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Book Review: You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith

July 9, 2020

I am always jealous of people who seemingly get lost between the words on the page of a good book. I have never been much of a leisurely reader; it has always felt like work. Even when diving into something easily digestible, I find my mind running with concepts my eyes are unpacking from the page. All this is to say that I rarely read books, and frequently use the excuse of not having enough time, or simply not wanting to read or challenge my mind, as I have been in school for nearly the past 20 years. Well, I am officially done with schooling, and have found that I have more time on my hands than I can fill with mindful and intentional activities. So, in the spirit of continual learning, spiritual growth, and simply creating more healthy ways to spend the weekend, rather than watching the newest binge-worthy TV show, I picked up a book I received as a birthday present two years ago: “You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit” by James K.A. Smith.

Smith, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, has been writing his philosophical and theological observations on human “creaturehood” and Christ in culture for many years. His work ranges from textbook style examinations of worship, liturgical practices, and the religious nature of politics, to a more digestible version of these works in “You Are What You Love”.

“You Are What You Love” is an in depth look at human nature; our nature to love things and to continue to change what we love, as well as the importance of examining and understanding your loves to ensure that your life is worshipful to our Creator. In a world where mankind is continually pushed to learn and grow in intelligence, Smith argues that it is not the intellectual knowledge that defines a person, but rather what and how they love. Smith poses the question, which defies what most philosophers pursue, “What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we start from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the guy-level regions of the heart?”.

Throughout the remainder of the book, Smith addresses human tendencies in life, worship, and engaging in culture. He challenges the reader to review where their desires lay, and how it is likely that the truest worship they are expressing is not to God on Sunday mornings, but rather in their daily life to the objects, goals, and ideals that they love.

When taking this in, I was immediately made aware of the areas in my life where I channel more energy, time, and care in than my discipleship to Christ. This book is a great tool for reevaluating not only the way that you look at worship and its place in your daily life, but also the things that you may have been worshiping without even knowing. But don’t worry, the book doesn’t end there. Smith dives into liturgical practices like prayer, song, confession, and baptism, and how these are not just things we do, but rather vessels of worship that are gifts from God for our lives here on Earth.

Simply put, Smith addresses the seemingly uniform fashion in which the church views worship, challenging the reader to search “worship” on google images. While that can be a holy form of worship, Smith argues that man is propelled by love. Love of something, whether it be your new gadget, car, food, gym time, or baking that next loaf of sourdough, where you spend the most time and energy are likely the things you love most. After reading through “You Are What You Love”, readers are left with lots to siphon through as well as some internal processes and habits to think through. So, if you’re in the market for a book that’s easy to digest, and has big thoughts on worship and habits, check out James K.A. Smith’s “You Are What You Love”.

Sources

Smith, J. K. (2016). You are what you love: The spiritual power of habit. Grand Rapids, MI, MI: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


Written by: Clayton Copper

Clayton is the Marketing Coordinator of Student Activities. He has a B.S. in Business Administration: Economics and an M.B.A. Clayton oversees the graphic and video team as well as assisting in various event logistics.