Monday, January 29, 2007

Prism magazine review of The Suburban Christian

Jenell Paris's blog tipped me off to the fact that the Jan/Feb 07 issue of Prism magazine (published by Evangelicals for Social Action) ran a review of The Suburban Christian, so I tracked down a copy from a colleague. The review is by Connally Gilliam, who contributes to the Common Grounds Online blog and whom I met briefly at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver last summer. She had stopped by the IVP booth for Common Grounds compatriot Kelly Monroe Kullberg's booksigning for Finding God Beyond Harvard, which I was project editor for. I later ran into a publicist I know at Tyndale who handed me a copy of Connally's excellent new book, Revelations of a Single Woman. Yes, everything is connected by just one or two degrees of separation these days. Anyway, here's Connally's review:

The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty is part apologetic on behalf of believers living in the suburbs and part prophetic call to these same suburban believers to live differently. The book defends and challenges the same set of people with informed humility. In the course of 10 chapters, author Albert Hsu communicates that the suburbs are more than the sum of their stereotypes. They are neither bastions of isolated, whirlwind, commuting consumers disconnected from God and others nor Leave It to Beaver promised lands free of relational pitfalls, hidden seductions, and spiritual dangers. Rather, the suburbs and exurbs are, first and foremost, where over half of all Americans (of many ethnic backgrounds) live. And where people are, God is in fact showing up, redeeming, and transforming.

Hsu lays out a historic overview of the suburbs--their promise and their delivery (for good and for ill). He assesses the relative merits and demerits of everything from the rise in prominence (and size) of the single-family home to the emergence of the auto-dependent community, from the effects of "branding" on the choices we make to the contextualization of the suburban church. And he offers plentiful and practical advice to individuals, groups of friends, and churches on how to navigate the suburban jungle with an eye to God's kingdom.

Hsu's navigation principles are lodged in practicing the spiritual disciplines while developing (individually and as a worshipping community) an increasingly clear sense of vocation or calling. The unbounded nature of the suburbs--lacking both geographic center and strong sense of communal identity, while emphasizing both personal autonomy and material expansion--must be countered by a mindfulness of God's presence and a clear sense of intentionality, says Hsu. Suburbanites must deliberately choose how they will live (practicing hospitality, learning interdependence, intentionally limiting consumption), because--to put it in the vernacular--the best defense is a good offense.

In short, I liked this book. I wish it addressed more fully how the suburbanite who is committed primarily to the community around her can also be meaningfully involved with the visibly absent poor (my struggle). But on the whole, the book is a well-written reminder that neither country life nor city life is necessarily nobler. Rather, the noblest thing is to seek the welfare of the neighbors, community, metropolitan region, and global church God has placed around you, even if your place is in the suburbs.

6 comments:

Charity Singleton said...

I just heard a fantastic piece this morning on the census bureau statistic that more poor people live in suburbs now than in cities. Seems to be an interesting statistic in light of the last comment of the review. Perhaps the key is "visibly absent." Would love to hear more of your thoughts, Al, on social justice issues in the suburbs. I tend to think only about social justice as a rural or urban issue. (By the way, I posted a short blog on the suburban poor issue if you'd like to check it out).

Al Hsu said...

Charity - The statistic I heard while researching the book (might be a year or two old at this point) is that 39% of people living below the poverty line live in the suburbs. Compounding the problem of poverty in the suburbs is the dynamic of the hiddenness of poverty in the suburbs - all the surrounding wealth and affluence masks the socioeconomic realities. Thanks for the tip on the NPR article. (And in a spooky moment of synchronicity, at the very moment I was reading your blog post and opening a link to the NPR piece, my colleague in the office next door was saying something to someone else about this thing he heard on the radio about the Des Moines suburbs.)

Al Hsu said...

Oops, actually, it's 46% of people living below the poverty line are in the suburbs. I was mixing up some various numbers.

Frank said...

I enjoyed reading your book very much. As a father contemplating moving to the suburbs with his family it helped put things in perspective.

Anonymous said...

DELIVER A MESSIAH: "MISTAKEN IDENTITY" BY AGRON BELICA

About the Book

Deliver A Messiah, "Mistaken Identity" by Agron Belica brings forth an elaborative examination of who was put on the cross. Many theories suggest that the son of Mary (aka Jesus Christ) was not the person placed on the cross, but someone other than Jesus Christ himself. The author takes you through an examination paving ways of new insight of who might have been put on the cross.
To contribute to the present work, the author investigated and researched to seek the truth about the assumptive facts leading up to what people of Christendom believe to be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Bible and the Koran are the main resources used as references formally presented in use of persuasive arguments and theories of why the author strongly does not believe that the son of Mary was killed nor crucified.
The author has made every effort to be as unbiased and objective in presenting the facts and interpreting the events in this present work. The author is not trying to stir up controversy, but only wishes to lead people towards what might be considered the truth about the events believed about the crucifixion. The author strongly believes that the prevailing powers during that era have camouflaged the truth. The cover-up of the crucifixion with a false pretext was to lead the masses of people in the past and at present to believe, that the son of Mary was really crucified, by the leading elite that was influenced by the Jewish religious hierarchy at that time.

Anonymous said...

Messiah Time,


Deliver A Messiah, "Mistaken Identity" by Agron Belica brings forth an elaborative examination of who was put on the cross. Many theories suggest that the son of Mary (aka Jesus Christ) was not the person placed on the cross, but someone other than Jesus Christ himself. The author takes you through an examination paving ways of new insight of who might have been put on the cross.
To contribute to the present work, the author investigated and researched to seek the truth about the assumptive facts leading up to what people of Christendom believe to be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Bible and the Koran are the main resources used as references formally presented in use of persuasive arguments and theories of why the author strongly does not believe that the son of Mary was killed nor crucified.
The author has made every effort to be as unbiased and objective in presenting the facts and interpreting the events in this present work. The author is not trying to stir up controversy, but only wishes to lead people towards what might be considered the truth about the events believed about the crucifixion. The author strongly believes that the prevailing powers during that era have camouflaged the truth. The cover-up of the crucifixion with a false pretext was to lead the masses of people in the past and at present to believe, that the son of Mary was really crucified, by the leading elite that was influenced by the Jewish religious hierarchy at that time.