“The Anxiety Opportunity” in the New Year with Curtis Chang

As we step into 2024, the global landscape presents us with profound challenges – from conflicts in Palestine and Israel to widespread war, economic disparities, and political divisions. Add to this mix the heightened levels of anxiety and rage permeating our society, all unfolding against the backdrop of an election year here in the U.S.

In the midst of this complexity, how do we navigate our growing personal and collective anxiety, and can it be an opportunity for us to live more fully according to the gospel?

To explore these questions, we’re honored to welcome back Curtis Chang, the author of The Anxiety Opportunity and co-author of The After Party, as our first guest of the year. Curtis chats with us about how engaging with our own anxiety and that of others can pave the way for more restorative conversations and offer more hope as we look into the year ahead.

Join us for this enlightening conversation to learn more about Curtis’s work with his latest project, “The After Party,” in today’s episode. If you missed our previous discussion with Curtis last spring, you can catch it here.

About Our Guest:

Curtis Chang bridges the worlds of secular institutions and theology. In the former world, he is the founder and CEO of Consulting Within Reach (CWR), a firm serving nonprofits and government agencies. His consulting work has won an award in social innovation from the Obama White House, and he teaches strategic planning as a faculty member of American University’s School of International Service.

In the Christian world, he is a consulting professor at Duke Divinity School and a Senior Fellow at Fuller Theological Seminary. Curtis is also a former senior pastor of an Evangelical Covenant Church in San Jose, California. He is the author of the book The Anxiety Opportunity: How Worry Is the Doorway to Your Best Self and the forthcoming book, The After Party: Toward Better Christian Politics, now available for pre-order.

Episode Transcript:

Dan: As we begin the year, it is probably inopportune to say that it’s likely going to be the year of dread. There are so many realities ahead. I would wish to begin this lovely year, 2024 the year of the Lord with a far more optimistic, excited anticipation. And lemme tell you, I am, but because this is going to be a year that we are to have to face greater dissolution, greater division, greater despair than we have done. And we’ve done a lot over the last number of years. But I think this year is going to be unique in the history of many of us and certainly this country. So to begin this year, Rachael, we were hoping, and we have the great privilege of having Curtis Chang back with us, and Curtis was with us in May of the year 2023, beginning to talk about his new book, the Anxiety Opportunity. And we’ve got so many responses, so much help was given. So Curtis, welcome. So grateful that you are here to inaugurate. I don’t think in the Chinese New Year, it would be called the year of dread, but whatever it is…

Curtis: I don’t know which Zodiac animal represents anxiety and dread, but yes, we should probably name that animal as such. Well, Dan, it’s a pleasure. I love being introduced as the harbinger of doom, so thank you for that.

Dan: Well, harbinger, I’ve been the harbinger. You’re the one that actually we have anticipated to help us, guide us through the process. But first of all, I want to talk about the book of 2023 before we talk about your book coming up of the year 2024. So how has the book been received? What have you heard from people? And particularly through that, what have you learned in the process though you offered immense amount of goodness and wisdom about how to understand anxiety, how to be able to name it and engage it and how to enter it versus attempting to do an end run around it. But talk about the book.

Curtis: Well, it’s been really satisfying to get the response as a fellow creative, you know, when you’re writing a book, it’s like birthing something into the world and you just hope the world receives it, with open arms, but that’s not guaranteed. And I’ve been very, very pleased, gotten a lot of emails, a lot of comments in person. When I go to conferences now, I do get that “I love the book. It was so helpful to me.” So just in general, it’s been very satisfying because writing a book, like any act of giving birth, it is birthed in risk. You’re placing a lot of effort and energy to think this might be that you could create something that’d be helpful and that the world will receive it as helpful. So it was an active risk and I think the risk paid off. And so I’m really glad for it. I think some of the things that have been very helpful is that my guiding hypothesis that the church, broadly speaking, but especially what we broadly call lowercase evangelical church, has really not equipped our people to handle anxiety well. That we’ve given them a very false expectations around anxiety and have given them this what I call either they pray it away response or they prescribe it away a response as the two offerings on tap. Both are not equipping our people well. And it’s showing up in the continuing mental health and anxiety crisis that we’re having because we are trying to make something go away that we cannot make go away. We have to go through it, not make it go away. And when you try to make something that won’t go away, try to go away, it actually generates more anxiety. And so I think we’re seeing that and I think when people see that something clicks and they go, they’re willing to go on a different path. So you get the emails that are just like, this has changed my life. And you don’t know how much has it really changed your life, but at least for this moment it feels like it’s changed your life. And also, I’ll take that.

