What kind of car would Jesus drive? And he certainly would have to drive, were he to initiate a ministry in 21st century America, for it is an place impossible to navigate otherwise. The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment explores the spiritual, religious aspects of …urban planning. A book that quotes liberally from both the Judeo-Christian bible and authors like Jane Jacobs makes for a decidedly odd and manifestly intriguing combination, at least for someone like myself, for whom the built environment is a dear subject. Although authors like urbanist authors like Jim Kunstler often address the way the built environment affects the human spirit — speaking of a building as honoring and comforting people , or distressing and demeaning us — this is a distinctly religious spirituality explored here. A key concept is that of shalom: while a common meaning of it is simply ‘peace’, author Eric Jacobsen writes that it has a fuller meaning, one that refers to a state of being where all is right with the world, essentially, where relations between people and relations between people and the divine are as they should be. This idea allows him to explore ‘secular’ concepts like walkability and mixed-used environments for their religious value.
Relatedly, I just finished Kate Braestrup’s Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, a memoir about love and marriage. The love in question is agape love, and Braestrup — a Unitarian Universalist minister — muses on marriage as a spiritual experience. I read it for the author: her Here if You Need Me lives on in my memory, despite having only read it once some three years ago. She writes with such naked, intense honesty, and her reflections stir one to both bliss and sorrow. Marriage is similar in that regard, allowing her to build off her background as a widow who became a minister (and chaplain to game wardens) after her first husband died in a car accident. Throughout the book Braestrup explores the theme of agape, through relationships between lovers, families, and perfect strangers, mingling the sacred with the profane. As with Here if You Need Me, her second memoir is both profoundly moving and sometimes hilarious.
More extensive comments are pending for Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities and On Saudi Arabia: Its Past, People, Fault Lines, and Future.
Upcoming reads…oh, who knows? I recently received a book called Alabama Railroads, and have People with Dirty Hands, a tribute to gardeners, checked out as well.