For about 10 years now my wife and I are students of the Do It Yourself aesthetic. I ran across this first through the art of Sufjan Stevens. Somewhere he was described as a member of the D.I.Y. revolution. I searched and searched until I found the hidden masses of crafting-writing underground world of post-punk critics of capitalism. As manager at my local Coffee Shop in 2007 I was befriended and included by many of these normal people who had become suspicious of the abnormal distance between our labor and our consumption. We use things that someone else designed and someone else packaged and someone else sold to us while we rarely use all that we make or produce.
In late capitalism and the rise of global economics we now use things without any hope of connecting to its origins and our ethical responsibility is lost in the maze. We buy something without thinking of who or what or how it was produced. John Locke who developed the labor theory of property said that mixing the natural world with our labor creates a new thing, "property." In a sense then every good capitalists believes that she/he remakes things in order to have things... at my coffee shop I would make milk, roasted coffee beans, and steam into a latte- a marketable product. At my home i make red peppers, onions, habenero peppers, limes, and cilantro into salsa- a product that we eat for "free" (except for the cost of goods and my time) which defers what we would pay to purchase "prepared food." And when I or my wife stay home with my daughter Eve or son Wake, we produce a child, a mature living person, that we would otherwise pay a child-care-provider to produce for us (and we've done that too over the years). So what about the kingdom of God? Well, one day I picked up a D.I.Y. book called, Design it Yourself by Ellen Lupton. And she blends simple explanations of the need for a Do It Yourself aesthetic. Through the use of Locke, Antonio Gramsci's introduction of "organic intellectuals," Jergen Habermas' social theory and a quote from the book Bowling Alone, she makes the following proposal (if you want to read the whole thing in detail go to on her site):
The D.I.Y. revolution is a return to being organic individuals committed to common goodnesses through bridging production and consumption. Here are some exagerated ways of illustrating the principle. If you are closer to how something is produced new questions of ethics rise to the surface. Imagine if your garbage were pilled up in "your" backyard and if your child were to "sweat" to make your t-shirt. Suddenly lowering financial expenses comes at a higher life expense.
Do It Yourself aesthetics brings up the ethics of what our choices "cost."
And so I got to wondering, what if we are to seek the kingdom of God by producing God's dreams? I mean, we really do work, and good work makes God happy, naturally. Just as any inventor would take pleasure in the functionality of her invention.
Why does it make God happy? What makes it so good? Because it is fruit or harvest or profitable in terms of God's dreams, I think. And so while "every good and perfect gift comes from the Father" .... we are still 'part of making it." And what the church makes or wastes is often nothing close to the good and perfect gifts of God. Our energy waste, our space waste, but also our people waste. Unfortunately when we pull folks out of circulation making their everyday things–the things we are supposed to make together into God's kingdom–so when you miss PTA or a Neighborhood Association or when you vote for your paycheck, because we want the church to distribute our money we are also fighting against the good and perfect gifts God could be equipping us to make...
DYI church puts the re-creation of our lives back in the hands of God's commissioned artists—everyday people. And in Gromski's words, DIY church will "raise new questions of ethics". Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is simultaneously something within you and without you. Once you see we see our part in it all, we have to share responsibility for how it is playing out. Hmm.