follows.
And it’s a fascinating story because it says that person now was possessed, beat them, and then they ran out butt naked. [laughter] That’s the DMB translation. [laughter]
I think what this illustration is showing, there’s two stories in this text. You see the power of God being enacted through Paul’s ordinary life, and you see the seven sons of Sceva that happens where they’re trying to exercise spiritual power without authority.
See, the way that you get authority in the Kingdom of God is through relationship. Relationship with God, but also relationship with the people in which you are trying to receive the Kingdom of God. It’s all connected to relationship.
Then the second story, which is equally as fascinating, is that there’s this guy named Demetrius. They were in Ephesus, which was kind of like the New York of that time – a big, economic, commercialized space. And Artemis of the Ephesians was the big goddess that was there. And this was a goddess of fertility. And let’s just say there was some Greek hedonism that was going in that space, if you understand what I mean. And there was a whole economy that was centered around that exploitation. Which was very common amongst empires.
And so, Demetrius said, Man, this guy has been there for two years and they’re messing up our trade. The economy is being impacted; it’s affecting things. And it was basically, they had a business about exercising power through idolatry.
And so, in the story, we see two type of juxtapositions of religious idolatry that is being juxtaposed against the full working of the Kingdom of God in ordinary life. What does this have to do with us today?
We live in a time where I think– we can maybe unpack this during Q&A, but I actually think our biggest struggle is fundamentalism. There’s a conservative fundamentalism and there’s a progressive fundamentalism. There’s a vision of the future and a purity and this almost vision of what one deems as shalom. And sometimes we’re trying to exercise power without authority, without the relationship, without the messiness of what it means to be in the human experience. And then there’s another side that will try to exercise power through idolatry.
On the right, we oftentimes want to use a type of form of, we want to cast out demons through a Jesus not really the Jesus of the Bible. But then on the left, it tends to be a type of exercising of power that wants to have social holiness without personal holiness.
And neither one leaves a true flourishing of community. And one of the ways that you can see sure-tell signs that there’s idolatry being at work versus the Kingdom of God being at work is when violence is manifested. This is what happened both in the seven sons of Sceva and this is what happened with Demetrius and the riot that ended up happening.
And we live in a time now where, to me, it’s not really that scary that progressives have a sense of the-ends-justify-the-means. When you follow progressives’ political and social thought, that’s kind of part of progressive thinking. To me, what’s more concerning is when folks who are considered conservative– and the idea of conservatism looks back to a tradition, and looks back to the first principles, and now we’re in the space where the ends justify the means in conservative spaces.
So there is this crazy spin that is happening that I am very concerned. I tend to be a glass-half-full person, but as a person that reads history, it’s very concerning.
I literally think that the only way to break this cycle is for Christians to remember that Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God. And maybe another way of saying that is, if you aren’t a peacemaker, maybe you’re not either being a child of God or might not even be a child of God.
And so, this is something that I think we have to wrestle through because we live in a time on both sides of the spectrum, and all the different fractures in between, that folks are trying to make, remake culture and trying to have a sense of renewal, but we aren’t committed to that faithful presence of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, living by the Kingdom of God, making disciples and touching people and allowing ourselves to be touched in the daily life.
And so, those are my opening thoughts. And I’m sure there’ll probably be questions afterwards. [applause]
ANDY CROUCH: Thank you, David. Thank you all for being here. This is important stuff, and I most look forward to the conversation that I’m going to have with these three friends, and with all of here in a way.
But I thought maybe for my contribution I could contribute some math. I think we have a slide some math on it. I’m going to speak on two equations for the next few minutes, two ways of conceiving of what we’re about. And I think while this won’t be a direct response to David’s words, I did get a preview, and I am offering it as a furthering of this conversation.
So either I equals F over T, or little-I equals little-F to the little-T. What in the world could this be? Well, my top equation here, I equals F over T, I want to offer as the dominant way of conceiving of power, and I stands for impact. Impact; a word that has been abused so much that it’s been turned into a verb – to impact culture. But it lurks, and not often out of sight, in all kinds of discourse about cultural change. David’s talk had a real impact on me, people will say; kind of without thinking about it.
The metaphor they may be abusing, but what is the metaphor? It’s a metaphor of force over time, where the bigger the force and the smaller the amount of time [claps], the more impact you have. If I bring my hands together over a slow amount of time and little force, no impact. If I bring them together with a lot of force [claps], a very short amount of time [claps], now that’s impact; that’s something we can work with! Let’s do that thing.
So how do you maximize impact? You maximize F, you minimize T. Maximize F, maximize force. What are the sources of force? Three come to mind that are notable – the power of the state to coerce, the power of money to direct and channel energy, and these days the power of media to, what we would say media does? I would say to fascinate, to kind of capture the imagination and lure the imagination, redirect the imagination. And we imagine that if we had sufficient F in one or more of these areas.
