Rodney Clapp: The Play of the People

Meet Rodney Clapp, author of “The Play of the People.”

Rodney Clapp is an editor at Cascade Books. He and his wife pray at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Q & A with Rodney Clapp

Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?

A: There are so many. But what comes immediately to mind is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” with its inimitable lines, “Jesus sought me when a stranger / Wandering from the fold of God / He to rescue me from danger / Interposed his precious blood.” I am also moved every time when singing “Prone to wander / Lord I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love.” A second hymn I revel in is the eschatological “I Will Raise Them Up.” Always thrilling.

Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?

A: Eucharistic Prayer C especially resonates, in a time of climate change crisis, with its declaration, “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.” I also need and appreciate Prayer C’s exhortation, “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.”

Q: What project are you working on now? 

A: My current project is heavier than recent ones. I am researching and writing a book I call Living Out of Control: A Postliberal Christian Manifesto. It is an engagement with the overwhelming reality and ideology of our day, neoliberalism. For pastors and thoughtful laity, I hope to show how neoliberalism reigns through nationalism, consumer capitalism, the construction of sexuality, the debilitation of the earth, and the fear of death. An apocalyptic gospel helps us to name neoliberalism and resist its destructive tendencies.

Q: In your essay, you mention a childhood desire to fly. Do you still wish you could fly? Or has some other super power taken the place of flying?

A: I would still love to fly. Occasionally, in dreams, I lift off and float to the treetops. But it’s usually unnerving, because I am never sure how I can get back down. This brings to mind Jesus’ temptation in the desert, where he refuses the devil’s offer of superpowers. The same is true when he faces the cross, and declines to call down a legion of angels for protection. So I suspect we as Christians are called to live in vulnerability, out of control, alongside the “least of these.” All this is why comic books and superhero movies are so poor at depicting themes of Christian victory through cross and resurrection: they always end with spectacular (if supposedly benign) displays of violence.

Q: Besides liturgy, how else do you play?

A: My dog, Ury, is a constant source of amusement and playfulness. I also love reading fiction, and listen to a lot of jazz and country music. My wife and I in recent years are less enamored with movies and more involved with TV series produced by the likes of HBO, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. There, free of commercials, we can watch long-form development of characters, fascinating plots unfolding, and the fruits of excellent writing. Streamed TV series are more like novels than short stories. The best among them (and of course there is lots of dross) give us something to look forward to every evening.

Q: In your essay, you reflection your experience as an acolyte. Is there anything you notice in worship from your vantage point as an acolyte that you wish others could see?

A: I love the tactile and kinetic involvement in all parts of the eucharistic celebration. Serving as an acolyte makes me more aware of how the body is enmeshed and intricated in our worship. 

Rodney is the author of several award-winning books, including A Peculiar People: Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society and Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels. His most recent book is New Creation: A Primer on Living in the Time Between the Times.

Check out some of his books below and also at Wipf & Stock.

Rodney Clapp, Tortured Wonders

Rodney Clapp, Peculiar People