This reading group guide for Insurrection includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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In striking contrast to many of today’s feel-good evangelists, author Peter Rollins, a prominent voice in the emerging-church movement, asserts that the traditional church has become little more than a security blanket for the faithful—comforting but ultimately meaningless. To move beyond this infantile kind of faith, Rollins invites Christians to participate fully with Christ on the cross and his deeply authentic cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only in doing so, Rollins says, can Christians bring about the radical changes sorely needed for the church to bring God’s love to a hurting world. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Reflect a moment on your personal beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, and religion in general. How did you come to hold these beliefs? Where did they originate?
2. Peter Rollins discusses what he calls “Circumcision Questions” (p. xii). What is the meaning of this term and how does it impact the life of the church? What do you think is the Circumcision Question set forth in Insurrection, and what potential effect do you think it could have on the church as you know it?
3. Rollins builds on the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of “whether or not religion
is necessary in order to participate fully in the life testified to by Christ” (p.xiv). How would you answer this question and why, based on your own experience?
4. What is meant by “pyro-theology” (p. xv)? What purpose does pyro-theology serve? In your opinion, do the ideas expressed in Insurrection
qualify as pyro-theology? Why or why not?
5. Concerning God, Rollins writes, “We find great solace in the idea of someone presiding over the world who guarantees that our small and seemingly insignificant lives are being seen and cherished” (p. 7). To that end, he quotes Voltaire: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” What do you think of these ideas? Do you agree or not? Explain your response.
6. Thinking back over your current and/or past church experiences, do you agree with the author that the church performs the same function as a child’s security blanket (p. 48)? Why or why not?
7. What is meant by Rollins’s statement “humans are able to affirm one thing consciously while affirming the opposite thing unconsciously” (p. 44)? To what extent do you think that this is true of the church today? If you can, describe a time when you’ve seen this principle in action.
8. Explain how it might be possible that someone could hold no personal religious beliefs, and yet find comfort and solace in the beliefs of someone else (p. 57).
9. Describe what you think it means to participate in Christ’s crucifixion. Is your view of this participation in sync with the author’s (p. 23)? Explain.
10. What is meant by a God who operates “deus ex machina” (p. 12)? Do you believe that God acts in this way? Provide an example to support your answer.
11. What does it mean to “ridicule the religious view of God intellectually while affirming this God in our practice” (p. 50)? To what extent, if any, does this describe your own faith experience?
12. The author says, “When we are directly confronted by what we know but have refused to admit, we can no longer pretend that we are ignorant” (p. 68). Did this book confront you with anything you already knew, but chose not to see? If so, explain.
13. The author states, “Paul deeply understood that a community founded in the aftermath of Christ does not stand or fall on the teachings or miracles ascribed to Jesus” (p. 164). Do you agree? What else would such a community be founded on?
14. Rollins equates affirming the Resurrection with “times when we embrace life, face up to our pain, allow ourselves to mourn . . . meet our neighbor, look at ourselves without fear, take responsibility for our actions, find joy in the simplest of things, and gain pleasure through embracing the broken world” (p. 180). To what extent does this view reflect your own understanding of the Resurrection? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Brainstorm as a group what a truly post-religious or “collective” church would look and sound like. Who would attend and why? What kinds of songs would be sung? What would the preaching be like? List as many details as you can.
2. When you’ve finished brainstorming, share whatever thoughts and feelings came up during the process. Did you find the exercise easy or difficult? Did envisioning a new kind of church make you feel optimistic? Pessimistic? Anxious? Hopeful? All of the above? Why?
3. Discuss whether, on the whole, you think that this type of faith community is a worthy goal to work toward. Why or why not?
4. If you favor the idea of a radically different kind of church, think of some ways that you, as an individual and as a group, could help bring it about. Is there a specific action that you can take this month? This week? Today?
5. Visit PeterRollins.net to learn more about the author and his faith group ikon. To view some examples of the group’s “transformance art” in action, click on the ikon link found in the menu bar under “Blog.”