Monday, December 15, 2008

New Review Series: The Suburban Christian by Albert Hsu

I don’t know if people like these little book reviews or not, but it is a good way to help me think through what I’m reading and also have some kind of regular blog content. My next extended review is of Albert Hsu’s book, The Suburban Christian: Finding Spiritual Vitality in the Land of Plenty. Whether you live in the suburbs or not, most of you live in the land of plenty and this book has some helpful tips on missional living in disconnected communities.

Introduction: Suburbia – Paradise or Wasteland?
There are a variety of reasons that lead people to the suburbs. Most come in search of affordable housing, good schools or safe communities. (I will admit, we bought where we did for basically two reasons, and they are connected: good school district and a neighborhood that would be easy to sell our home if we needed to move. This is our third community since 05, so it is good to be able to get out quick if you need to). In spite of people moving to communities that are “a good place to raise kids,” suburbia is often anonymous and isolated. (I know I can go weeks without a meaningful conversation with any of my neighbors, and I am actually looking for the opportunities). Sometimes we feel spiritually impoverished in the midst of this land of plenty. Can we truly experience God in the suburbs? Is it possible to live authentic Christian lives as suburban Christians? (On the other hand, it isn’t inherently Christian to live in the “cities.” As I have noted elsewhere, I lived in both, and one can be just as isolated in an urban area).

The Legitimacy of Suburban Living
In examining all of the criticism of Christian suburban life, Albert wonders if the critics are actually critiquing a particular kind of suburban life without being open to the possibility that true Christians could live faithfully in suburbia. Some of the comments include that suburban Christians are more shallow, vapid or materialistic than other Christians. Behind these comments is a tacit assumption that the Christian life simply can’t be lived in certain environments. Instead, Hsu advocates that Christians develop a thoroughly Christian approach to living in contemporary suburbia. We should thoughtfully assess and discern how Christians ought to live in this environment, without either capitulating to the culture or abandoning it by fleeing the suburbs and relocating to the country.

Hsu is going to look beyond the stereotypes of suburbia as either shallow wasteland or utopian paradise and instead reckon with both the opportunities and challenges facing suburban Christians.

By the way, if anyone is interested, I would be glad to give you my copy of The Blue Parakeet that I just finished reviewing. Let me know if you want it and I will give it to you the next time I see you (or might even be willing to mail it to you).

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