posted June 24, 2008

Book Looks “Beyond Homelessness” to Faithful Homemaking

Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger of the Hope College religion faculty has co-authored a book that explores the forms and implications of dislocation in contemporary North American culture and considers Christian faith as a path toward healing.

"Beyond Homelessness:  Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement" was released earlier this month by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich./Cambridge, England.  He co-wrote the volume with Brian J. Walsh, who is a campus minister at the University of Toronto, and an adjunct professor of theology of culture at WycliffeCollege and the Toronto School of Theology.

The book not only explores the problem of homelessness as an economic and sociological condition, but also examines two other types of homelessness:  what they call ecological homelessness and postmodern homelessness.

Bouma-Prediger and Walsh decided to write the book together after hearing each other's work at professional conferences.  Bouma-Prediger was considering the implications of a feeling of disconnect from one's community and the role that such disconnects have played in fostering ecological crisis, while Walsh was thinking of homelessness in terms of those living on the street.

"For a number of years we had both been thinking about themes of home, mostly in relation to a rethinking of a Christian view of creation in the context of what has been described as postmodern homelessness," they note in their preface.  "We both knew that homelessness was a culture-wide phenomenon, that it wore many faces, and that a deeply biblical worldview had the resources to respond to this crisis with a vision of redemptive homecoming."

The two authors not only offer a diagnosis of different forms of homelessness but also show how the resources of Christian faith can healingly address these ailments of our age.  For example, they argue that social policies that do not adequately help those in need, practices that damage and destroy the environment, and an individual sense of isolation all reflect the need for a return to a biblical sense of home that emphasizes living in community with others and responsible stewardship of creation.

"A culture of disconnection to one's neighbor is a culture with a weakened sense of the common good and a diminished sense of public responsibility," they write.  "The crisis of homelessness in our time is a spiritual crisis that is rooted in the spiritual captivity of our culture to an understanding of economic life that is, at its heart, idolatrous."

Bouma-Prediger is a professor of religion and chairperson of the department of religion at Hope.  His numerous publications include four previous books concerning ecology and theology: "For the Beauty of the Earth:  A Christian Vision for Creation Care"; "Evocations of Grace: Writings of Joseph Sittler on Ecology, Theology, and Ethics," which he co-edited with Peter Bakken; "The Greening of Theology: The Ecological Models of Rosemary Radford Ruether, Joseph Sittler, and Jurgen Moltmann"; and, with Virginia Vroblesky, "Assessing the Ark: A Christian Perspective on Nonhuman Creatures and the Endangered Species Act."

He co-authored two chapters in the book "Living the Good Life on God's Good Earth."  He is also the author of numerous published scholarly articles and essays, and has presented many papers and invited addresses.

"For the Beauty of the Earth," won an "Award of Merit" from "Christianity Today" in the theology/ethics category of the magazine's "2002 Book Awards" program, and in December 2000 "Evocations of Grace" was one of only five books named "editor's picks" book of the year by "Christian Century."

Bouma-Prediger has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1994. He was invited to deliver the college's Commencement address by the graduating Class of 1998, was elected the recipient of the college's "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award by the graduating Class of 1999, and was chosen by the college's students to receive the "Favorite Faculty/Staff Member" award during Homecoming in 2001.