And it’s actually very interesting to me that the coinage of Rome had all three – the imperial power of Caesar, the money value of the coins, and then the actual image. The only media image that would have been seen in a province like Judea, of any human face, was the face of the emperor who deployed the money and through very artfully created memes, basically, ancient memes, told you what true humanity looked like. If you could get access to those, you are halfway to impact.
Now, the thing is, you’re going to need a lot of coercive power to really get stuff done. Fortunately, we’re in Washington, DC, and surely it’s available here somewhere, if we could just find it. You’re going to need a lot of money; I would say one billion is table stakes; 44 billion is probably the better amount to shoot for. And you’re going to need a lot of charisma, the sort of human presence that media can most effectively amplify and channel.
Now, the question of how you’re going to get access to all these levers without becoming complicit in and corrupted by the systems – namely, the world of flesh and the devil that attach themselves to them – is complicated. But surely we Christians can navigate our way through this devilish business and find a way to have enough F to make a difference and minimize T, which means you can’t be patient. We’re going to have to hurry; we must seize opportunities and certainly not set any goals, let alone adopt any methods that require significant amounts of time. And if we can do that, surely culture can be remade.
There’s one big problem with this. There are many; I cut a bunch of them from my notes. But the real obvious big problem with this one when we reflect on it as Christians is that this is not at all the cultural history of what David just called in Luke’s terms the Way. The Way did not operate this way. Two years in the Hall of Tyrannus doing ordinary things that did indeed lead to extraordinary, but not seizing the levers of coercion, money and media.
There is impact in the ministry of Jesus. I don’t mean to deny this. The stir that he makes in his inaugural address in Luke 4, the healings, the miracles, the earthquakes that the Gospel writers tell us accompanied both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. There are these moments of F over T, without a doubt.
But compared to the acts and impact of Augustus Caesar, the other son of God contemporaneous with Jesus, who had people carving inscriptions into rocks in eastern Turkey about the good news of his arrival, before his 50th birthday, the miracles of Jesus, the impact of Jesus is tiny, small-town stuff. And the only reason anyone even remembers them is one event, one singular event, claimed event, that made no impact at a cultural level, even though, if it really did happen, it is as some of our friend Tish Harrison Warren says, it’s the big deal of the universe.
But that event was witnessed by unreliable witnesses, from a legal point of view, because they were female, was attested in strange ways and not in public ways, such that the early Christian movement, known to us primarily through the documents of what we call the New Testament at first is only known through that because, for all practical purposes, it’s invisible for a century in the mainstream documents of the empire in which it took place. A century before what many of us in the room would claim to be the central event of history could even register slightly as a little tremor on the seismograph of the Roman bureaucracy that maybe these Christianoi might prove to be a bit of a problem.
And that leads to another way of conceiving of cultural change. I equals F to the T. So now you’re able to put together some pieces here. F is going to still stand for a kind of force, a kind of power at work in the world, because I do think power has to work in the world for change to happen. But this time, power is not divided by time so that you have to minimize time to maximize impact. But time actually becomes a compounding force.
This math is not too bad, is it? Is it okay? With me?
In other words, if you have enough T, the initial size of F is not your biggest concern. Even a very small F, such as the 2.5% that your bank is currently willing to give you on interest, even with enough T, the initial size is not that relevant. In fact, Ezekiel, for example, had had this vision in which an entire valley of dry bones was resurrected and the whole people of Israel conceived of as dry bones in a desert valley are all raised to life, a mighty army, as Ezekiel says.
But it turns out that in a way you don’t have to raise an entire valley of dry bones. You just need to actually raise one person from the dead and then wait. Wait as that tiny, initial disruption in the world’s pattern of death starts to play itself out with inexhaustible life in many other lives. You don’t actually need to have incredible power, money or charisma available to you in this small-I equals small-F to the small-T. You just need to live– well, because Jesus, of whom I’m obviously speaking here, did not actually have any of these particularly, not in the terms of Rome. You just need to live a single life of inescapable love, and then wait. This is the way of the mustard seed. Maybe it’s M equals F to the T.
And so that’s the F part. What about the T part? I think the minimum value for T is three generations. Genesis is the book of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and, indeed, Jacob’s sons, Joseph and his brothers. I think three generations is the minimum for redemptive action to take root in any largescale human story.
I won’t go into it right now, but I actually also believe three generations is actually the maximum amount of time in which any impact, so-called, generated by concentrating force can reasonably be expected to have effect. It decays; impact decays. Influence, we’ll call it, little-I, let’s call it, influence grows.
What is the most powerful form of F in this lower equation? I would say the most powerful form of F, very counterintuitively, is sacrifice. Sacrifice has a kind of small power in the human story that nothing else does. And by sacrifice I mean voluntarily consecrated loss. Loss with a sacred horizon. Loss undergone, whether initially willingly or not. You can consecrate and then lose, as when Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son. He consecrates him. Then he’s willing to lose.
But there are also losses we would never choose and shouldn’t choose that we nonetheless can bring into a sacred horizon and voluntarily– I’m not talking about coerced sacrifice, I’m not talking about making other people give things up. I’m talking about when we ourselves bring the losses of our lives and put at risk and loss things we could claim as our own and say, this belongs to God; this has a sacred value, more value than the world will ever see.
