Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book review: 'A Christian Theology of Place' by John Inge (Part 1 of 2)

I recently finished reading "A Christian Theology of Place," by John Inge, a bishop in the Church of England. This is an interesting book that demonstrates commendable scholarship and communicates important ideas without resorting to inaccessible language.

The book was published in 2003 by Ashgate Publishing, and is part of the "Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology" series. Its aim, it seems to me, is to put the so-called "theoretical" and/or "scholarly" aspects of faith to work at the parish level and for the community.

Anything that strengthens our faith communities also has the ability to strengthen the overall community. Some of our partners in the Drug Free Communities (DFC) Coalition are from the faith-based community sector, and our survey data has shown religiosity and belief in the moral order to be significant preventative factors when it comes to problem behavior among youth – alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use in particular. So, we take very seriously the need to collaborate with the faith communities in our midst. Church leaders, furthermore, share with GCASA a concern for fostering communities with positive morals and values that discourage ATOD use.

Inge’s book is relevant to the DFC’s mission on two fronts. The first relates to the faith-based sector in general, as indicated above and to which I will return shortly. First, I would like to talk about the second front, which is our concern with Community Disorganization (for clarification, see Daily News article).

What Inge does is show how the "demise of place" in Western culture has affected society as a whole, and religious communities in particular (his focus is on Christian churches, but this could probably apply to other faiths as well). The first chapter is dedicated to his exploration of the effects of modernity on our idea of "place," and on how the importance of particular, concrete, physical locations as the loci of our histories and relations has been diminished. He traces this trend through Enlightenment Rationalism, industrialization, the increasing mobility of Western society, and the pervasion of technology in our everyday lives.

For part 2, click here.

Photo from http://www.librarything.com/

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