Byron Borger on Beyond Homelessness, 15th anniversary edition

[In this review, bookseller extraordinaire Byron Borger offers his evaluation of the 15th anniversary edition of Beyond Homelessness. First published in the Booknotes from his bookstore Hearts and Minds Byron reflects on the significance of this new, expanded edition, he describes the book as “the best thinking” he has seen on the vast themes addressed in the book.]


Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement – 15th Anniversary Edition Steven Bouma-Prediger & Brian J. Walsh (Eerdmans) $39.99  OUR SALE PRICE = $31.99

This is one of my all-time favorite books and I am thrilled that it has recently been reissued in a new, expanded 15th anniversary edition.

It is a fairly hefty volume but there is so much going on that it could nearly be seen as several books in one.

Yet, it holds together brilliantly, moving from studies of the poor and unhoused to the ways in which we disregard place (our individualistic, nomadic culture) and why, for some, we are less enthused about placed embodiment because we have a view of heaven that is disconnected to the real world of creation.

That one of the authors — the great Steve Bouma-Prediger at Hope College in Holland, MI — is an ecologist (his own recent book Creation Care Discipleship is one of my choices for “best books of the year”) the disregard for climate change and creation care fits into this study of why, really, we have a crisis in housing. They offer a big picture and they connect the notes with pathos and hope.

There are vivid Biblical vignettes scattered throughout showing just how very “Jesusy” (to use Anne Lamont’s famous word) their project is.

This is no simple call to care for the poor, although nothing would please the authors more if we and our churches opened our doors to those in need with a bit more conscientious energy.

More, this is a multi-dimensional study of our “culture of displacement.”

Why is it, they ask, that there are people with houses (perhaps multiple houses) but who have no sense of place, no belonging, no true home, really, and even while there are, in fact, people who are unhoused or under-housed and yet who have a network of loved ones, people they care about, a place to belong. In a way, they may not have houses, but they have homes.

What is a home? What is the task of homemaking? How does the Biblical meta-narrative shape our understanding of home, exile, and homecoming? What might be done for those on the margins of our society when we learn to counter our “culture of displacement”?

This book is more urgent now, and more relevant, than it was when it first came out.

There is, in this new anniversary edition, a new foreword by Ruth Padilla DeBorst which is excellent.

And, significantly, there is what is called a Postscript but which is really a long, new chapter.

It is amazingly good.

In this full, new chapter the authors bring their story up to date, looking at the current crisis of homelessness, they cite some more moving poetry and songs and Bible verses, interact with some good theologians (such asThe Home of God: A Brief Story of Everything by Miroslov Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz) engage some philosophers and ethicists (and of course, Wendell Berry) as they propose a “phenomenology of homefulness.”

Importantly, they spend some time in a place in Austin, Texas with a guy named Alan Graham, creator of Mobile Loaves and Fishes and author of Welcome Homeless. (You can listen to a podcast of Graham chatting with Brian about the new edition of the book and Graham’s work HERE. Check it out.)

I can’t say enough about this new edition, it’s big picture cultural criticism and it’s imaginative reforms for how we think about these matters.

It really is a graduate course in contemporary contextual theology and the best thinking I’ve seen yet on these very themes.


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