Dan: Amen. I put it in the bank and it may not ask scrutiny of the bank, but I love it.

Curtis: Yes, and you, and I think that’s for me is actually in some ways this was an anxiety opportunity for me because like I said, it’s a risk, it’s an anxious, I have to go through my own anxiety in terms of writing a book and then releasing the world. And I guess I think in my own way, I have lived out the book yet again my own, by actually writing the book. I’ve lived out the tenets of the message of the book. And so I think it’s held up both for others and for myself.

Dan: That’s so sweet. And when you think of one or two of the things that you’ve heard that you were surprised by when you write a book, at least I find, that I’m surprised by what I wrote and when people read what I wrote, sometimes I’m really shocked by what they thought I wrote or indeed they actually read what I intended but didn’t know I intended. So I think there’s an element

Curtis: Yeah, gives us a picture into how scripture, probably what the meaning of inspiration of scripture means. There is meanings deeper than what the original author even intended. I think for me though, the most surprising response has been actually the number of non-Christians that have picked up the book and found it to be very helpful. That was not my audience. And as you know, the book is full of a very, it’s a very biblically based book. It’s a very theological book, but the number of Christians, sorry, non-Christians who have found this is very helpful. This gave me a lot to think about. And somebody said, “wait, the gospel really is about this?” was really meaningful, that it was, that anxiety could be a way for people to really understand the true nature of the gospel. That it isn’t some cosmic loss avoidance scheme, but it is actually a promise of how we go through loss with the hope of ultimate restoration in the end. I think a lot of Christians don’t actually understand that that’s actually the gospel. And a lot of non-Christian have never heard that as actually what the gospel is, they thought “I thought you guys believed in kind of like a cosmic Amazon in the sky that just is supposed to respond to every request to avoid loss in some way.” And because they know that has not worked out, that they look around the world and they say, that doesn’t work out, that’s not true. So that therefore the gospel can’t be true when you actually say no, the gospel is not about your guaranteed loss avoidance. It’s about how we are invited to go through loss in and with Jesus. Something clicks for them. Like, wait, that’s not the gospel, that’s not the version of Christianity I thought I heard. So that’s been super meaningful for me to get as a response.

Dan: Again, so sweet to hear that again, that surprise, the element of gospel surprise that what we view as actually death has the potential to open up the remarkable realm of life. So thrilled that there has been such a strong, strong response. Well, as we step in…

Curtis: Well, and Dan, I want to by the way, just finally say thank you, your support and endorsement of the book. I’m a public theologian, I’m not a mental health expert, and I’m writing it for very much from the inside, the experience of somebody who has a lifelong suffer for anxiety. But the concern I always had was how will the mental health profession receive it? Your endorsement was a first very helpful, like okay, I think it passes through that lens and that I think I would just say also has been very encouraging is the number of Christian mental health professionals that have said, oh wait, this is the book we really have needed. We really have wanted. And that’s been very encouraging.

Dan: And I’m honored by that. We love being able just bluntly to sell books that change our lives. And there is a, I hope our listeners know we don’t peddle what has not changed us. And Rachael has spoken often about the reality of her own war with anxiety. And I would say of myself, it’s not one of my core battles. Yet, when I read the book, I’m beginning to look at things where I’m going, oh, that’s painfully true, but you have language to escape it. So as odd as it may be, it helped me name an anxiety and levels of anxiety that would be easily displaced by someone who does not view. And yet I also found, as I anticipate the book that we’ll be talking about soon, your theological depth and grasp, it was one of the sweet rich parts, not only of the engagement of what could be viewed as psychological mental health issues, but I just find such a dearth of reflection theologically at the level that you bring in the reality of not just practicality, but the deep personal. And that is again, obviously a mark of your life as well, your birth. So Rachael, anything you want to add before we jump into…

Curtis: Rachael, I have a question for you. One of the funnest exchanges we had, I think we got it on the air, I don’t remember, but you had this, you told me when you read the book, you had this moment where you threw the book across the room. Did you ever get to pick up the book again? Did you…

Rachael: Yeah. I got it back. I got it back and for me that is a sign of like, this is a good book if I throw it because it’s just articulating a little too close to home what’s true. But yeah, I got it back.

