Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement
This book goes far beyond covering the subject of homelessness as the social problem we all recognize in our cities. Mass emigrations, displaced families, and human alienation from the earth all mark our times. In critiquing contemporary North American culture, Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh discuss various forms of homelessness -- socioeconomic, ecological, and psycho-spiritual -- and creatively show how biblical attentiveness and Christian faith can heal the profound dislocations in our society.
Ending each of their chapters with a moving biblical meditation, the authors also interact throughout with characters and themes from current literature and popular culture -- from Salman Rushdie to Barbara Kingsolver, from the Wizard of Oz to Bruce Cockburn.
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Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh’s Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement wields the compelling metaphor of “home” to understand the large arc of biblical narrative and the dis-located nature of the modern cultural malaise. The authors argue that the Bible primarily tells the story of “homemaking” and “homebreaking,” then reveal what is at stake today as we recognize the depth of our society’s socioeconomic, ecological and postmodern homelessness (15). Quite impressively, the wide-ranging scope of disciplines employed in this piece—including architecture, anthropology, urban planning, philosophy, economics, politics, and theology—finds a persuasive coherency, particularly through the insertion of biblical interludes throughout. In this way, the authors hope the book will be a “contribution to the redemption of place [and] the restoration of home in a culture of displacement" (xv).
The central thesis of Beyond Homelessness is that “human life is narratively rooted,” and thus to forget is to be displaced (13). Displacement stems from such individual, communal, and historical acts of forgetting the time-honored truth that “being-in-relation is the nature of things" (281). God calls Christians to re-member this true nature by living “emplaced” lives even as we long for our ultimate return into the divine embrace. After exploring the notion of home in chps. 1 and 2, the authors explore problems and solutions to socioeconomic homelessness in chps. 3 and 4, ecological homelessness in chps. 5 and 6, and postmodern homelessness in chps. 7 and 8. The book is written to a general Christian audience and expects its readers to be relatively familiar with the Bible.
The freshest insights of the book are found in chps. 1, 2, and 8, where the bulk of the authors’ cultural commentary takes place. “Home” as metaphor serves as an extremely useful key to understanding the low-grade, often unconscious malaise that plagues mainly the middle class and the affluent of post-industrial economies. The argument begins with an innovative (albeit broad) reading of the Bible using this central “home” metaphor: thus God is a “primordial homemaker,” “creation is home,” and the sacred text moves quickly to “disruptive homebreaking” and “family violence” with Cain and Abel (15). From this biblical starting point, the book examines the idea of homelessness, crafting a great mosaic of vignettes: from the chronic homeless on the streets of Los Angeles to the migrant worker in Michigan, Tibetan and Central American refugees to African nomads, the under-housed rural Southerner to the “well-housed homeless” in east Texas, and even the “postmodern nomad” who “wanders from no place to no place, since no particular place takes on sufficient significance to distinguish it from any other" (45). In the book’s conclusion (ch. 8), these biblical and cultural strands of analysis are intertwined surprisingly in an (unacknowledged) Anglican approach to theology and ethics; the authors celebrate creation and the incarnation, resist characterizing God as either primarily immanent or transcendent, and emphasize the need for pious practices such as hospitality, love of neighbor, and the sharing of sacred memory via scripture.
Two peer-reviewed journals published favorable reviews of the book; one reviewer even concludes that Beyond Homelessness is “well suited as a supplemental text for an ethics course”! While this is not the book for one who is serious about understanding the current crises and causes of socioeconomic homelessness and environmental degradation, it is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read for those curious about the ways in which human notions of home are profoundly powerful mediators of our relationships with God, creation, and each other.
Why Ecological Homelessness? A Sociocultural Analysis
The Earth as Oikos
Shalom and the Character of Earthkeeping
The Biblical Vision of Shalom
The Virtues of Shalom
Practices of Earthkeepers
Christians as Aching Visionaries
The Ambivalence of Home
The Streetcar Sped Away
A Socioethical Crisis
Why Socioeconomic Homelessness? A Structural Analysis
A Socioethical Crisis Revisited
Emancipate Yourselves from Mental Slavery
From Housing to Homemaking
The Shape of Worldviews
Houses and Homes
Housing for Homemaking
Economics for Homemaking
Rights Public Policy and the Church
More than Bricks and Mortar
The Plight of Planet Earth
Double Homesickness Over the Rainbow
Homeless Home Constructors
Homelessness Migrancy and the Tourist Self
On the Road to Nowhere
Postmodern Migrants or Homeless Consumers?
The Indwelling God and the Sojourning Community
The God of Love and Creation as Other
The God of Grace and Creation as Gift
The God of Goodness and Creation as Good
ChristFollowers as Sojourners
Hope Home and Imagination
The Homemaking Father