And sacrifice disarms the world of flesh and the devil because it confounds the expectations of self-interest, the disciplines of fasting, of Sabbath, of generosity: The widow who puts in two coins, all she had to live on. The tax collector who beats his breast. Above all, Philippians 2, not counting equality as something to be grasped or exploited, but emptying himself, taking up the form of servant. This sacrificial power compounds with time. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrary heart of God, He will not despise.
And I would then hold up in our moment the sacrifice of lament. David mentioned this. And for Catherine and me, the experience of going on pilgrimage to places like the Slave Trail in Richmond which runs from the place where the enslaved individuals would have first gotten off the boats, the walk, long walk up the riverbank across the bridge to the market, to do that with my brother took our friendship to a very different place. I think you were in the line. I had my hand on your shoulder. The individuals who first experienced this would have been chained together. We were chained just by our hand on one another’s shoulder in one direction and then we walked back down the river holding hands.
And to lament this as a white American is a sacrificial act in a way, to be sure, a morally necessary act. But for a black American, to allow a white American to accompany them on that walk is a far more sacrificial act, because it is not morally necessary by any stretch of the imagination. It’s an act of pure sacrificial grace, which David offered me and my family in different ways in the course of our pilgrimages. And I want to hold out hope that this is the stuff of genuine cultural change.
So two more thoughts that each have a little page in my notes. I’m a little over the time you all asked me to take. So I will make you consecrate that loss. [laughter]
You anchored it so beautifully, David, but this is also at the very heart of the political narrative, the political narrative of the Hebrew Bible. Because sandwiched in between the politically charged narratives of Judges on one hand and Samuel, Kings on the other is a book that is literally named Rut Friend. The name of the book is Friend, except that it’s a woman’s name in Hebrew, the name Ruth.
This book is incomparably important for our moment, I think, because, remember, this book and its narrative of Ruth’s friendship with Naomi and then Boaz’s redeeming friendship with Ruth, and vice versa, takes place in the midst of an utter breakdown of civil legitimacy. It begins with these words: In the days when the Judges ruled. That is not a good time in the history of Israel.
The end of Judges is a civil war in which the Tribe of Benjamin is nearly eliminated and then because 600 men from Benjamin do survive, the men of Israel then force the marriage of the virgins of Jabesh Gilead and Shiloh to those 600 men, forceable marriage – essentially rape – after unspeakable violence, all of it unleashed by the rape, murder and dismemberment – it’s so horrible that we have to speak of these things – of a woman remembered in the text only by the name the Bethlehemites. And where is it that Ruth tells Naomi she will go with her. She goes with her to Bethlehem. This is not, O, Little Town of Bethlehem. This is a place intrinsically associated with the worst kind of violation, violence, and all the political ramifications of that. And that’s where Ruth says, Wherever you go, I’m going.
But that unlocks a redemptive story. It is has multigenerational horizons. It takes three more generations before you would even know really why this would be in the Bible. But of course we know, it’s because their grandson, one of them, who’s named Jesse, and David’s youngest son who’s named David, and there’s a refounding of Israel around a somewhat more legitimate king, let’s say – that also is a complicated story, but there is a redemptive move that begins with Ruth’s promise to Naomi.
Ruth tells us that outsiders matter. She’s called the Moabite over and over in our text, as one of my pastors pointed out two weeks ago when she preached on this text. The Moabite, the Moabite, the one people you never reconciled with if you were Israel. That’s who she is.
Outsiders matter, but so do redemptive insiders. Boaz, a landowner, a person of a certain amount of status and privilege who is seeking an ethical and redemptive way. And what is the way that Ruth and Boaz find? It’s hesed, covenant faithfulness, loving kindness, which is the way of Yahweh.
Ruth, the person, and Ruth, the Book, has negligible impact, but indescribable influence. We are in a real sense in this room because of the sacrificial power of Ruth and Boaz, the way it has played out, compounding over a very long time.
Gosh, I’ve got to stop. There were three questions in the promotion for this thing. Is redemptive unifying social change even possible anymore? Yes. If it was possible in the days when the Judges ruled, it’s possible today. Let us not be freaked out. It’s not as bad as Judges yet. It could easily get that bad. And God is still doing his redemptive thing, and we could be part of it.
What prospects are there for renewing the creative collaborations that make community possible? Only insofar as we have friendship will there be any prospect. Covenantal friendship, which at a minimum staying together longer than you realized you were going to have to. [laughter]
How might we approach remaking the connective tissue between people, places and institutions that Anne Snyder talks about so often that marks the common life we all crave and need? I will tell you, David Bailey went to this place called Laity Lodge down in Texas a few weeks ago, with Joy, and with some others from Arrabon. And he walked in. There was a young woman working at Laity Lodge and without any prompting and with an amazingly small amount of data, he said, You’re Amy Crouch. Because my daughter is working at this retreat center that hosted Arrabon a few weeks ago.
