Smith, James K.A. Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.
Chapter 2, “Love Takes Practice: Liturgy, Formation, and Counter-Formation” pp. 75-88.
Smith argued earlier that humans are by nature lovers. Here he sums it up. “This is a structural feature of being human: we can’t not be lovers; we can’t not be desiring some kingdom. The question is not whether we love but what we love” (Smith 2009, 75). This is well understood in marketing. “In a culture whose civil religion prizes consumption as the height of human flourishing, marketing taps into our erotic religious nature and seeks to shape us in such a way that this passion and desire is directed to strange gods, alternative worship, and another kingdom”(Smith 2009, 76). The church has often responded by trying to replace our desires with an intellectual decision. Smith suggests rather that we respond by redirecting passions and desires (Smith 2009, 77). The direction of our desires, the practices we adopt, become our habits (Smith 2009, 80). Practice leads to automatic and unconscious activity (Smith 2009, 81). Yet Smith acknowledges a difference between some physical activity, such as brushing teeth, and attitudinal activity, such as being a forgiving person (Smith 2009, 82). He considers some habits to be “think” and some “thick.” Thin habits are not foundational to identity. Thick habits are more closely related to core values. The distinction is not always clear as our goals tend to be complex (Smith 2009, 83). “All habits and practices are ultimately trying to make us into a certain kind of person” (Smith 2009, 83). Smith points out that it is up to us to identify the goal of our habits. Considering the values which can be formed by our practices may help us to shape our values more purposely (Smith 2009, 85). Smith identifies these practices as liturgies, the rituals which direct our lives (Smith 2009, 85). He clarifies his definition to say that liturgies are “rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations” (Smith 2009, 86). These point directly to the “thick” habits (Smith 2009, 87). With this in mind, “Christian worship needs to be intentionally liturgical, formative, and pedagogical in order to counter [such] mis-formations and misdirections” as are found in the secular society (Smith 2009, 88).