Another Other Kingdom

Conversation with Walter Brueggemann ~ October 2, 2018

About every six weeks for the last five years, John and Peter have hosted online / dial-up conversations with community-building pioneers as their guests. For their October 2, 2018 dialog they invited Walter Brueggemann to talk about what it would mean to live in a culture beyond the consumer world. It’s a spontaneous, unpredictable conversation on the roots of consumerism and what an alternative world would be like.

For more on Walter’s work, go to his website or see his author page here.

John, Peter and Walter talk about what it would mean to live in a culture beyond the consumer world. It’s a spontaneous and unpredictable conversation, and after exploring their ideas they open it up to insights from listeners.



Peter: John and Walter, you’ve given us a good excuse to be together again. Any objectives we had, have already been met. Walter is on the phone. Next time, Walter, we’re going to get you on the Zoom, but that will take a visit from a technological expert called me.

In terms of context, this conversation is subtitled Departing the Consumer Culture and a lot of our conversation has been trying to define what you would call a social analysis of the consumer culture. Basically, it’s not about shopping; it’s a belief system that says whatever we do, whatever we have, is not enough. It’s a belief system that says if I don’t have enough then I’m not enough. It believes that we can purchase whatever we need including immortality. I can get my brain frozen now, just in case the technology keeps up, catches up with us.

It’s about the commodification. The industrial economy believes that if you can do the same thing over and over again it’s called scale and it’s called productivity. These are kind of the outlines of what you have connected to Pharaoh’s Egyptian economy. We were writing and talking about the Modern Exodus. That’s kind of context for this conversation. What would it look like, where are we headed?

Everybody on the call has a foot in both worlds. As soon as I finish talking about Departing the Consumer Culture, I’m going shopping. It’s not like were saying, “Those people.” That’s kind of how I wanted to introduce our conversation. My question, maybe to start with you, Walter, is that after 400 years some awakening occurred and you used the language that there was a lot of lamenting until something changed. We see a lot of lamenting in our culture, all we have to do is … Any media is mostly lament. Why did it take so long, Walter? What did it mean when the Jews cried out? What would crying out look like in today’s terms?

Walter: Peter, I’m so glad to get to do this with you and John and the people we get to be with today. I think that the master narrative of the Bible, or the metanarrative, of the Exodus doesn’t answer a lot of the questions that we might want to put to it, but I would think that what triggered the movement that led to departure and emancipation was a coming to consciousness. Pharaoh, with his ideology of endless productivity, I think, worked very hard to keep the Hebrew slaves from coming to consciousness about their own place, and role, and agency in history.

I think it’s not without parallel to the way in which the plantation economy worked very hard to keep Black slaves from coming to consciousness, one token of which was to make sure they didn’t learn to read. When the Hebrew slaves came to consciousness, we don’t know how that happened, what they did was to find their voice and, as they found their voice, they discovered that they had agency. They did lament, that is right, but it is also important to recognize that lament was a protest and a complaint of recognizing that what Pharaoh regarded as normal was pathologically abnormal and could no longer be tolerated. They had a sense of normalcy, new normalcy, that came out of the pain of their bodies and what happened is that their cry is, when it got out loud, turned to energy.

I think laments that do not turn to energy are probably irrelevant and a waste of time. The wonder of what happened in that story is that the laments moved them to action, moved Moses to action, and, according to the narrative, moved to God to emancipatory action. What we have to think about is what kind of voicing of new normalcy can lead to agency and can lead to action? That is what Pharaoh is so afraid of and why Pharaoh wants to keep the slaves silent.

Peter: Let me ask you, John. What is your reflection on what Walter just said? Maybe how you see what you’re doing is being raising this consciousness.

John: It seems to me that if we wanted to leave the consumer culture, in a sense, that means that the world of consumption would have to be, in a sense, replaced, have an alternative. What is that alternative? At least one way of thinking about it is to say that we moved from a culture of consumption, we’re moving to a culture of contribution, where we, together, are the creators of our lives, rather than we are the objects of large systems that teach us life can be bought. I’ve taught that the really important question may be, how do we take the steps into the alternative by beginning to create a culture of contribution?

