Following up on yesterday’s post about a recent publication titled “Faith in the Suburbs,”” I wanted to highlight the one text that best connects readers to scholarly discussions of and existing research on suburbs.
One of the features of the books I examined is their focus on everyday Christian/evangelical life. On the whole, these texts are part of a larger category of books where evangelicals wrestle with current social issues and consider Christian approaches. Across the books, the goal is help readers build their faith and draw on evangelical and biblical resources.
Al Hsu’s 2006 book The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty is the best on drawing on existing historical, theological, and other scholarly research on suburbs and places. There is a full chapter on suburban development that draws on a number of well-cited texts about how the American suburbs came to be. While some books I studied cited no scholarly works, Hsu cites numerous works and the discussion and footnotes could provide a good starting point for a reader who wants to engage the decades-long scholarly discussion.
The engagement with a wider academic conversation may be connected to other unique features of Hsu’s text. He considers how Christians could engage race and social class in the suburbs. In the final chapter when discussing solutions, Hsu connects religious activity and structural activity:
While we must never neglect the significant of evangelizing individuals, equally important is transforming societal, organizational and municipal structures. (188)
Hsu also helps individual Christians think about their beliefs and practices in the suburbs. For example:
Behind the readers’ comments is a tacit assumption that the Christian life simply can’t be lived in certain environments…But for Christians, nothing is beyond redemption. (13)
For individuals, church groups, and religious organizations looking for an evangelical book addressing suburban life with a more scholarly angle, this would be a good starting point.