David, I can’t tell you what it meant to me that you who had met my daughter when she was a teenager in our house – she’s now out of college, in her first job, helping to host retreats at this retreat center – that you were connected enough to our family that you knew that was Amy Crouch at that moment. And that’s friendship. That’s a measure of hesed. A long enough time together that we know each other’s story enough to know one another’s children, nieces, nephews. Not just our biological children, our children in the Lord, the next generation, those who are finding their place in the redemptive story, who can tell the next generation themselves. That right alongside the stories of impact and devastation there is love and blessing playing itself out in the world to 1000 generations.
Why do you boast O mighty one of mischief done against the godly? All day long you’re applying destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah, a Hebrew word meaning extended guitar solo. [laughter]
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful, I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I learned, through Wikipedia, that it takes eight years after planting for an olive tree to bear a single olive. That is surely the opposite of impact. Then again, there are olive trees in Israel and Palestine today that are 2000 years old and are still bearing olives. And that also is the opposite of impact.
Thank you. [applause]
CHERIE HARDER: Thank you so much, Andy and David. That was fascinating. One of the reasons why Anne and I were so excited about hosting the two of you to address this question is, both of you have dedicated much of your vocational life to peace making and to culture making. Even when the culture is making peace making more and more difficult.
And you both have spoken not only just now, but throughout your works about what flourishing consists of, what influence consists of. And you’ve been both in your different ways quite consistent about the role that sacrifice plays, that redemptive power, vulnerability, interdependence as we seek shalom for the city. And usually we assume that we all want shalom, we all want that kind of flourishing. But there’s something that keeps us from it.
I’m sure I’m not alone, just any observer of our discourse now, the fact that social media dunking is everywhere. There are everyday rallies where it seems like much of the point is to dominate and humiliate and insult others. To what extent do you think the problem is we actually don’t really want that kind of flourishing? there actually is a part of us that is attracted to domination, that longs for impact over the small-I. Andy, maybe we can start with you on that.
ANDY CROUCH: Well, for sure. And we specifically want it when the wicked are flourishing, for any value of wicked that may be your value. It’s when the wicked are prospering and exploitation seems to be winning the day that you think, well, I would normally be a very ethical person, but under the circumstances I have no choice but to resort to these tactics.
Everybody has a plan till they get punched in the face, somebody said. And when you see exploitation seemingly winning, you conclude sacrifice is a fool’s game and indeed being merely ethical, just playing by the rules, well, nobody wins doing that. And so, I think it is ultimately rooted in what we as Christians would call the sin, the bentness of human beings.
But it never presents itself that way. It justifies itself by the actions of my enemy. But I think I also should probably recognize, especially when it scales up to cultural levels– I love that you’re quoting Ephesians 6 because this is not flesh and blood. I think of the demonic, ultimately, as a will with a whisper; so, will to divide and destroy all the good things God has made, first of all by destroying God’s image bearers. And the only way the demonic can operate is to whisper in your ear, Don’t you need to take a stand, put up your fists, make it happen, don’t you need some impact here.
DAVID BAILEY: I think one of the things that’s a significant deficit to some of our Christian heritage and even some of our theological heritage is that during the time, to justify slavery, they would basically take out portions of the Bible to keep enslaved people enslaved. And when you talk to the modern Christian today, in essence we still read the slave’s Bible because all of the political and liberation-related text is not something that we read.
And so, sometimes things people might label as Marxism could be the Book of Micah or Amos. But they don’t know because they haven’t read it. And those were the things that were taken out of the slave Bible.
So then even when you look at Jesus, particularly, yes, Jesus very much came from our souls, but he was a very political person, and he died a political death. But I think what we miss and we don’t read and understand is that he preached the message of Kingdom of God that had both a tax collector, the person that was part of the system, and the zealot, who wanted to use violence to overcome the system. They were part of his disciples.
So whatever his message was was big enough to be greater than their understanding of flourishing. And so, I think what happens is, is that when we are reducing the power of the Gospel, then we have to use other results, which oftentimes just the violence doesn’t justify the means– the means doesn’t justify the ends. And you see Jesus always stopping. Jesus had every opportunity to engage in some kind of political violence of some sort – whether it was verbal or actually physical. And Jesus didn’t do that.
One time when he was flipping the tables, but that wasn’t about self-preservation. That was really about giving access to the Kingdom of God because people were being exploitative to the poor within that particular space.
CHERIE HARDER: I want to ask one more follow-up question before throwing it to Anne, and that is, based on something I think you said, Andy, which you talked about money and coercive power and charisma and you said, these are things we can work with. I wanted to ask you both about the different means and approaches to cultural redemption versus just cultural change. And one of the tensions I think almost everyone struggles with is, we live in a world where there are metrics. And you have to meet certain metrics. And almost all of our metrics in whatever field we’re in are all oriented towards impact, capital-I. So how does one living in the world we do show essentially good stewardship, whether it’s of resources, whether you’re a nonprofit or a for-profit company, while still aiming towards influence?