The work we have done is particularly focused on the idea that everybody has gifts, some people believe they are from God, others don’t; but everybody has gifts, and skills, abilities, capacities. That’s what we have to call for us if we’re going to replace the proposition that our lives are bought, rather than created. What do we all have to contribute? I think you start on your own block and if you looked at all those households and said, “Gee, I’m going to actually take the first step to be a neighbor, maybe even a friend,” which you would do to begin intentionally, I think, to meet your neighbor and to listen to them in terms of those things they value.

Not issues, what do they value about themselves? That they love children, or they know how to repair bicycles, or they have a great passion for playing a musical instrument, or they would love to teach young people how they could become good at a particular sport. Each person on our block has those potential contributions and we know that. We have many neighbors who have begun to make visible what are those things that people have to contribute so that you have to be a neighbor, and you have to listen to a neighbor, and you’re listening to what they have to offer. Then the other attribute that builds a new community is the invitation. The ability to say, “Come. We need you. What you have to offer is so valuable.” Together, our joint offering will create a new being for all of us together.

Now, I think that way of moving to the alternative can happen in 10,000 places. You know what movement is, it’s making visible the fact that in 10,000 or 100,000 places there were small groups of people who were creating a new kind of culture. The movement calls them all to visibility. The civil rights movement is a perfect example. I’m so old I remember when all over this country there were all kinds of manifestations of people with an alternative view of a just order. But, they weren’t really visible. Then, an older woman sat down in the back of a bus. All of a sudden, the fire was ignited from the spark that she was and a movement emerged, but it was there, and it was there because people had  –– in relatively small groups, some were faith-based, others not –– they had been making the pieces of a movement.

They were the atoms of the molecule that became visible. I think we have to keep building more and more local manifestations of how can we contribute and make our lives without buying. That’s the ground-floor.

Walter: John, when you talk about the atoms of that, talk a little bit about what’s the nature or the character of such an atom.

John: Well, I think these atoms, are of two kinds. One, informal groups where people get together because they’re friends and, of course, that is the core of all possibility. Groups of people who are friends. That’s one level of manifestation. The other is more formal kinds of groups and those include, of course, faith-based groups are certainly a primary example.

But, there are all kinds of groups of people who get together because they’re concerned about a better world and they are coming together because they are concerned about questions of equity. They’re also coming together because they enjoy the same kind of dog. All of these groups are the seed beds for friendship and the possibility then of becoming the makers of our world, rather than the consumers of our world.

Peter: I can see the list of people on this call and half the people I kind of, one way or another, know. I think what strikes me when you speak, John, is you take the ordinary and make it significant. Most of the world wants to take the big boxes into leaders and wish they were more ordinary, wish they were more humane, more human. I think people on this call are probably engaged in some way in this alternative culture now. They have taken a step, it’s just that when you’re taking a step, it seems small. Most of the time we get frustrated.

I know even talking to neighbors, it’s not easy to decide to meet the neighbors you don’t know as well and to ask them the kind of questions you are talking about. I think what you’re calling for, and maybe what happened in the crying out, maybe this is where God gets involved. It’s not so much that I have to do something new, it’s just that I have to value those pieces of what I’m doing that are significant more than I realize.

John: Yes, I think it is the vernacular world. The world where we speak our language, not the language of the Pharaoh, that we begin to have a tongue that speaks in ways that begins to lift us up. It’s so clear that when we are together in a personal way, that’s essential, I think, to building another culture. Peter, I’ve learned this from you. That’s so powerful. That it is when you get to the scale of the personal, that the possible begins to emerge in the terms of the alternative. Small, in that sense, is beautiful, because I know your gifts and I know what you have to offer.

I have to be in a smaller world in order for that to happen, but what I also have to do is believe that I am in a larger world of a movement, right? That there are people all around that I can count on as they are part of our re-creation and our struggle and that will become visible, I am convinced, in the near future.

Peter: Yeah. I think we need each other in order to know what I’m good at. If you ask me what I’m good at, it’s taken me most of my life to even name it. It’s going to take a second life for me to value it. I think that’s part of one of the questions on the chat: how do you build trust? The challenge is how do we overcome our isolation?

