Neophilia [3] | Christian Fantasy Cycles and Stages of Faith

In the last post I tried to argue, using Booker’s excellent book ‘The Neophiliacs – Revolution in English Life in the Fifties and Sixties‘ that we must avoid sensationalism. That we must avoid the projected image, the sensational, which in the age of screens and billboards is a difficult thing to do.

Booker warns that this cult of sensation in the late fifties led Britain, and other parts of the West, into a corporate ‘fantasy cycle.’ I think this is a very powerful concept that is highly pertinent for our situation. He identifies five stages:

Stage 1: The Anticipation Stage

This is when a group are experiencing some kind of constraint. However, it is a constraint, or boundary, that is actually energising them, firing their dreams of newness, even though this dream lacks a focus or outlet. At the anticipation stage people are flying around looking for the thing to grab on to, for the project to fire their energies into. It is frustrating, but exciting.

Stage 2: The Dream Stage

“A period of rising excitement… when everything seems to be going right” as Booker puts it. The focus has been found, and everything just seems fantastic, running on its own energy. It seems nothing could ever go wrong, and finally IT has been found, the perfect, the great thing we’ve been waiting for.

Stage 3: The Frustration Stage

Here the first tinges of difficult are spotted. Relationships fray a little, and while things on the surface are still going really well, the energy required to make it happen is more than used to be in the Dream Stage. Meeting up becomes a little tiresome. Egos begin to surface. The ‘no worries’ attitude gives way to agendae and slightly different vision.

Stage 4: The Nightmare Stage

This is the exact opposite of the Dream Stage. The project seems to have become an energy black hole, with no amount of time invested seemingly able to raise the same excitement levels that once seemed so easy. Relationships are strained, and people are seeing clearly that the perfect IT that they had fantasised about is actually flawed, more difficult, more time consuming, full of awkward people that we thought we’d got away from, backward, too traditional, not radical enough… OLD.

Stage 5: The Death Wish Stage

This is the explosion into reality. The project, the vision, the great new thing collapses. People fall out, run away, move on. The dream is over. We swear we won’t be fooled again… Until we get that feeling that THAT is it! Some new thing, some new fantasy to get excited about… And so it rolls on.

Having read this analysis I was immediately struck by how this is paralleled in so many Christian stories. What worried me in particular was that we might well, in certain arms of the Church, be selling people a fantasy cycle. Inviting them on this great ride – it’s fantastic, it’s new, it’s perfect! And they are just ripe for it, and its starts like a dream and they are up and clapping, on fire… And then gradually get frustrated.

They have to sing harder, or be in bigger groups to get the same worship hit. Things don’t make quite as much sense. The people are awkward buggers. And the illness has come back… And the real worry, as Alan has brilliantly written in his book A Churchless Faith, is that once the Death Wish phase is entered, people simply leave.

A couple of questions to leave you with:

// Have you been through this cycle before? I know I have.

// Is the Emerging Church movement somewhere on this fantasy cycle?

// If so, where?

// And should we be trying to stop the fantasy cycles, and get real?

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them.”

Should we be trying to do something more solid, rather than run after everyone who points to the latest fad, the latest gimmick, saying ‘the kingdom of heaven is over here’!

Booker, and Christ, would say yes, and it’s to how that might happen that I’ll try to post on next.



4 responses to “Neophilia [3] | Christian Fantasy Cycles and Stages of Faith”

  1. I think this cycle describes the path of so much of emerging church. Does booker, or you have an alternative, what stops this relentless and mostly inevitable progression? Thanks for all your hard work posting.

  2. I agree…. and describes so much of life too. It links well with much of the ‘Sine’ work we did at Vaux: repeating, oscillating cycles of positive through negative.
    I’ll hopefully be posting on how Booker sees a way out, and what that might tell us for our situations.s Will try to do something later today.
    Hope you’re well,


    Ah but without fantasy it is difficult to realise what our most basic desires are.
    Fantasy and desire are only negative if they replace reality; but reality can be so boring, tiring and finite!
    Fantasy should inspire reality, I suppose. Can we have both? A Fantasy-cycle and a Reality-honda-civic?

  4. remarkably similar to ‘addiction’ and ‘alcoholism’cycles –
    religious, worship or God addiction is possibly the most serious because it is as yet unrecognised among most church practitioners and because it is so deeply attached to the core of ones identity – it can cause great pain to detox.
    how to tell the difference between addiction TO God and real relationship WITH God – or an addiction to an ideal of x than a relationship WITH x is not exactly part of the curriculum.. (x can = God, ideas, cosmic security, worship, church, projects, love, leadership roles, community, new waves of christianity..turning them into ‘objects’ ie idols)
    although x as aspects of creation are more popularly focused on.. food, chemical effects, shopping, sex..
    those ideals above are far more difficult to detox from.. because 1. they are seen as ‘good’ and therefore addiction to them is not possible, forgetting that ‘we’ are the ones who are the addicters… something inside us
    makes us want to ‘objectify/idealise’ stuff- rather than the challenge of relating with stuff – long after we have outgrown childhood
    linking this with stages of faith theory- what would the Father prefer from his children who are growing up .. worship or friendship ? links with paul’s ‘love chapter’ also – moving from fantasy/ideal of this Jesus stuff – to the real