You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith

“Worship isn’t just something we do; it is where God does something to us.”

The title really intrigued me and I have heard a lot of great things about James K.A. Smith over the years, so I was really interested in this book.

Unfortunately, the more I read the more confused I became. Perhaps I had the wrong mindset going into the book or everything simply went over my head, but I could not engage in the material at all.

I enjoyed the basic concept of the book but I writing did not lure me. For example, the entire analogy of the shopping mall being a secular place of worship was more confusing than convincing. He talked about the architecture of a mall and how if reflects the spiritual wonder of a church, but I felt like this told me more about human interaction with architecture and environment than human fascination with consumerism. He kept talking about ‘secular liturgies’ which seems like a ten-dollar word for idol. Furthermore, if malls are replacing spiritual liturgy with secular liturgy, then why are malls dying? What is internet retail in the grand scheme of liturgy? I know this may be stretching the metaphor but I think the metaphor falls flat pretty quickly.

Speaking of metaphors, Smith is quite liberal with them: worship is interchangeably setting a sail, telling a narrative, and painting a picture. However, when he does not use metaphors the book reads like an owner’s manual. One chapter is subtitle “The Narrative Arc of Formative Christian Worship.” I almost fell asleep writing that.

Again, this is not a bad theme, but I just could not get into it. The book felt like another example of churched curmudgeon grumbling how church was better back in the good ol’ days. I definitely believe we can learn a lot from our church history, there is a lot of value there. I love old architecture and I definitely think it can inspire, but I also think about the first churches in the world were in homes, and how the fastest growing churches today are in poor places where people meet in huts.

But the book almost saves itself with this one amazing quote: “What if education weren’t first and foremost about what we know but about what we love?” That is a perfect question.

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