Walter, the question came to mind, you have garnered a great deal of interest from the faith community in your work and your thinking over a long period of time. How do you make sense of that? Why do you think your framing of agency, and crying out, and the metaphors have …

Walter: I think a lot of church people and pastors with whom I’m connected have experienced the claims of faith in a very reductionist way that did not relate to the realities of life and they knew that. I think what I am good at for the community of faith is making those connections to help people see that the biblical narrative is not about a Never-never land, but it’s about the world that’s right in front of us. I think it’s an interpretive angle that people have found useful, and sometimes compelling, and generative for people, so that’s what I work at. The metanarrative of faith is scarcely worth anything if it doesn’t hook up with the daily realities of our existence and I think that’s what I’ve been working out.

What I have been saying lately about the Bible is that the future is constituted by story, song, poem and sacrament. That’s a very different way to tease the future rather than propositions, and syllogisms, and creeds, and servitudes that have been too much the specialty of the community of faith, because songs, and poems, and stories, and sacraments are very small and very local. I think that is a contribution that the church has to make about this. I was talking to somebody who was trying to form a humanist community recently and he said, “It’s so difficult because the church has all the good songs.” Historically, the church does have wonderful songs that we’ve forgotten how to sing because we’re so electronic now. The recovery of the little stuff, it seems to me, is very important for stitching together a future.

John: One of the very best neighborhood organizations I have ever seen had a meeting once a month, but the meeting was a potluck dinner. Before they began talking about purposes, they had the dinner, and then they all sang together. There are the two great magnets that draws together, food and song, and I think probably dance. I think that because they did those things first, those essentials of history, that they ended up, as an organization, with the most wonderful ideas, the most creative possibilities, and I think, in a way, the most compelling arguments for those they had to deal with.

Walter: I was at a church meeting once in Wisconsin, it was a three-day meeting, and they opened every session with this jazz combo playing familiar oldies and what I observed is after they did familiar oldies for 15 minutes, the body could come together and agree on anything. They were so energized and so liberated by the music.

Peter: I asked you once in your dining room, Walter, what’s the methodology of transformation. Do you remember your answer?

Walter: I do not.

Peter: It was that Miriam danced.

Walter: Yup. I’m glad I said that.

Peter: I know. Good. I think that’s what you’re saying now, is the methodology of trust, transformation, context, I would say, comes from Sacrament, song, poetry and stories. The song, all of our voices are needed; the stories, all of our voices. That’s why, for me, every gathering should begin with three or four people saying, “Well, what are you doing? What story you are telling that you got into this room in this moment?” I hadn’t thought about it as a context. I think the song or the music does that. It’s just a great thought. Go ahead, John.

John: Peter, there’s something that’s worth, perhaps, adding and it’s worth it because you taught me. We were talking about a culture, a culture that was outside the system of consumption and all its artifacts. I remember saying, “In the community, we would want to have some people who are really kind people.” I was beginning, with you, the list, what kind of people would be in this new, beloved community.

After I said, “We need to have some kind people,” you said to me, “No, I think what we need to have is a community that calls for kindness from everyone.” If I ever heard a definition of the nature of an alternative community, that would be it. That embedded in our way, as a culture, it calls for those things that allow us to live beyond the consumption world.

Peter: I think that culture is powerful beyond our imagination and we hardly have a language for it. Most of the transformation is individual.

I think, Walter, the church is an occasion for us to take the traditional language where I saw on Sunday morning facing forward, everybody else in the room had turned their back on me, except the paid staff. They’re looking at me.

Seems to me, what’s your imagination about the church being a delivery system for a different kind of sacrament, song, poetry and story?

Walter: Well, I think in the church, all those pieces are present. All that’s required is intentionality so that we think about what we’re doing. If we think about what we’re doing, we can, in the life of the church, very easily maximize the importance of story, song, poem, dance and sacrament, because all of that is already available to us, but we’ve become so hackneyed about it that we do not understand what those vehicles are able to do and ought to be doing among us.

It is true that the people of the church turn their backs on each other, but it is also true that, and most congregations, kids feel very much at home, they feel welcomed, they feel taken seriously. I don’t want to undersell what I think is the enormous potential of a life in the church, even though it gets seduced and talked out of it. I think, basically, it is intentionality and self-awareness about what has been entrusted to us. I don’t think the church has a monopoly on those things, but it has, in some distinctive ways, been entrusted to the church and we’ve forgotten that.

