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Friday, February 13, 2009

Locatedness: A Theology for Place-ology


Where you live has a great deal to say about what you believe about God.

It is quite trendy to play the theological trump card on urban living. So trendy that I even wrote an article about it! Authors and speakers I respect a great deal say that Christians who plan on influencing (or making) culture must be prepared to move to an already influential city with world wide influence like New York, Washington, or Los Angeles. Basically, get yourself to the coasts or waste away in middle America. I am exaggerating, but at times this is how the message comes across. I cannot deny that I am allured by the idea of global power and influential communities loving their neighbor so that that love may be multiplied. I think that's great. There is no better place to broadcast the stories of God moving. BUT are we so sure of ourselves that WE must go to the coasts to broadcast God to the world? Is he not capable of this without all of us? Are there not fantastic rural communities in need of the rewriting of their stories? I am not forfeiting the importance of living in global urban centers, rather hoping to bring a little balance to the argument. The urban high horse is getting old.

Now to the suburbs. The suburban dream is the manifestation of a generational longing for a life of safety removed from others. This longing shows the immense amount of control desired by those in the post-WWII generation. By no means is this conversation an attempt to demonize suburbia, I am simply noting the cause for the flight from urban centers. In a time of chaos and war, the American community was seeking safety, security and refuge. So theologically, we see the inherent desire for safety. A desire for a God that protects. Again, not a bad thing...especially when starting a family.

There are ENDLESS theological implications for where we live. Too many to recap here in this little series. There are simply two that I find myself reflecting on. Others?

Just another thing to consider.

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mshedden said...

Is there a chance that making a theological point of where we (choose to) live makes us forget the focus of theology (the God who infinitely free)?
Also might those who are capable of endless moves be challenged to give up the endless pursuit of influence (or culture making, or power) and be called to show solidarity with those who don't have any 'choice' where they live?
The reason I ask is because this seems a very anthropocentric way of viewing mission rather than perhaps seeing our worship as that of a God who will confound both those in Urban, Suburban, rural.

mshedden said...

But then again you would expect that of me.

Jarrod said...

Matthew...Of course. Great questions.

I think that its safe to say that we are asking these questions in some form as well.

With the privilege of choice comes the responsibility to care for those without such a choice. However, I wonder where we draw the line. I think of Warren Buffet. What does it look like for him to show solidarity with those less fortunate? Should he stop using his talents to make trillions of dollars?

I don't believe that is what you are saying, but I think that to ignore the opportunities (strengths, contexts, etc) that we find ourselves in is to ignore the unique ways that we can impact the world for good. In our case, that means taking seriously our next move. For Warren it means taking advantage of Sachs and GE and giving all of that money to Bill and Melinda.

I don't think that I am making a theological statement with where we live (clearly anthropocentric), rather I am noting that where we live says something of our theology.

Would you agree with that statement?

mshedden said...

I have to say I am unsure Warren's faith so I can't really make a call on what following a triune God means for his life. But I would note that he has lived in the same house since 1958. Yet I am also not sure he has made his money in what would be considered an ethically consistent way for a Christian.
However, Buffet is some who has found a way to make money and use it for good. The problem I have is most people aren't all that talented but in our celebrity obsessed culture where our parents told us we could anything we wanted to if we apply ourselves hard enough a lot of people are moving to cities to be culture shapers for the wrong reasons. As people in the 1950s moved to suburbs for the wrong reasons. I guess sometimes where we live is where we live, other times it is a conscious expression of following God (however, this could be us baptizing our desires).
Tough call, though. It's been an interesting series of posts.

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