“Walter Brueggemann defines materiality as the use of the material aspects of the Christian faith, as opposed to materialism, which places possessions and physical comfort over spiritual values.”
This is how the term materiality is defined in the synopsis on the back cover of the book Materiality as Resistance: Five Elements for Moral Action in the Real World. I would expand this synopsis to include the term spiritualism, which places spiritual ideals over the experience of the material world. All three words together (materialism, materiality, and spiritualism) creates an outline that describes a major dilemma of human life: What do you hold as your ultimate goal—an eternal afterlife or a pleasurable existence here on earth? If the answer is an eternal afterlife as spirits after shedding your earthly body (spiritualism) then you would have little motivation to care for people or the earth, except as an exercise that earns you entrance into the heavenly realm. If the answer is a pleasurable existence here on earth (materialism) then you would have little to connect you to anything beyond your own experience, leaving it empty and void (which is hardly enjoyable).
In this dilemma, materiality is a concept that opens the door to another way of understanding the question altogether. We can neither cut off from our material existence nor can we deny the unity of all creation in the Spirit. The Christian faith lies in the intersection of the two realities. On a more practical level, the question becomes, how can we take our experience of worship out into the world as acts of service. Or, to put it even more simply, how can the way I view money, food, my body, time and place deepen my faith? This is a question that we can explore for ourselves as individuals, but more importantly we can explore it as a faith community. How do we as a church use our money, food, bodies, time and place in the exercise of our faith?
For six weeks we will consider these questions and more during the Adult Education hour. You can purchase the book or not. My hope is that we come out of this class with a greater understanding of our faith and with a whole set of practical ways we can live it out.
Hope to see you there in person or on zoom!