Peter: You’re calling for agency, at this moment, aren’t you?

Walter: That’s correct. That’s exactly right. Yep.

Peter: Agency on whose part? You would probably say on all of our part, not just the clergy and the …

Walter: That’s right. The other factor that I would like for you all to respond to is I just have this sense, for myself, that agency and the neighborliness are uncommonly inconvenient. I want to get the category of inconvenience. A local church ordered a bunch of my books recently for people in the church and they ordered from Amazon. I said to the woman that bought them, “Do not order books from Amazon. Why would you do that?” She said, “It’s so convenient.” Everything is convenient in the commodity world and I think what we’re talking about is a vocation of inconvenience.

John: I think that, historically, the small community was not inconvenient, it was the place of necessity for mutual support that made life possible.

Walter: Yeah.

John: One of the questions now is, do we have a growing sense that what makes our life possible is our shared contributions to each other? I think we have broken down the knot of our common interdependence in this world of individualism and, therefore, the old words “community organizing” are pretty applicable to where we need to be focused.

Peter: I think what Walter is saying is that today’s version of individualism is called convenience. If I asked anybody, “Are you alone?” They would say, “Well, I’m isolated, but no. I have some identity.” I think maybe the call for agency and the departure is a willingness to be inconvenienced. It will take it longer. It won’t be easy.

Walter: Maybe it’s only inconvenience when read through the lens of commodity.

John: That’s right.

Peter: Exactly. If I want to decommodify myself I have to make an intentional decision, whether I’m a church, or a social service agency, or a business who also have some good purposes.

Walter: Yup.

Peter: Why do I want to shop in a store when I don’t have to wait in line to check out? Lines are a symbol of being inconvenienced, so it just gets you thinking about maybe agency and giving up on what’s convenient are one and the same thing.

Walter: Yeah.

John: The convenience of consumption is isolating. It really builds the sense of radical individualism.

Peter: Right.

John: Every time we move in that direction, we are alone and we think we are powerful when we are total dependencies on a big system…

Peter: I like what you said, John. I would say that the price we pay for convenience is isolation. It’s unaware isolation, because it seems like we are connected.

Walter: Yes.

John: Yeah.

Peter: A couple people commented that what we’re doing now is electronic, but I think it transcends electronic. I don’t feel so isolated when I see these names and so I think there are ways that the digital world can be humanized.

Walter: Yup.

Peter: That’s what we’re trying to do now. I think that the post-consumer culture, the neighborly culture, is to remember there are other ways of getting what I want than shopping and ordering online. I don’t need a drone to bring me anything.

Peter: Now, I want to stop for a second. We’ve been at it for half an hour or so. Maybe, Becky, you could invite people to join us and let them know how to do that.

Becky: Sure. I am happy to do that. We mentioned at the beginning of the call if you want to use the hand race function, that I can bring you on camera or by voice. It looks like we have one person already. We have two. We’re going to do three at a time and I have three. If I’m not getting to you this time, we’ll circle around to you next time. I’m going to bring some folks on. There will be a slight delay where you’re not an attendee and then you’re a panelist, so do not be alarmed. Folks are going to go away for a second and then they’re going to be here on camera with this. Welcome to Ron, and welcome to News Scoop. Somebody seems to have an echo. You may need to mute. Welcome to John.

Peter: Hi. I can see two of you. Hello Ron, nice to see you. News Scoop, is that Sarah?

Becky: Then we also have John Saunders. If you all want to unmute one at a time to speak, that might help us with the audio quality.

Peter: You don’t have to ask a question. Q&A is a Pharaoh methodology, as if someone has the answer. All right? But if you just want to make a statement or answer a question. Anyway, thank you for stepping forward. Why don’t we start with News Scoop YYC?

