Seeking home in a broken world

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Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement
By Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh
Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008

Reviewed by Trixie Ling

“A home is more than bricks and mortar,” explain Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh in a new book that unravels the socioeconomic, ecological and spiritual dimensions of homelessness in a culture of displacement. At a time when homelessness is rampant in an affluent society, the search for home is seen in the longing for identity, belonging and security. Bouma-Prediger and Walsh illustrate the dynamics of homelessness while engaging us to think deeply about a future beyond homelessness.

We are told that how we understand the meaning of home shapes our worldview. An economic worldview rooted in individualism and privatization will inevitably result in homelessness, whereas a vision of life founded on public responsibility and neighborly care will seek homemaking and protect the right to adequate housing for all.

Bouma-Prediger and Walsh also show how physical degradation and destruction of our environment compounds our experience of homelessness. “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” They argue we can deepen our understanding of ecological homelessness if we truly see the world as God’s creation and “turn from earth as home to earth as holy.” By practicing “earthkeeping” through peace, justice, compassion and wisdom, we can be faithful and hopeful homemakers.

Where the book ultimately succeeds is in giving us a rich understanding of the biblical vision of home as the authors weave together themes of home, homelessness and homecoming. The dynamic account of creation, fall and redemption tells a memory of home, the experiences of homelessness and the longing for homecoming.

By the end, we are challenged by the different dimensions of homelessness in our time and are called to respond accordingly. We are offered a vision of homecoming that nourishes us for the journey and gives us hope of a place we deeply long for.

Trixie Ling is a former Policy Intern at CPJ.

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