Agape Cafes

 

Alain de Botton does not believe in God but thinks benefits would flow if everyone did. For example, we could have restaurants which radiate ‘agape love’. Agape is a splendid Greek word used in the New Testament. Agape offers compassion and goodwill to a person regardless of whether we find them nice. So agape restaurants provide food cooked with love, waiters who serve our needs from the heart, and an ambience of aesthetic and homely excellence rather than the usual fast buck cubicles.
Can’t society get to where de Botton wants it to go without plundering religion? cynics might ask. He argues not in his new book Religion for Atheists. ‘Politicians want people to be nice to neighbours but the tools at their disposal are just the tools of modern liberal society, which are nothing’ he writes. 'The Tories have the notion of a big society and are in the cockpit, but they haven’t got the buttons. Religion has the buttons and knows how to use them. They have rituals which encourage us to overcome fear of strangers and create communities.'
Then Alain re-imagines a future with religion and in come the agape restaurants. Instead of dining only with like-minded friends, we are invited to eat with strangers. It would be the antithesis to Face-book, which groups people by interests. Religion puts you in touch with people you have nothing in common with on the surface, because deep down you know all are made in God’s image.
Cheer up all you fresh expressions of church that have cafés or are cafes. Stick at it. Agape is our future.
 
Posted at 07:04am on 30th January 2012
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