Sarah Arthurs: Hello. It’s so lovely to see two of you and hear one of you today. I’m really happy for this. My name is Sarah Arthurs and I live in Calgary. I’ve been doing generative journalism through News Scoop and I’m a huge fan of the work of Howard Lawrence in Edmonton, downloading abundant communities in Edmonton. I’m holding hope for that in Calgary. Who knows, maybe I’m even going to go and invite my neighbors to a potluck. Maybe I’m going to do that. Anyway. My question is a little bit about the intersection of church and neighborhood. My question, maybe, is for Walter.

My life has been spent being in church looking out and I’m contemplating working in church again. But, I want to look out, I don’t want to look in. I want to look out. My question is, Walter, in your imagining, what is church at its best given this conversation about non-consumerism and neighborhood? What does it look like?

Walter: I think the church has to work both in and out. It’s got to work in to keep its stories straight and then it’s got to be asking how does this story empower us and compel us to be at work in the neighborhood on the justice questions. I think no local congregation can take on all the justice questions, but to target some, and to develop some competence, and some serious engagement, and make a huge difference. I think that many local congregations work at that, but probably with less intentionality. I think there is less intentionality because we don’t have our story straight.

The story that has been entrusted to the church is a story that completely contradicts the narrative of commodity. In the church as I know it, it’s very hard to get clear that our story contradicts that story because we want to have a both / and. We have to do the internal work that requires some courage and then we have to do the external work of saying that we are neighbors with many other people who face social circumstances of injustice.

Peter: Thank you. Let’s hear from the others.

Ron: Hello, this is Ron. I’m from Philadelphia and I’ve been working in restorative justice, hospice chaplaincy, a local organic church pastor. My concern is this: I love what you said, Walter, about the unrest or the calling out becoming embodied and turning into energy. I don’t hear that or see that even today. You’re all old, white men and I’m an old, white man. The voices I hear crying out are those of the Egyptian slaves. When we go to tell our stories, and sing our songs, and do are sacraments, we speak different languages.

I hear myself calling out for somebody to call out, but I don’t find myself calling out. I think, partly, because I’m a victim of convenience, and fairly successful, and comfortable. My crying out, it seems like, is limited compared to an Egyptian slave building pyramids or whatever they were building. I wonder where the connection is between us, who see a need and we’re begging for a voice, but we don’t seem to have it, and those that have the voice when we seem to speak different languages. Right now, I’m doing a thing called Sidebar Storage where we collect a song, a storyboard, an art form and a writing of stories that people are telling to make the stories accessible.

Peter: Who’s in the room when you’re doing that, Ron?

Ron: We do it in a retreat setting. We have about 10 to 12 storytellers. Then we teach deep listening to the song writer, the artist, and the writer. Then they compose, and write, and do the eventual storyboard.

Peter: Who’s the they? Are they church members? Are they neighborhood members?

Ron: We go through a nonprofit organization. We’ve done a group of immigration prisoners returning to society, reentry, people involved in addictions.

Peter: Is it their voices that aren’t being heard?

Ron: Right. We try to address the disenfranchised and marginalized to make their voices then accessible through this media to decision makers, donors, educators and so on.

Walter: I’m not quite sure on what you mean. Do you mean that there are voices, but they are not being received by anybody? Are you talking about us all being old people and not hooking up inter-generationally? I don’t quite understand what you’re talking about.

Ron: Yeah, some kind of disconnect there between those of us who see the need of a voice to be communicated, the marginalized voices, the crying out to God so that he’ll respond.

John: Ron, I wanted to say something as an old guy. One of the things that I learned as the civil rights movement emerged was about black people in this country… we are moving to define what is to be done and that what I could do was hear and see their leadership potential and get behind rather than in front. I don’t think we should ever assume that the people who are oppressed are not organized or don’t have a way to make voice. In the long run, I don’t think we’re saving them. They will save us if we follow them and support them. Could you hear it?

Ron: Thank you, John. I agree with you that the voice is already out there. We can never give somebody a voice. Perhaps, a platform, a listening ear. I guess I’m just wondering what our place is as those who do not have the passionate voice that is embodied the turns into energy, what is our place and supporting, as you say, the voices that are already being heard, that are already being spoken?

Peter: I would say you have a convening capacity to bring people into that room in addition to the people who are kind of isolated and you’re trying to get connected with returning, but you also need to go to the suburbs and bring them into the realm. That’s hard to do. I think it’s a class issue in some ways. How do we cross economic classes and cultural classes?

