From Displacement to Domicide: A Lenten Theme?

This Lent I am leading a Bible Remixed course called
Inhabiting the Scriptures:
Finding Home in a World of Displacement.

I return to the biblical themes
found in my co-authored book
with Steven Bouma-Prediger,
Beyond Homelessness.

I want to revisit,
deepen and expand
the way in which the Scriptures tell a story
of home, home-breaking, and homecoming.

In 2008 Steve Bouma-Prediger and I subtitled our book
Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement.

A sense of being out of place.
Having no place.

Displacement was a word
to get at the
broader sense of homelessness
that we were aiming at.

We wanted to reflect on the displacement of whole populations
whether the marginalized poor within the industrialized West
or refugees displaced from their homes
by war, environmental despoliation or genocide.

But displacement also gets at that sense of placelessness
that so many of us experience in a highly mobile society
in which all places are dispensable, reduced to commodities.
Well-housed, economically secure folks can also be placeless.

And, of course, there is ecological displacement.
Not knowing our place.
Not having an intimacy,
a sense of place in our immediate ecological context.

All of these are ways we live in an age of displacement.

But we also employed another word to describe our condition.
A more shocking word.
A word that suggests that our displacement
is no accident.
A word that names our displacement
as a result of criminal intent.


The word was first coined by J. Doublas Porteous and Sandra E. Smith
in their 2001 book,
Domicide: The Global Destruction of Home.

Domicide, they wrote is
“the planned, deliberate destruction of home
causing suffering to the dweller.”

The murder of home.

Tragically, the idea of domicide
is gaining currency in our time.

The December 7, 2023 issue of the The Guardian contains this headline:
“Widespread destruction in Gaza puts concept of ‘domicide’ in focus.”

“The destruction of more than a third of Gaza’s homes as Israel bombards the territory in pursuit of Hamas is leading international legal experts to raise the concept of ‘domicide’ – the mass destruction of dwellings to make the territory uninhabitable.”

By January 31, the BBC reported that,

“About 1.7 million people – more than 80% of Gaza’s population – are displaced, with nearly half crammed in the far southern end of the strip, according to the United Nations.

Now, satellite data analysis obtained by the BBC shows the true extent of the destruction. The analysis suggests between 144,000 and 175,000 buildings across the whole Gaza Strip have been damaged or destroyed. That’s between 50% and 61% of Gaza’s buildings.”

Unless anyone dismisses this as a sad consequence of war,
listen to the words of Giora Eiland,
a former head of the Israeli national security council:

“The state of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in. Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal … Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.

An intentional policy.

The murder of home.

But it isn’t just in Gaza.

The forced migration of Rohingya from Myanmar.

Forced separation of children from their parents
at the US southern border.

Climate emergency and the planetary house on fire.

Homelessness and suicide rates
in the LGBTQ+ community,
in the Indigenous communities,
in the overdose drug crisis.

A “housing crisis” that ignores 1 in 10 Canadians
in “core housing need.”

The rise of white Christian nationalism.

I wonder whether “displacement” is too tame.
I wonder whether we should have changed the subtitle
for the 15th anniversary edition of our book to,
Christian Faith in a Culture of Domicide.

In his powerful poem, “Amazingly Alive,”
the late street poet,
Bud Osborn, invited us to,

shout for life
shout with our last breath
shout fuck this north american culture of death

What does it mean to seek a path “beyond homelessness”
in a culture of death?
What does it mean to seek a “Christian faith”
in a culture of domicide?

Osborn goes on,
shout here we are
amazingly alive
against long odds
left for dead
houtin this death culture
dancin this death culture
out of our heads

Amazingly alive,
against the odds,
in a culture of death.

against the odds,
in a culture of domicide.

Can we imagine such a thing?

Can we somehow get this culture of death
out of our heads?

Can we be spiritually liberated
from an imagination captivated by domicide?

Can we replace domicide
with radical homecoming?

What does Christian faith look like
in a culture of domicide?

Well, there is no home without memory,
without story.

Domicide tells a story of hatred,
of displacement,
of death.

What if the Scriptures are read as a story of love,
of incarnation,
of resurrection?

In a culture of domicide,
what happens if we inhabit the Scriptures,
finding a path home in the story they tell,
that moves from homemaking to domicide to homecoming?

Might such a reading,
might such an inhabiting of Scripture
help us get this culture of death out of our heads
and animate an imagination,
a spirituality,
a way of life,
that will lead us home
in a world of displacement,
a culture of domicide?

Come and join me for a six week Bible Remixed course for Lent:

Inhabiting Scripture:
Finding Home in a World of Displacement

Find out how to register through Bible Remixed here.


Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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