Curtis: Oh good, good.

Dan: Well, as we jump in, let’s just start with the reality that the year 2024 to even begin to look at the particularity of the heartache and heartbreak in Palestine, in Israel, to look at war upon war, to look at the level of, again, indifference and violence against Palestinians in this country and Jewish people in this country. I mean, one can simply almost take a breath from that and begin to look at Ukraine and the issue of global warming and the complexities of the economy and the injustice and the levels of economic disparity, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And it happens to be an election year if people forgot. So we have a deeply divided country and there are people making prognoses of even the potential, even if it’s exaggerated of a form of a civil war. We’re looking at the potential of threats of violence against judiciary, against people in all sorts of political context, the level of rage. I mean just twice yesterday on a simple five minute drive, road rage. I mean I was just like, what’s going on? People honking screaming at one another and I’m going, this is a pretty sedate little island I live on. And yet we are seeing acrimony egregious harm and levels of again, racial violence, inequality, et cetera, et cetera. So as we go into a hyperintense year that we’ll have a conclusion of a major change or not in our government. You wrote this book as a entry into this year. I’d love for you to put words to the motivation and why this.

Curtis: I did write the book very deliberately. So listeners or readers who do follow my work on Redeeming Babel know I have three big things that I, and messages, I’m trying to advance: at the interior level, at the institutional level and then at the broad social level. So at the interior level it’s about anxiety. At the institutional level, I’m trying to help Christians get a theology, a spirituality of institutions, institutional life. And then at the social level it’s about politics. And so I two years ago was thinking, how do I sequence sort of these topics as I’m rolling them out? And I really thought at first, well, I’m going to start with institutions and then go to because is actually the thing I really, really care especially about. And then that’s going to actually lead into politics and then we’ll finally get to the anxiety thing and then I realize, you know what, you have to start with the anxiety thing because if you don’t understand anxiety, you can’t actually understand any of these other levels. You can’t understand the level of distrust and fear that we have around institutions and what they might or might be doing to us that our institutional lives are bathed in anxiety. And then certainly as you referred, when we look out broadly to the whole world and especially the world of politics, it’s absolutely bathed like shower bathed, lathered…

Dan: Drowning

Curtis: drowning in anxiety. So as you know in your own therapy work, Dan, if you just talk about the issues or you talk to the head about theology, the right way to think and you don’t give away to actually hold what they’re actually feeling underneath it, it’s going to glance right off of ’em, not only glance off of them, but they will actually mishear what you say because they will channel it, they will hear it through the ears of anxiety. And so that’s why I started with the book the anxiety because I thought, no, no, that’s actually the foundation piece. You’ve got to get people away to hold and go through their anxiety if you’re going to help them think about institutions and then especially if you’re going to help reform, reshape their thinking and behavior and being in politics. So the anxiety book was very much a setup for what we’re going to be doing in 2024, which is now a good time for me to talk about that, Dan, in terms of …

Dan: Yes sir, yes.