Walter: I think it’s also a legitimating function. The voices from below sound kind of odd and easily dismissed. Those of us who have some kind of influence or clout, in small ways, need to be showing that these voices are legitimate and they may be the new legitimacy and the new normalcy. That’s not a substitute for those voices, but it is to grant them credentials as we can be credentialing that these voices cannot be dismissed but must be taken seriously.

Ron: Does the standard of kindness interfere at all or limit the kinds of voices we are able to hear? Do unkind voices, loud voices, extreme voices feel welcome when our standard is kindness?

Peter: Let me hold that as a question, Ron.

Ron: Okay, thanks.

Peter: I want to invite John Saunders and maybe you and Sarah could leave and Becky maybe invite two other people in.

Ron: Good. Thank you.

John Saunders: I’m very inspired by this conversation. I work in the corporate world. The applicability of trying to build kindness and humanity in the corporate world is very parallel. A lot of what you are saying is very similar to things that I have been learning through a ministry called Life Model Work. It’s about community, emotional maturity and the necessity of community to transformation. I don’t have a specific question other than to say I’ve been abundantly inspired by the conversation and part of what I feel is my calling, my vocation, is to try to bring more humanity inside a corporation.

Peter: Beautiful, John. I think the corporations are parallel to the church and they have a lot of the right language. It’s just they don’t take it as central, they take it as supplemental. I think your job is to reorder what matters, where profit is the fuel instead of the purpose. I think the time is coming, there’ll be a great listening for that.

John Saunders: I believe that’s true because it is, with the volatility of uncertain and complexity of life, listening to one another; critical for any organization’s survival.

Peter: Especially, for the private sector to listen to its neighbors, not just its customers. Let me know how you do with that, John. Good luck. Becky, do you want to call and some more people?

Becky: I’m going to invite Mac in Cincinnati. Mac is joining. I’m going to invite Mary and I do have room for one more. If anyone else wants to use that hand raise function and join us, we have room. I’ve got one more. I’ve got Lola Luz.

Peter: How about if each of you says something before any of us respond so that if time runs out, we can get your voice into this conversation?

Mac Johnson: I’d like to add to this conversation, what you might call horizontal network weaving as a paradigm, as an asset, which we’re using right now. This communications technology that we’re using enables horizontal connecting in some new ways that we are experimenting with in my faith community context. We are network weaving in order to support grassroots countercultural asset-based community development, community organizing, in the ways we’re discussing.

I’m in a Jesuit parish that’s building a Jesuit parish network, for example. It’s in order to do leadership development, just like you all have been doing and we are doing right now. Working on our reflection for action and I want to suggest that this connection technology can lead to the form of horizontal ongoing networks.

Mary Kerrigan: Hello, it’s great to see everybody and hear everyone. Couple of things from me and Derry in Northern Ireland. Civil rights have been mentioned a couple of times, and this Friday, the 5th of October, is the 50th anniversary of our civil rights movement emerging back in the late ’60s. I suppose, I’m involved with my own local neighborhood here in the city called Seventh Streets and we have embarked on a series of small group conversations inspired by Peter Block. I’m finding that I’m meeting a huge amount of resistance to non-hierarchical community structures, ways of working, and people wanting to hand over to statutory agencies to do things for us.

I would welcome any guidance to help with that and, also, to ask… I was very privileged to hear Walter speaking in Cincinnati back in April in Common Good. I remember him saying, about the system, that we should forget the reform of the system and just leave. My question about that is what does that mean? How do we leave this world where the system is so pervasive?

Peter: Thank you, Mary. Lola Luz? Could you say something?

Lola Luz: The timing for this webinar is very good because we will have a meeting of the Surrey Senior Planning Table. The goal of the Planning Table is to make all the seniors here in Surrey, British Columbia, aware of benefits that the seniors are entitled, but they do not know. That’s part of our goal. We actually have started and received a grant for a project called Elder Story, where we get immigrants or those who are already here for a long time, seniors is what we focus, to tell us the story of their start here.