ANDY CROUCH: I think there’s a place for all those things. We need governments to restrain, coercively if necessary, restrain certain kinds of action. Money is valuable to count and exchange value. Charisma is just a reality of human life. But I think the problem is, there’s some social scientist whose name won’t come to me right now who said, whenever you make something a target, you change all the incentives in the system to go after that target.
So when money becomes the goal, rather than just an intermediate measurement, or almost a byproduct of creating value, when the only way I know how to get things done is to get the state to do things on my behalf, you introduce this kind of distorting power. And instead, I think we need to much more think about how do we use whatever’s entrusted to us to build the hesed relationship that is where all real, durable social change comes from.
It’s a complicated legacy, and all the more complicated now than ever, in a way. But I do think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., modeled this in important ways. He was asking for the state to step in and for the Civil Rights Act to be passed and the Voting Rights Act, and so forth. And you needed the states certainly at that time, and you will always need the state to restraint prejudice, let’s say. But he had this, especially in his public voice, what he was calling people to was this relentless commitment to a kind of friendship that went way deeper than just getting some legal equity. And I think that had the coercive power of the state in its proper place rather than as it sort of [56:43]
DAVID BAILEY: Just piggybacking off of that, he also was very critical to both the left and the right, and even the moderate in the letter from the Birmingham jail. And one thing I want to encourage people to do is not read the MLK memes; people just make MLK say all kinds of things we want him to say. [laughter] But read some of the Riverside sermon and the “Two Americas,” and Strength to Love. These sermons where you see this dynamic where he’s basically trying to help, like Andy said, try to see what role the individual has, the community, the government, all these different spaces. But this is all with his vision of the Kingdom of God in which he’s trying to engage.
I think for me, and Andy’s also part of a nonprofit also, where you have to raise money, you have show some level of metrics. And I think both of our organizations are really thinking generationally. Joy and I have set out this journey of 40 years, even within our lives, of seeing what does it look like us to be faithful over 40 years and evaluate every ten years. So we’re only in the second quarter of this thing to see what does this look like. And a lot of the work that we’re doing is really trying to think for the next generation in that space.
And when you have this long-term look, a lot of funders don’t think in that way. And so, you have to try to figure out how do you translate that. But I know one of the things I try to do, and I also know this is key about Andy, is that we’re thinking about how we’re being formed, what are the practices that we have. Am I trying to do or say this thing to be faithful, or I’m saying or doing this thing to get more followers on Twitter?
And my social media presence is trash. [laughter] But it’s like, it doesn’t do good for my soul for me to try to do those things. So that’s one way I’m choosing to do that and trying to do some other ways. And I think all of us have different ways that we have to figure that out. And I think that is the Christian thing to do. I’m not saying what every Christian should do, X, Y, and Z. But it’s really more so about your posture and what’s the practice and how are you being formed and asking that question as you’re doing it.
CHERIE HARDER: My social media presence is also trash. [laughter] This is a question for both of you, but I want to pick up Andy on it. I was very moved by your landing at sacrifice. And partly because I’ve been thinking about this question of social/cultural change through the theological prism of conversion as a way of thinking about it the right way. And in any conversion, even from born-again backgrounds, there is a loss consecrated typically; you’re surrendering your life. But most of us as human beings have losses and I think anyone who’s lost a baby, or lost a father, or had a relationship break that wasn’t supposed to, or suddenly lost financial security, or had a brother wind up in addiction and suddenly die, like all the pains in our lives, some of which are chosen and many of which are not, those of us long enough on our journey had this experience of realizing the paradox of what that is to offer up, and somehow God comes very close.
So I think as human beings, as mature people of faith in the room, identify with what you’re saying about the kingdom logic in this, but I’m wondering today, at least in the American context, how does that translate socially? And what I mean by that is, is the need to get– like I’m hearing– and I, too, in more of a larger group, but I, too, was very moved to go on a pilgrimage with David through deep South; he was a guide for me earlier this year through the civil rights history. And there were moments as a white American on that trip I just felt extremely awkward and not knowing what to do because I felt the profundity of the moral choice of my fellow Black travelers on the bus to do this with me there, too. And you feel that in those intimate settings over six days. And David is such a beautiful, I think – forgive the feminine metaphor – like midwife of that awkwardness and pain.
But I’m just wondering, do we need to get more– loss is being used in our culture right now as a political cudgel and used for grievance. So do we just need to get more articulate about our losses by groups of people? Because I think some communities are very articulate on their losses and have consecrated them. And others of us don’t know where to start or are being told many messages and just can’t pinpoint what’s true. And I think sometimes we have to go through a revelatory process to discover it.
So large question. I don’t know if it makes sense. And this is for both of you. What does sacrifice look like at a social scale? And I’m asking this in part as a steward of an organization trying to apply this in my own work, actually. How do you facilitate the conditions for this recognition and holy consecration?