Curtis: Okay. Alright. So our big project in 2024 is called The After Party. And The After Party: Towards Better Christian Politics and it’s really trying to help Christians kind of what we did with anxiety to reframe politics for Christians because just like we believe that the church has mistaught Christians, mis-prepared them, misformed them on anxiety, we’ve misformed them on politics. So if the misformation on anxiety was we have been teaching them anxiety is something you pray away or you prescribe away like that, you make go away. I think the central misformation on politics is that we have, the Christian Church has way overly defined politics around the what of politics. Politics is all about the what of ideology, the what of party or the what of policies. And somehow as Christians you’re supposed to line up Jesus with a specific what of ideology, party or policy. And our belief is we need to make a big shift. We need to make a big shift from the what to the how. The how of politics, the how of spiritual values of relationships and of practices, especially relational practices, right? Because you can certainly try to draw a line from the Sermon on the Mount to left or right, Republican or Democrat, this policy on abortion, immigration, economy. But at best it is a fuzzy and a contested line that you can draw from any of Jesus’ teaching to economic policy or immigration policy or whatever. I’m not saying there’s no line to draw, but it’s fuzzy and it’s contested and you have to work very hard and you have to be humble to say, this is the way I draw the line, but I’m not sure. But if you talk about the how of loving your enemies go the extra mile, do not lie. Forgive, be committed to the truth. Excuse me. Those are straight lines. Those are straight, clear, bright lines that’s straight from Jesus to behavior on the how of politics and partly where the book is those are not just about our internal private lives with our family. Jesus was writing those very clearly to talk about political conflicts in his day as well. And so we are trying to say, look, we have missed the emphasis on the how gotten way overemphasized and way arrogant really in terms of the lines we draw on the what we need to get back to the how. Because if you can get back to the how, the how applies to both. When you’re on the what, then you’re immediately on, well okay, you’re on that side of the what, you’re on the left side of the what and I’m on the right side of the what or mix it up. You are immediately pitted against each other once you’re put on the… on the how, love your enemy, hey, both of you guys think you’re enemies within another. Both of you can practice this. Forgive. Both of you feel like you have been betrayed and hurt by the other… both of you… So it’s a set of spiritual values and relationships and relational practices that we all can practice even as we disagree on the what. So we’re calling Christians to reunite and recenter on the how of Jesus. And that’s what the After Party Project, which has a video course and also a book. The video course has already been released at the time of this podcast publication and the book comes out in April.

Dan: Great. Well we’re going to be knocking on the door sometime in April for another conversation, but let’s start…

Curtis: Absolutely. I look forward to that, Dan.

Dan: Lemme underscore that most of political processes involve the uncertainty, the anxiety of our current sits in life. Our world is uncertain and the political process that comes to a linearity a one-to-one relationship, Jesus said this, that means you do x. Well, that is at least if I’m hearing well in so many ways, an effort to escape the anxiety that our current world, and actually that would’ve been true a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago, years, that politics is not essentially about how to resolve our anxiety, but actually a way of entering one another’s world in a way in which we can address the polis, the city for how we’ll bring goodness. So the differentiation of what and how is a crucial category that already reframes, but what’s been the reaction for those who prefer dogmatism of the left or the dogmatism of the right to that very radical approach?

