The bottom line: An eye-opening call to reconsider modern systems in a book that whisks the imagination into shape.
In his allegory of a cave, Plato once said that those in chains think the shadows on the wall are real people, and thus ‘reality’ is defined by shadows. Little did they know that the figures are mere projections of reality—projections of real people that stand at the entrance of the cave. An Other Kingdom awakens us to the cave, breaks our chains, and draws us into the light.
The central thrust of the book is that the Free Market Consumer Ideology—based on the pillars of scarcity, certainty, perfection and privatization—not only isn’t working but is also creating the very problems is sets out to solve. This system depends on the idea of wants that therein necessitate consumerism, which in turn creates more wants. This subsequently creates more victims (e.g., violence, poverty, and dehumanization) than beneficiaries. The authors call for us not to simply cooperate to stop this endless cycle, but rather to break the wheel itself.
This call is to a new, alternative narrative called the Neighborly Covenant that is characterized by abundance, mystery, fallibility and the common good. Here, there is an emphasis on “communal capacity” and not “consumer capacity.”
Subsequently, out of the former results a dedicated effort to, for example, raise our children in families so they don’t resort to gang life; being healthy so we don’t consume processed, health-detrimental foods; take time to connect with other people and not embrace technology that distances us; and securing a livelihood and not demoting our labor into shift work so that our way of life is turned into a commodity. Of course, all of these things seem “strange” and “foreign” because an alternative reality involves revolutionary ideas and language.
An Other Kingdom reads very similar to Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination. Both books accomplish the same task: to persuade the reader to take a step back and imagine a new and invigorating world where what is possible transcends the artificial limitations placed on the present.
The book overflows with valuable nuggets of precious wisdom, and also introduces you to a myriad of authors, websites, programs and other resources that embrace an alternative set of beliefs that have the capability to evoke an order where all members of society have enough.
In the end, An Other Kingdom offers practical advice, inspires the reader to compassionate justice, and challenges them to imagine an alternative future separate and distinct from the world of ceaseless attempts at perfection. For me, this is a treasured book and a valued resource that will yield exponential dividends well into the future.
A must-read for Bible students, Christian leaders, and those who wish to challenge what we’ve been doing and re-think what is possible. This will certainly provide inspiration for those who seek to cultivate a novel, life-giving, community-building social consciousness built upon the foundation of covenant and neighborliness.