ANDY CROUCH: Well, there’s a couple threads in there, which I don’t know if I can pick up on all them, but the thought that came to mind is two related things. So there is the journey of just personally offering to God what I have lost, including the things I never would or could or should have chosen to lose. But I have. And so now what horizon do I interpret that within? There’s a personal journey that all of us have to go on for that.
For it to have public effect, it does have to take some public shape. The Book of Ruth is a very public book, even though its about these incredibly intimate friendships, first between Ruth and Naomi and then between Ruth and Boaz. And yet, both of them have public ramifications and both of them are publicly chosen countercultural sacrificial acts.
One of the most interesting things about Ruth to me is there is a figure at the beginning and a figure at the end who do the perfectly ethical thing and make no difference in the story. And one is Orpah, the other sister-in-law, who kisses her mother-in-law a very appropriate goodbye and goes back to her Moabite city where she’s from, hoping to find a husband there. She does a perfectly fine thing, but ruth says, okay, I’m going to show up in this new town where I barely speak the language and I’m known as a Moabite to demonstrate my hesed to you.
And then at the end of the book, Boaz intends to step in as the kinsman redeemer, Go’el, this Hebrew idea. But actually there’s another guy who’s the legal redeemer who ought to do it. And that guy’s like, No, no, here, let me give you my sandal and you do it. And Boaz is very happy with that arrangement, but that happens at the city gate.
So not everybody has to make all their consecrated losses public; that could be indulgent. But I actually think those of us who have any public leadership role, we have got to take the next step of, in a sense, publicly sacrificing, publicly consecrating. Because people need to see that this actually happens and that it actually has real effects in the world. Or else it is kind of inert for cultural purposes.
DAVID BAILEY: I “amen” that a ton. I’ll kind of own this, particularly as a person that’s spent time in a lot of liturgical spaces as a pastor, as a person that spends time shaping theological imagination. I think we’ve done a disservice to those, our congregants because we have not helped one shape a communal identity in our very American society. And if you think about every– out of 66 books of the Bible, only three books are written to individuals.
So all of them are communal. So even the “yous” in the New Testament that they’re talking about should really be translated to Southern “y’alls.” [laughter]
ANDY CROUCH: Or “all y’all.”
DAVID BAILEY: Or “all y’all.” [laughter] Father’s like, All y’all have been trifling. [laughter] So I think that’s one dynamic. I think the other part is, we have not really therefore helped people to understand shame, particularly the Bible is written in an “honor shame” culture. So a lot of times we are– it’s a really hard to take communal shame individualistically, particularly as a person that’s dealing with race. A lot of the stuff that we are really trying, our ministry is trying to help people to do is be able to name the shame, but then how do you redemptively work through shame? Because you can’t take on communal shame individually and make it through; that’s why people short circuit a lot.
But this is not just only true in race; it’s true in so many other areas of society. And right now, people’s method of choice to try to bring transformation of shame, too. So people try to shame people to change. And that’s not just the way people work.
And then the third thing is lament. Forty percent of the Psalms are laments. And we have not taught people well how to deal with grief and loss. And while it’s a very affluent culture, we don’t even do grief well even on funerals. We don’t have funerals anymore; we’ve got celebrations of life. So even the ritual that in our culture we’re supposed to learn how to deal with grief and loss, we don’t teach as a society how to deal with grief and loss. So then when we’re dealing with grief and loss within our own selves individually, there’s just inadequacy in it.
So when we look at the different laments, some of them get so awkward and so angry that you’re like, man, who lets this through an editorial review of the Scriptures? [laughter] But the Bible was really, this stuff is there because every sense of the emotional spectrum is there.
So in essence, we are arrested development in the Church emotionally. And I think these are things that would actually kind of help us lead, lead people to lament, to deal with grief. But then we are a resurrection of people. So we literally, our faith is shaped around a loss and that God brings meaning out of sin and death. And I think that’s really what’s needed in the public square.
CHERIE HARDER: There’s so much more Anne and I could ask you both, but in our final minutes we’re going to turn to questions from you all in the audience. It’s been a while since we’ve done all that, so just a quick reminder of the three things that we ask for any question: We ask that it be civil; that it be brief; and that all questions be in the form of a question. [laughter] We have a Brian and Matty with microphones standing by. Please wait till the microphone gets to you and then say your name and your question.
Q: My name is Chris. I’m mostly concerned about the idolatry of the government. The government is seen as all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful savoir. So what advice do you have for those of us at our church who have made a god out of the government?
ANDY CROUCH: What advice? Stop making a god out of the government. [laughter] I’m very Weberian personally, in that I think basically Weber’s right, that the government is that part of society that claims a legitimate monopoly on force. And should, I would add. We need some place to have a legitimate monopoly on force, because otherwise you’re going to have illegitimate use of the force.
And I think maybe what I would say is, come to terms with how little you can force other people to do that really matter. I think we have a very expansive, on both sides of any political spectrum you want to name, an overly expansive imagination of what government could make my neighbors that they don’t really want to do that I want them to do. And there’s not much you can be coerced into doing through taxation and the police and military power of the state.