Curtis: Well, I should say first of all that I would say our target audience for The After Party are the people that I would call the exhausted majority. So I don’t think we are set up to persuade somebody who’s already committed to the, let’s say, let’s just call it the MAGA vision of the world or the complete far left woke vision of the world. That’s not who we’re trying to speak to. We’re trying to speak to people who look at both of those options and think, geez, neither of these options feel very compelling or healthy, but feel like I don’t have any other option, especially as a Christian and in particular, I think we’re trying to speak to probably the Christian who stands in the middle and who looks at the woke left and says, I know I’m not them because they’re not even speaking God, they’re not even speaking Bible. But then they become tempted to look then at the far right and say, well, I’m a little uncomfortable with how extreme they are or maybe how quickly they seem to be wanting to tear things down or whatever they might be, but at least they’re speaking God, at least they’re speaking Bible. And so there can be kind of a drift then that we see in the evangelical body politic that then drifts rightward to or towards that extremism, David French, Russell Moore and I, who are the three voices of The After Party. We want to be the voice that plants a flag not on either of those extremes to say, no, no, no, you can rally around this flag, which is not the left or the right. And it’s a flag that is profoundly Jesus-centered. It is rooted in scripture. So come here in that sense, it is an alternative to those on, like you said, on the left or the right who are insisting, look, you have to tow the party line in order to forestall some catastrophic loss that you fear and the left or the right version are the only ways in which your catastrophic loss can be first stalled. We’re trying to say, nope, there’s another way. There’s another way. And again, in our way actually allows you to handle loss and allows you to actually endure loss and not view it as catastrophic that in the Jesus vision of politics, actually loss is part of it. This is why we said you’ll lose your life in order to gain it. This is central to the gospel. So politics is not exempt from that. We need a politics which involves the capacity for us to endure loss. And the problem is, I mean that actually is what democracy is. Democracy is a way for everybody to actually be able to endure loss. The problem is now Christians now aren’t going to be won by an appeal to democracy or pluralism or liberalism, lowercase “l” liberalism, classic liberalism, right? So you can’t win Christians to those things. You have to then win Christians back to the gospel, which happened to, I believe, when especially when centered on the Jesus how to actually be congruent with the very values we need for a healthy, thriving democracy. And one of them actually is the ability to endure loss. That’s fundamental democracy. It’s like you have to actually be to say, if I lose this election, I will accept it. I will be okay. And my enemy is not a mortal enemy. That must be that I must eliminate at all costs or I must achieve victory at all costs, even if it means violating the agreed upon rules or agreed upon or basic truth or basic commitment to decency. So when you cannot avoid loss, that’s when you’ll be willing to sacrifice all the Jesus principles of how, right? That we just think no. Well that, and Russell has talked about, Russell has talked about how when he has heard about how many pastors who have preached on turn the other cheek and they will get people from their congregation saying, why are you preaching that liberal garbage and that’s that liberal garbage, that’s Jesus, that’s Sermon on the Mount. And then their response then is not, oh well, so I better listen to Jesus and I better submit myself to that gospel. Well that doesn’t work anymore. So again, and it doesn’t work for them, the idea of turning the other cheek because they think I can’t afford to lose, right? So this is the tie in between anxiety and the politics book between The Anxiety Opportunity and The After Party is we have to train our people to view that when we lose either loss in our personal lives or when we lose politically, it is not… we can tolerate it, we can hold it. The gospel gives us all the resources we need to actually be able to go through that loss both personally and politically.