We have published three books already and we’re selling them, because that’s how to bridge the young people through old people like us. I’m also part of a bridging generation’s group in the parish where I belong. Isolation is a terrible illness that we have to fight for seniors like me. I am a primary caregiver for my husband, who is a person with disability. I am actually in the process of fighting the system, Fraser Health, because sometimes the benefits we get from them, not that we are ungrateful, is a clean sweep. It’s not addressed to the proper care of my husband’s need. I have a long letter to the CEO and I hope he listens to me. That’s it. Thank you.

Peter: Thank you. Thanks for joining us. Now, it’s not just older white men. Okay. Thank you, we need you. Maybe John and Walter would like to reflect a little on what we’ve just been hearing from …

John: Mary Kerrigan is telling us of the resistance she finds at the local level and, at least in terms of the current experience that groups in a lot of neighborhoods that we’re associated with are having, what diminishes resistance is to approach people around what they value and would like to contribute. Once the question is, you have so many wonderful gifts, can you let me know what they are? Then when they’re asked, would you share these with people on the block? We find that 90-95 percent of people on a block will say yes.

The approach isn’t an issue, isn’t to do something, it is to discover you. That people will be motivated to act on the basis of what they value and when you become the agency of invitation, and ask, would you share it? Well, there’s no resistance. What you end up with is a surfeit of possibilities. I would really commend focusing on what people value about themselves.

Peter: Thank you, John. Walter, any thoughts you have reflecting on what Mac, or Lola Luz, or Mary said?

Walter: Well, I want to echo what John said. I think these testimonies to the actual work in the neighborhood is exactly where the action is and I’m grateful for these testimonies.

Peter: That’s great. I think, Mac, what you said about lateral, I think using Zoom this way helps a little bit. I think the question for me now is how do you humanize a digital world? Lola Luz, I think as an elder, older person, it is so easy to be isolated. I anticipate my future and will I be, then, warehoused with my peers? What bothers me, this is my own, is when my generation says the future is in the hands of the youth. I don’t believe that. I think it’s in our hands. To me, it’s in abdication of responsibility if we go, “I hope the next generation can do better than we did.” I have those feelings but I don’t say it out loud and I think our isolation is a huge question.

I thank the three of you. Thanks Mac, and Lola Luz, and Mary for stepping forward, and, Becky, take it.

Becky: We have come to the end of our hour. We want to thank Walter for taking the time to be with us today and thank you to all of our listeners who have participated with us with this new technology and we look forward to hearing your feedback. I believe that Leslie is going to put some information in the chat about some feedback that we’d like to hear from you as it relates to the new technology.

If you can email with your feedback, I believe we are going to do a drawing from the folks who send feedback about the technology for a copy of Peter, and John, and Walter’s book An Other Kingdom. Also, if you want to learn more about Walter Brueggemann, you can visit his website at I was looking at the website during the conversation and Walter has written over 100 books.

We also want to make sure that you all know about our next conversation. It is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27th. It’s with Paula Ellis who is a leader in journalism innovation and community engagement. We will be talking about how to change the narrative, so we hope that you’ll stay connected with us. You can also stay connected with Abundant Community at and on Facebook. We will have a recording of today’s session. We actually are right now still broadcasting live on Facebook, so you can immediately rewatch or relisten to this conversation on Facebook, or we’ll be posting the recording later.

Peter: I would like to end by hearing Walter and John’s voice about how they experienced and felt about this broadcast. What’s your final thoughts about how we spent the last hour?

John: I think it is a step forward to be able to see people, so that more of our senses are connected than if we just hear each other. Although I’m hugely hesitant about the use of technology, I think if you’re going to use it, that what has happened today, I hope we can do it in the future, is a real advance.

Walter: It strikes me that this is wonderful to be in touch with so many people in so many different places and, while every one of us faces what we face locally, what’s clear is that we all have in common this counter narrative that binds us together and, I suspect, energizes us.

Image: tomswift46

About the Lead Author

Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann is one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades, known throughout the world for his method of combining literary and sociological modes when reading The Bible. He has written more than 58 books, hundreds of articles, and several commentaries on books of the Bible, has contributed to the Living the Questions DVD series, and participated in Bill Moyers' PBS television series on Genesis.

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