Author Interview with Jason Storbakken
Jason Storbakken received a 2011 Pastoral Study Project grant for his project: Toward a Radical Spirituality: Discipleship on the Margins. As a result of this project, Jason’s book “Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, and Revolution” will be available September 10, 2014.
LI: Tell us about yourself and your ministry.
JS: I was raised primarily in the upper Midwest, spent a decade (from the age of 17 to 27) meandering cities, cultures and continents, and finally settled in the County of Kings (i.e., Brooklyn!) where Jesus breathed on me, and even blessed him with Vonetta, my wife and co-laborer in Christ. We have two children, a four year old boy and five year old girl.
In 2007, Vonetta and I founded Radical Living (http://www.radical-living.org/), a Christian cohousing community in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Radical Living is a multicultural, intergenerational and ecumenical community of artists, workers and students that includes individuals and families. In essence, the Radical Living community is dedicated to living a meditative, prophetic and prayerful life, centered in Christ, engaged in our neighborhood, concerned with social justice, and led by the Holy Spirit.
I also serve in a full-time capacity as the Director of Chapel & Compassionate Care at The Bowery Mission (http://www.bowery.org/) in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where I provide spiritual direction and support to New York City’s unhoused and food-insecure community. I am a minister in the Mennonite Church USA.
LI: What core question/concern guided your Pastoral Study Project?
JS: In the Radical Living community we intentionally discuss issues specific to our neighborhood (e.g., gentrification, class disparity, etc.) in an effort to develop a race and class analysis that is faith-based and Christ-centered. For example, how does Christ’s life—born to an unwed, teenage mother and executed by the government as a criminal—shape our understanding of the poor and oppressed, outcast and criminalized? Jesus identified with those on society’s margins. Rather than extending mere charity, might we too find Jesus still on the margins today, might we join with him and those with whom he identified to participate in a movement for social change and kingdom building? If so, what stories, what personal experiences, what scriptures might strengthen and undergird us in this important work?
LI: What should we know about your book “Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, and Revolution“?
JS: “Radical Spirituality” is aimed at followers of Jesus Christ who seek a deeper, more authentic spirituality. It is aimed at those who have made mistakes on their spiritual journey and will undoubtedly take risks and make more mistakes as they pursue God. This is the story of my pursuit of God and the cloud of witnesses who have shaped me. I have had many failings in my life, and expect more struggles before this life is over, yet through these obstacles I have encountered a God who provides redemption and liberation, light and love to all who humbly, earnestly call upon the Holy Name. While this book is my personal story, that is, my testimony of Christ’s work in my life, it is also a description of the theology and praxis that I have encountered as a disciple on the margins of the church as well as the margins of society.
My spiritual formation has been flush with contrast. My patrilineal, Anabaptist ancestry reaches deep into the seventeenth century. I grew up listening to my grandfather, Elgin Tobias Tschetter, tell the stories of our distant Hutterite and Mennonite kin who were hanged, burned and stoned as martyrs of the faith. Yet I was born to an unwed, teenage mother, far removed from the church, and too often I served as witness to the brutal ways she was emotionally and physically abused by boyfriends, exploited by employers, and limited by society’s structures. As I came to faith in Christ, I sought to reconcile my personal experiences and my view of a church disconnected from those who truly need her with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the writings of the Holy Scriptures. It is for that reason that I have been drawn toward a radical spirituality. “Radical” merely means “root.”
According to Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, to be spiritual is to examine, investigate, inquire into, question, and discern all things (1 Cor. 2:15). For the Christian, to move toward a radical spirituality is to start by returning to the rich soil in which we have been planted. It is to consider the seed sewn, and the roots that serve to hold us fast in the holy faith. We must examine our religious heritage and traditions, grow in knowledge of the saints who have walked before us, read and re-read the prophets, psalms, gospels and other holy writings, and reflect upon our own Christian experience and perspective. It is as important to reflect on the experiences that birthed, shaped and formed the primitive church as it is to understand the experiences that give meaning to our own personal spiritual life.
“Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, and Revolution” releases September 10, 2014 (http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Spirituality-Repentance-Resistance-Revolution/dp/1626981035/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406647851&sr=8-1&keywords=storbakken )