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Every Somewhere Sacred

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Pilgrimage in Place: A Book about the
Heart of God for Land and Places

I am writing a book with Dr. Brian Miller, Professor of Sociology at Wheaton College, due out with InterVarsity Academic in 2025. Brian and I both wrestle a lot with how American Christians have historically related to land, adopting larger cultural assumptions and beliefs, and we are convinced that questioning these assumptions and revisiting less utilized corners of scripture, we can reform our imaginations and practices, indeed, our very relationship to land and God.

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Pilgrimage in Place is about reviving the relationship between American Christians and the physical places we inhabit. Many American Christians have uncritically accepted cultural assumptions about land, property, homeownership, and, more broadly, the “good life.” This is particularly and historically true of white American Christians, but also represents a set of values that other groups aspire to and accept to varying degrees. As a result, many Christians fall into general cultural patterns instead of building communities and practices characterized by Jesus’ teachings and the best traditions of the global and historic church.

 

For many American Christians, physical place has not been significant to our imagination for faith and practice. This lack of critical attention contributes to a range of consequences, from residential segregation and differential access to wealth-building activity, to a disregard of creation and the destruction of precious ecosystems. Sin has broken the relationship between people and the land, and land has become an arena where the fall into sin plays out in uniquely harmful ways.

 

Drawing upon our research and life experience in the American Midwest and the Middle East, we show how American Christians can develop a redemptive imagination for place. In this book, readers will learn to “read” their neighborhoods, cities, country, and other places as an initial step toward fostering healing between people and the physical world. We hope to show that by reading our physical environments more keenly, we can develop a more redemptive imagination for our relationship to place.

 

This book offers a set of individual and corporate practices—prayerful learning, scriptural analysis, clear-eyed acknowledgement, missional advocacy, and abiding in place—that energize the development of this new imagination. Drawing on the wisdom of the larger body of Christ around the world and throughout history, we will gain a greater understanding of our neighbors and our land, fostering new opportunities and imagination for this healing and reconciling work.

Contents

Part One:

Seeing Space: Understanding Place, Land, and Property and Why They Matter

Spaces are telling stories and also appear in our stories. In this section we look at this narrative aspect of place. Places tell stories that we can learn to listen to. We also tell stories about places and sometimes use the Bible to create divinely sanctioned stories. To engage with place as Christians, it is important to reflect humbly about the ways we construct and broadcast certain stories while ignoring or marginalizing others.

Chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Spatial Texts

  • Chapter 2: Stories We Tell

  • Chapter 3: Theological Plotlines

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Researching the History of Your Home

Featured Resource

Guest post on Christianity Today's A Better Samaritan blog.

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