from the preface to ‘Life Abundant’ …
In Life Abundant, Sallie McFague writes, We North American middle-class Christians need to live differently in order to love nature, and to live differently, we need to think differently – especially about ourselves and who we are in the scheme of things.
By think differently I mean the largely unconscious worldview that is the silent partner in all our behavior and decisions. Our world-views are formed by many factors, including our religious assumptions.
The current dominant American worldview, a legacy from the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and 18th century economics, is that we are individuals with the right to happiness, especially the happiness of the consumer-style “abundant life.” The market ideology has become our way of life, almost our religion, telling us who we are (consumers) and what is the goal of life (making money). The grim results of this lifestyle are becoming apparent. This book is about imagining another way to live “abundantly” on planet Earth.
All Christians must have a working theology, a theology that can actually function in our personal, professional, and public lives. There is nothing special about theology – every Christian has one. The question is how good, appropriate, and functional is it? One way to test your theology – those deeply held, perhaps unconscious beliefs about God and the world that profoundly influence your actions – is to examine it. So doing theology begins by examining our conscience, so we can live the Christian life more deeply and fittingly in our own time.
Life Abundant, then, has a dual aim: to describe a Christian theology of the good life, and to show how I have come to this theology. The first three chapters are “how I got there.” Chapter 1 is a brief religious autobiography and credo, while Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 try to answer the questions of what theology is and how one might do it.
Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 lay out two major economic models – the neo-classical contemporary one and the ecological alternative one. These chapters look at the deep world-pictures of two understandings of where human beings (and especially we middle-class North American ones) fit into the planet. These very different world-pictures suggest different behavior by us and result in different views of the abundant life.
The last part of the book spells out the theologies that emerge from these two worldviews. We will look at God and the World (Chapter 6), Christ and Salvation (Chapter 7) and Life in the Spirit (Chapter 8) from the perspectives of the two economic worldviews.
This theology will not restore the planet or stop the greedy. But the point is to foster all the ways that every human enterprise, including theology, can help us imagine and live a different abundant life, one that will make the earth healthier and people happier.
This is the great work of the 21st century: never before have we had to think of everyone and everything all together. We now know that if we are to survive and our planet flourish we will do so together, or not at all. Christians believe we do not have to do this alone; Jesus said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)