Discussion questions for Ch 1

CONNECT:  How do you feel?

1.  C
onversions: McFague writes of four ‘conversions’ that changed her own views about God and the world.  As you look back to your own childhood, what shaped your image of God? As you reflect on your adult life, what ‘conversions’ have you experienced (spiritual or otherwise)?  How did they change your image of God?  How did they change the way you see the world?

2.  Your worldview:  What do you value, aspire to, pursue, cling to?

3.  Your credo: 
What are some of your own deeply held beliefs?

CONTENT:  What do you think

1.  A working theology: McFague says “a few beliefs, carefully thought through and actually functioning at personal and public levels, may be more significant than a comprehensive, systematic, but loosely embraced theology. (p. 4)  Do you agree?


 2.  A Christian credo:  McFague gives her readers a credo: carefully considered, deeply held beliefs that affect her acts and attitudes as a Christian. What key assertions does McFague make about God? the world? Jesus Christ? the Spirit of God? sin? salvation?  How you understand these terms?


 3.  Consumerism:  Sallie McFague argues that consumerism ‘the religion of our time.’ (See p. 11)  Webster’s defines religion as ‘the service and worship of God or the supernatural; commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance; a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes beliefs and practices.’ In what ways is consumerism a ‘religion’?


COMMITMENT:  What can you do?


1.  Limitation and sacrifice: Our culture’s definition of the abundant life does not include limitations or sacrifice.  On the other hand, love is central to the Christian understanding of God.  What kinds of limitations and sacrifices could you accept in order to act in love for the well-being of others?


 2.  Prayer: What role do prayer and spirituality – practicing the presence of God – play in McFague’s understanding of the Christian way of life?  What role do they play in your own spiritual practice?


 3. Acting for the well-being of others:  Dorothy  Day said, “I wanted the life abundant…. I wanted it for others, too.” As a consumer, what are some practical ways you could act for the well-being of others?


These questions have been adapted from The Alternative Good Life: A Study Guide to Life Abundant, by David C. Teel.   Published by Fortress Press. 

2 thoughts on “Discussion questions for Ch 1

  1. McFague’s sharing of her personal journey helped me to reflect on my own in different ways. Viewing my own conversion in stages immediately felt accurate. As a young child, I loved Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. It was a welcome respite from a chaotic home life. People were so nice there. I loved the stories of Jesus. The message didn’t carry through to home life, but those early experiences set the stage, or perhaps allowed that natural God-sized hole in my heart to remain open.

    As an older child, perhaps around ten years old, my piano teacher invited me to a Billy Graham revival at Madison Square Garden in New York. I felt a call there and walked forward to be blessed. The teachers were very kind and gave me a New Testament of my own. I red it and prayed, even talked on the phone to the person who taught me. Again, lacking a context in my life, it didn’t last, but I see it now as a continuing theme.

    As an adult, I was influenced by the times to turn away from spiritual support. What was I thinking? Good thing the Spirit is not discouraged and nudges us on. Attention to the Spirit among women’s groups helped me attend to those needs, celebrating manifestations of the Spirit in history and other cultures. That is, we met on the beach under the full moon. What a great place we live, that offers us such connections to the wonders of nature!

    I opened my heart to a fuller conversion to a formal religion in 2001, full immersion baptism in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s been a good journey for me, although the church’s official position opposing full rights for GLBT people left me disaffected. In the past two years, the women’s organization has pursued more consumer focus than feels comfortable — or even explicable — to me. So I attend less than I did when first converted.

    I always saw my conversion there as a step rather than a destination. Friends saw it as bizarre, and didn’t give me more than a couple of years in it. It lasted ten years and was worthwhile. McFague’s analysis is opening a path to yet another progression.

  2. What can I do? After dealing with my White Guilt for being an American woman in the 21st century, I remind myself to approach my life thoughtfully, mindfully. How could I do things differently? I live in a small house and have forsaken my electric clothes dryer for a clothesline. I consider each car trip, combining errands, in my Prius. My work focuses on improving the food system, bringing food closer to home, less industrial and oil-dependent.

    I don’t doubt my carbon footprint is far larger than that of a person in an undeveloped nation. How to bring my use down further? How to influence political leadership to make systemic changes? Farming and ranching are now intensive chemical polluters, but that could be changed. Farm subsidies would have to go to different producers, those who enrich the soil. I’m reviewing a book on the subject, Cows Save the Planet, about changing grazing practices so that the soil can recover its nutrients, in the process sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change. On a smaller scale, that’s what chickens do.

    I’m sure there are things I wouldn’t be willing to give up, but I’m pretty negotiable. Each of us is responsible for enriching ourselves at others’ expense, but there’s a Big Picture, too, where policy overshadows individual efforts. This philosophical framework can help guide better policy and empower us to make the arguments for change.

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