All the things we most want to have happen have got to be rooted in another source of power that is not proper to government. Now, it is without question that people who seek elected office and people who seek to legitimate the state mobilize those other forces of power. But we’ve always got to keep in mind that what they are seeking is to have a hand on the lever of taxation and the lever of police and military power. That’s what it can uniquely do.
So we need to be very wary of promises to mobilize government for other purposes, I would say. And I don’t intend this as hitting one political side or another, because both sides do this way too much, and very chastened in what we imagine we could actually coerce our neighbors into doing and realize all the good we want is going to take some other kind of power that does not properly belong to the state.
That’s my very Weberian take on it.
DAVID BAILEY: I put my cards on the table: I’m a thoughtful Pentecostal with Anabaptist proclivities. [laughter] I think one of the things that happens when you have a theology of the Kingdom of God, but don’t have a theology of the empire, you can baptize the empire to be the Kingdom of God.
ANDY CROUCH: Whoa, that’s interesting.
DAVID BAILEY: So I think in some ways, when we look at this theme– like the Book of Exodus was, it’s so profound, it said, There was a pharaoh that did not know Joseph. That is such a profound statement because the people of God were formed, not when they were at the top of the empire, but when they were under the foot of the empire. And God heard their cry and then brought them out of deliverance. And that’s not a small thing because you would hear this theme that says, Hey, when you go into the land of milk and honey, when you get to a place of prosperity, remember that you were once a foreigner. Remember you were once enslaved. Remember how you were treated. Remember those scars and act accordingly. And the reason why they were judged and they had to leave was because they took on the ways of the empire.
So there’s a very short stint in the story of the people of God that were actually in power. There’s a part of me that thinks that we just don’t do a great job in power. [laughter] And so, I think that when we– a lot of, particularly the New Testament was shaped in a time when they could not influence what Caesar was doing. And I think this makes it really tough for us who are Christians now because we feel like– this is very true whether It’s a conservative vision or a liberal vision, a progressive vision. And again, Christians kind of adopt secular political thoughts and baptize it and try to make it Christian. But it’s not Christian.
And I see that there was a constant [01:13:43] back and forth, both in the New Testament, but even the first 300 years of the Christian faith where you saw this alternative society called the local church, called the Church, that was living in this space. And I think I would encourage brothers and sisters to spend time both in the Scriptures and even looking at Church history in that period of time. And then to look at the complexity that happened from like 300 AD until present of how sometimes we miss it. Sometimes we get it and sometimes we miss it really bad when we think we need that power.
Now, this is kind of where I will push back on the Anabaptist side of things because when it’s slavery time, the Anabaptists come through for you and do the Underground Railroad. But when it’s 1863, you need a vote? [01:14:34] [laughter]
CHERIE HARDER: Other questions? Right there.
Q: Hi, I’m Arianna. Thank you so much for this really rich conversation. There’s a passage that’s stuck in my heart for the last few months, I would say, to make sense of what’s happening culturally and politically. And the passage is Matthew 3:12: His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
And I can’t help but feel like we’re in this season of fire, of the chaff being burned while the wheat is being gathered. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts of how do we let the chaff burn, perhaps, while making space for lament. Fire’s often a purifying source, so what does that mean? What kind of opportunities does that provide for a renewal, a recreating, a remaking of culture, which is the theme of tonight? Thank you.
DAVID BAILEY: You’re Pentecostal, too, aren’t you? [laughter]
ANDY CROUCH: A Pentecostal needs to answer that!
DAVID BAILEY: Right. It’s really interesting. I don’t think there could be a remaking without fire. And I think that’s why the tools of lament and grief are a really important piece to this. One of the things, for me, I look at Scriptures and I look at history and I’m just like, hey, where has this happened before? Where can we get some guidance?
Springtide does this research for young people, 13 to 29, and one of the researchers gave this presentation that I was at and he talked about Gen Z and younger, how because of the internet they are both growing up fast and slow at the same time. The way he described it, if they work at the grocery store, can’t look an adult in the eye and make change out loud on the spot. While at the same time, can tell you exactly what’s going on in Ukraine at a level of detail that adults in their lives can’t. And so, that’s both a fast and slow.
And as I heard him say that, I was like, that’s also American society at the same time. Have you ever walked around in Asia or walked around in Rome, you’re like, man, these societies are like thousands of years old. And I think because of the time in which we are in as a country, both economically, technology-wise, we’ve grown up fast. And only being 200, 400 years old as a society, we’re also very young. And it’s both fast and slow at the same time.
And so, I think to me the way– I do see a purging. I think the way that change and transformation happens in Christian spirituality is from the inside out. And so, one of the things that I really try to focus on is try to focus on I’m practicing what I’m preaching, that my wife and the people in my circle, that they think well of me. Somebody says, Don’t live and die by your press, the things that are out there, but really just try to see the inner circle and try to allow transportation from the inside out.
