6 verk 310 medlemmar 3 recensioner

Verk av Stephen T. Um


Allmänna fakta

Land (för karta)
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
University of St. Andrews (PhD)



This book reinforces our understanding of the strong influence of cities the world over. Not only do the authors explain the importance of cities along with their characteristics, but give valuable information on its “story line” and then conclude the book with ministry applications for today.
phoovermt | 2 andra recensioner | May 8, 2023 |
Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard, in Why Cities Matter, help those with faith or fledgling churches to leverage an understanding of urban environments into a flourishing of religiosity, where the faithful listen actively to both their city’s and their neighbor’s narrative in order to find a common connection from which to spread the message of Christianity.

Um and Buzzard start with an analysis of how cities represent the future of humanity. Their argument is that the combination of a density of peoples and a diversity of interests are the driving forces behind the growth of cities. Without either one, you either have a low population village or a monolithic mass of citizens. Both are necessary. When a city is indeed propelled into fruition, the next step that Um and Buzzard deem necessary is the mass-multiplication of Christian faith in order to encourage the city to attain its full potential. While a decade ago I would have been visibly angry at such a text, now I’m rather Zen about the whole thing. Those who seek to convert will hardly be talked out of it and those that convert need to do so, so who am I to argue with the arrangement?

There’s a great deal of sociological references in the book, and those may be fodder for future reading. They balance this with a deep reading of the Bible, showing how the figures of Jesus and God both understand that people are at their most prolific when in an urban environment. Truthfully, I hadn’t really paid that much attention, but the Bible does have quite a few passage about cities and how population centers figure in the growth of the Christian church. Granted, this book will absolutely not be for everybody, but it was an interesting convergence of social science and religion.
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1 rösta
NielsenGW | 2 andra recensioner | Mar 3, 2013 |
Review in B&C 1-2/14 (along with A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook, Norton, 2013) by Noah J. Toly (Wheaton) in article entitled "In the City We Trust"

Now that the majority of the world's population lives in urban areas—and given the increasing prominence of those regions in global affairs—it seems that every day I receive notice of a new book on the significance of the city.

St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—three of the East's greatest cities—were founded in order to achieve the wealth and splendor of modern Western cities without the egalitarian impulses and other social trappings of the West. Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg to achieve the wealth of Amsterdam without the rule of law or the republican traditions of the Dutch. Foreign traders built Shanghai, one of the world's most libertarian communities, around a Chinese ghetto and with no regard for the welfare of its original residents. Sir Bartle Frere founded some of Mumbai's greatest institutions with the intention of simultaneously Anglicizing the Indian population and avoiding Indian home-rule.

In each of these cases, Brook suggests, the city proved to be inherently dynamic and socially unstable. Though each was established in order to reinforce the status quo distribution of power and wealth, all three proved too unruly and dynamic for the élites that planned them. The czars, the foreign traders of Shanghai, and the English colonizers were naïve to think that they could use the city to produce the wealth of the West without producing democratic expectations, social instability, and revolutionary sentiments.

At his best moments, Brook channels two of the greatest urbanists of the 20th century: Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford both emphasized the diversity and dynamism of the city as a key to human flourishing. But Mumford is Brook's real muse. In his magisterial book The City in History, Mumford writes that the city, which owes its existence to "concentrated attempts at mastering other men," finally justifies itself by bringing "all the tribes and nations of mankind into a common sphere of co-operation and interplay." While the city has a totalitarian bent that threatens the annihilation of humanity, its concentration of diverse peoples is our hope for an egalitarian future. Together, through "an intensification of collective self-knowledge," people can make the most of "deeper historic sources and ever widening contacts" that mark our modern world and its largest cities.

"When cities were first founded," Mumford wrote, "the mission of the founder was to 'put the gods in their shrines.' " Unlike Mumford, who argues that we should replace our worship of the machine with our worship of humankind, Um and Buzzard suggest that each city's idol should be replaced with the worship of the one true God.

If the flood of books about the city tells us anything, it is that cities don't just have stories that draw us into idolatry, but are becoming the story that draws us into idolatry. Cities themselves are becoming the things in which we trust for deliverance. Brook falls into this trap, making the dynamism and diversity of the city our great hope for deliverance from oppression. By not identifying the city as a potential idol, Um and Buzzard stumble into the same mistake, at points seeming to trust our idols to deliver us from our idolatry.

Ironically, this idolatry will take any true dynamism right out of our urbanism. When we idolize something, we don't try to change it. Instead, we absolutize it. We don't critique our idols.

While there is indeed more to the city than brokenness, idolizing urban dynamism will only blind us to the oppression and subjugation that persist within our urban communities and rob us of possibilities for transformation, however incomplete and fragile it may be. None of the recent books on urban dynamism make this point. Maybe there's something left to be written after all.

Noah Toly is director of Urban Studies and associate professor of politics & international relations at Wheaton College.
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keithhamblen | 2 andra recensioner | Feb 21, 2014 |

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