Rachael: I find myself going, okay, yes, and what if that loss means the disillusionment of democracy as you know it? So in some ways I think that’s where my questions are, any talk of the middle, because I am with you. I want to go the Jesus way and I’m still trying to wrestle with and how do I hold justice and mercy in the Jesus way because it’s not neutral. I think about this a lot because at the Seattle School, which the Allender Center is a part of, we have a statement about discourse, which I think a lot of especially academic institutions are having to wrestle with. How do you have conversations that shape formation that have to do about people’s personhood and their access to rights and their capacity to live and flourish when we don’t necessarily come to the table equitably or with the same access to power, though I think everyone has power. I don’t think anyone’s without power, but I don’t think we have the same levels or layers of power. So how would you speak to people who are hearing this and saying maybe they’re feeling a little bit offended on either extreme? You’ve called me out, but I can’t necessarily come to the middle and forgive if that means letting people be harmed, who I think this politic will actually bring harm. What’s the Jesus way? Kind of this After Party way have to say to how we participate in the justice politic and the mercy politic?

Curtis: Yeah, I think those are all part of the how right part of the Jesus how is we do forgive our enemy and we do love our enemy, but we also do justice. We also have to protect the weak. We also have to protect the poor. So it is not devoid of substance, but it is calling everybody to have some humility about how much we can actually know, like, what should be done? We can agree that yes, the poor should be cared for, the weak should be defended, but we should have a great deal of humility on what is the actual best way to actually do that. But you’re right, it is not devoid of it is not just, hey, let’s just all agree to not have any disagreements. It’s actually giving people way too disagree and to hold those disagreements. But then also honestly, it is also a way to hold… So you brought up before the what happens if this means the disillusionment of the republic… the title of The After Party is referring has a dual meaning. It is one at times is trying to call people to move in their politics after the party beyond the party post-partisan, right? So not to anchor their politics as on the what of the party, but the how of Jesus believing that the Jesus party actually can encompass difference, right? And by the way, that is the original vision of the Jesus party. So I write about this in the book when Matthew describes his most intimate closest party, which are the disciples, the 12 disciples, and that’s who he partied with the most. The description is really interesting. Almost all of them, 10 of them are basically described in the classic Jewish way as son of so-and-so son of so-and-So. There’s two that are not Simon and Matthew. And do you know how they’re described? They’re described by their political identity. One is the tax collector and the other is the zealot. These are the right and left red and blue of their day, right? The zealot is the, “I’m going to tear the thing down.” The tax collector is “I’m a part of this establishment that is collecting,” so it is the most fundamental. They were killing each other. I mean they were literally killing each other in Jesus’ day and especially even before Jesus’ day, there’d been a massive basically massacre between zealots and the Roman Empire protecting the tax collectors. So the Jesus way is not papering over differences, profound substantive differences, but somehow in Jesus, the zealot and the tax collector are sitting at the same table as part of the same party. And Jesus seems to have gone out of his way to construct his inner party to pick two people who are going to be known such that even later readers would only recognize Simon and Matthew as tax collector and zealot. So it’s not leave your politics at the door, it’s actually no bring them in, but we’re going to find a way that you can all sit around the table together and it seems like Jesus is teaching them a way. And he successfully did that because the Jesus movement held together even after Jesus left, even with these profound political differences. So that’s part of the party. The party is a party that transcends the partisan divides and somehow enables us to all be together. I’ll say one last thing and because I know I’m talking a lot, but I’ll say one other. The dual meaning the other meaning of The After Party speaks to your fear and many people’s fear of what’s going to happen to our country, which is what nations rise and nations fall. The United States is not the kingdom of God. And so I believe in the Pauline, wherever there could be order, we should try to seek order. I would love for the order of a non-dissolution. I think we probably will make it, but who knows, maybe we can’t. But this is why we need The After Party because the after party’s dual other meaning is the wedding feast of the Lamb the ultimate after party that we are all pointing to that all in fact, all politics ultimately is supposed to point to in all politics, we’re all trying to fix the things that are broken. We have different visions of what’s broken. We have different ideas of how to fix the things broken. All of those are provisional. All of those are temporary, mixed, limited, broken human attempts to fix what is broken in the world. We are told as Christians, there is one moment in history when all of what is wrong in the world is restored, is broken, is when Jesus, the King, the political ruler of us all returns to this world, reunites, heaven and earth here on this earth to restore all things as Colossians one says, to reconcile all things, all things that have been broken. That’s our ultimate hope. Our ultimate hope is not that United States will survive in its current form forever and ever. I hope it survives this next election. I think it will. But I’m not sure about that. But that’s not my ultimate hope. My ultimate hope is there is another kingdom that has broken in already and will become and be fully consummated, fully make the final restoration. That’s real. I mean that is a political hope. It’s also a personal hope with all of our ways in which we struggle with anxiety, with illness, depression, broken relationships, it’s all that. But it also is the big breaks, the big brokenness in our world, which involves a lot of what Dan has described just in his introduction of all of what is broken in this world. The kingdom encompasses that as well. And that’s the after party. That’s the wedding feast of Lamb that where we place our ultimate hopes on.

Dan: And what you’re describing is neither of us, none of us are harbingers of doom because the kingdom will out survive every empire and in some ways bring every empire to its knees. And there is…

Curtis: That’s what scripture says. Every knee shall bow. Right?

Dan: And to presume as at least some Christian nationalists that this is a Christian country that can presume the promises of God as it was made to Israel is not just hermeneutical insanity. It’s a violation of a level narcissism to a degree that is almost beyond. So as we approach the realm of dogmatism and anxiety and the need for control, what I’m hearing at least at the most, not simplistic but simple category, is that love is the how. And that as we engage our own anxiety, as we engage the anxiety of the person who seems to be opposed to us as we bring our humanity in all its brokenness and beauty into the conversation that will not keep us from being differentiated on the what, but it may hope to bring us into a much more restorative conversation where a new what, not a what of the right, not a what of the left, but in some sense the disappointing compromise that democracy is set up to create, to be able to move us forward toward that which is generative and flourishing, not just individually, but systemically and institutionally. So I just find myself going what brilliance and what a gift to the community of God that you had this three-leveled burden and that you began with your own anxiety.