So that threshing floor, that burning, that purifying, that’s one thing I hope that happens inside of me, inside of my community. And out of that, transformations happen. And I think to some measure, that’s the type of covenant– I mean, Andy and I don’t live in the same community, but I know Andy has a community and has had communities here he lives. But then we’ve kind of made a commitment to be in relationships on a very similar thing. So we try to have rings out that is allowing that purifying to happen.
And also just continue to look in the wider side of history. There’s just cycles. I don’t know where we are in this historical cycle right now, but this is not new, per se. And there have been cycles where this has happened. So I think there’s both an individual response to that and I think a socialist response to that.
CHERIE HARDER: We’ll take one more quick question.
Q: Thank you. This is great. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comments. Love the emphasis on sacrifice. And something you said, Andy, I wanted to ask you guys to tease out just a little bit. Namely, the question of when it’s public and when it’s not. Because in Scripture it says, left, right, don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. But it also says a true light shines on the hill. And so, sometimes the potency that goes with influence is precisely because it’s not public and when it becomes known, it’s that much more potent.
I’d love to hear how you guys wrestle with that.
ANDY CROUCH: That’s so good. Anne picked up a little, tiny piece I wrote a few years ago where I’d said – I forget the exact percentages, but an iceberg is 90% below the water line and a cruise ship is constructed in such a way that it’s 90% above the water line. And because, when an iceberg meets a cruise ship, the iceberg wins. And I do think 90% needs to be below the water line no matter how public your vocation is. Because if you don’t have a secret practice which starts with silent solitude, fasting, you are a cruise ship probably and you’re designed to be seen, but you are not designed to have ballast that can survive the encounters with the iceberg.
But that said, I think there’s a place for what we’re doing. Most of David’s and my interactions have not been on stages. I think this would be really dangerous–
DAVID BAILEY: I think it’s the second time.
ANDY CROUCH: Yeah, maybe we’ve done this twice. But we’ve been together, I don’t know, two dozen individual moments of real encounter, no one watching. Aspects of our relationship that we have not brought up tonight and don’t need to because you need the 90%, I think.
But I think there is a responsibility to, when blessing has come through sacrifice– I also think that’s maybe another difference. I don’t think one should ostentatiously go out and do the sacrifice. I think you consecrate the loss and then resurrection happens and gifts returned to you that you never could have imagined when you were in the midst of lamenting grief or loss. And then there is a time to praise God in the congregation and say, we’re 11 years into this and God has blessed us and our families and the next generation in the case of my daughter. Praise God. I think there’s a time to let it be known.
DAVID BAILEY: As you say that, I think the 11 years happened because of the 90% that we try to practice. It wasn’t even that we said, hey, we’ve got a great idea to do stuff. And Andy is better at saying no to stuff than Anne and I are. We end up getting invited to these meetings, like, hey there’s stuff going on in the world, let’s try to take over the world and try to fix these things. And we show up cynically and just like, all right, what do you have us here for? Andy and I didn’t, that’s not how we engage, that’s how we met. But it did come out of that 90% practice, Out of that 90% practice there were certain things that just kind of came and you just keep on showing up, showing up. And then yeah, out of testimony, there is something. Sharing testimony is spiritual warfare. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony.
So that feels like an appropriate place to be public in that area.
CHERIE HARDER: Thank you, David; thank you, Andy. There are so many more questions we could ask, but all good things must come to an end.
As we wrap up, a few things to let you know about. As you exit this room, off to the right there, my right, your left, there’ll be a couple different resource tables. Comment magazine has devoted several issues kind of grappling with various aspects of those questions. We highly commend it to you. There’s also a number of Trinity Forum readings that go far more deeply into these topics as well. So I encourage you to check that out.
In addition, we wanted to highlight another invitation for you. On each of your chairs, there should be a brochure about joining the Trinity Forum Society. We would love to have each of you part of the community that helps make programs like this possible. In addition to support the mission of the Trinity Forum, there are several benefits of being a Society member, including a subscription to our quarterly Trinity Forum readings, our daily list of what we’re reading, curated reading recommendation feeds, podcast invitations, and many other things.
And as a special incentive for those of you who join tonight, or with your gift of $100 or more, we will give you a free yearlong subscription to Comment magazine. You will also get a copy of the biography, William Wilberforce: A Man Who Changed his Times, which also has a lot of direct bearing to our conversation today.
If you have any questions about this, feel free to talk to one of my fantastic colleagues. Maybe each of you could just wave your hands so people can see who you are and where you are.
As we wrap up, this has been an extraordinary evening. And it is always appropriate to end with thanks. I want to thank our partners, Anne and Comment magazine, which is part of Cardus. [applause] I’d like to thank the folks on my team who helped make this happen, our excellent photographer Clay Blackmore who’s around here someplace. [applause] My colleagues Nicki Sheffield, Brian Daskam, Molly Wicker and Izzy Lehosit, along with our fantastic interns Elizbeth Ford, Maddie Albertson and Sarah Malik.
And hardy and very enthusiastic thanks to you, Andy and David. This has been really extraordinary. And we are grateful. [applause]
And finally, thank you to each of you for coming. We’re honored by your participation. Good night.