Curtis: Well, yeah, because I’ve realized I can’t function very well in this world if I don’t actually have a way to deal with my anxiety. And I think that is true for human beings and human systems, human societies and Christians in general. Dan, when you were saying, when you said this comes down to the how of love, it just struck me that the vision of the wedding feast of the Lamb, why it is a wedding is precisely because God–why that’s a beautiful metaphor is–God’s saying, my ultimate end is to reconcile difference. Heaven and earth, the differences between heaven and earth will come together. God and his people, the ways that they’ve been separated, they will come together. And in that of course then all the differences and divisions between people then will be kind of reconciled in this grand reconciliation between heaven and earth, God and his people. And so all along this gospel story is about differences that lead us into pain, but then that God ultimately brings together. So just like anxiety is an opportunity for our own personal spiritual growth. Ironically, political polarization is an opportunity for spiritual growth because we get to live out the heart of the gospel, which is about differences. The most fundamental is an awesome God, being reconciled in a way that is covered over in love, in which God’s love enacts this reconciliation that would’ve seemed to be unbridgeable, a chasm between us and God, that is the picture of the gospel, is that this love is so great, it has crossed the greatest chasm. If that is our truth, that we already have experience and we are headed towards a reality in which God’s love triumphs such that the ultimate chasm can be bridged, well then how can we not enter 2024 with all the little chasms that stand before us? How can we not enter this year with hope? Right? Because the big chasm has already been reconciled and we are told will be fully consummated in the reconciliation, in the way a wedding consummates the union of two different parties, two different individual parties. So too then our lives are meant to be pointers to that reality. And so like I said, the little chasms, the little differences, as big as they feel right now, they are shadows. They pale insignificance to the chasm that already has been bridged and has already been reconciled. So as Christians, we are called to hope. Then 2024 should be the year when Christians say, no, this is my year to stand in hope if I really believe in the gospel.

Dan: I love that the idea that, look, it was very intentional for Jesus to choose someone like Simon and Matthew to create the very tension that the gospel is not a resolve, but in some ways an even greater intensification. And so that question maybe as a simple beginning point of are you a zealot? Are you a tax gatherer? Are you a prodigal? Are you an older brother? And again, I don’t think there a pure parallel, but there is a certain level of dogmatism and indulgence and power to each and as we come into this very remarkable year and one that we will feel at times immense anxiety and we can’t erase it. But I think what you’re inviting us to, and we look forward to the reading of the work that will be coming in terms of The After Party, it’s an invitation to begin to say, and there has to be a via media, the left and the right do not for me hold the hope, but am mere middle is in some way middling. It is not sufficient.

Curtis: That’s right. It’s not the right description to say we’re trying to chart a middle way. I think we’re trying to address people who feel like they want a middle way, but I would say actually it’s actually elevating them to an entire different plane altogether. It’s actually lifting them up to a higher kingdom, a higher king, and a higher hope. So it’s like, okay, it’s not the left or the right, but I completely agree it’s not some watered down sort of middle of that still in the plane of the what In that case, it’s actually saying, no, no, no, go on a different plane altogether. And that if anybody who knows Jesus has follows, reads, Jesus knows that’s Jesus. Jesus is like, oh, you think this whenever he gets trapped and he was trapped. We have stories of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Those are two political enemies, right? Conspiring to trap him, to test him in order to say, no, no, you got to choose, choose this or that, whether it was on taxes or on him declaring like, Hey, show us a miracle. Give us a sign from heaven to show us. He always refused. He’s like, no, because you’re only giving me the two options and you’re giving me the wrong options. I’m going to actually shift this to entirely different plane. So in our sort of small humble way, The After Party is trying to mirror that in Jesus and say, I think that is the move here for us as Christians to say the options presented to us are the wrong ones, not the ones that we don’t have to deal with in some ways. But our ultimate allegiance can’t be to one or the other.

Dan: Well, I anticipate that the feast will be better at the after party than any other, and at least the hors d’oeuvres that we’re inviting people to, I suspect they can go to the lovely gift of Amazon and pre-order that lovely labor.

Curtis: It is already available on pre-order on Amazon. That is correct. And then if people are interested in checking out the course, it’s a six session course where David French, Russell Moore and I, and also Charlie Dates and African American pastor in Chicago, where the four of us try to lead people towards this after party. Think of it like if you’re looking for six sessions to fill your small group curriculum or Sunday school or men’s group, or even just a group of get together with a group of your friends or maybe with your family, something like that. It’s perfectly designed for small groups to go through together in whatever way you want. It’s available at after-party.org, that’s after-party.org, and you can learn all about how to do the course. You can also look up the after party on Amazon and pre-order the book. And we’ve got actually even more stuff, more appetizers and even main courses that we’re hoping to release in 2024 that even beyond the course and the book.

Dan: Well, thank you, thank you, thank you. And I love the invitation to the party.

Curtis: We’re all invited.