Session 4: The City as Text: Towards an urban practical theology

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Transcript Session 4: The City as Text: Towards an urban practical theology

Spiritual Capital – the role of
church in a postsecular city.
Dr Chris Baker – William Temple
Foundation/University of Chester
Church of England Faith in Research Conference
June 4th 2014
Aims of the Session
• Tell the story of my research AND
through that story, comment on
the current state of play between
religion, politics and public life in
the UK and elsewhere
• David Tracy: three theological publics/audiences
for research: the church, academy, wider
society/public sphere
In the beginning was Milton Keynes…..
• From Milton Keynes (Critical incident – personal sense of
alienation from both Urban environment and the church)
• The power of the built environment and its impact on the shape
of the church
• Towards a Theology of New Towns: the implications of the New
Town Experience for Urban Theology Ph.d 2002 (Manchester)
• To Manchester and its transition from Cottonopolis to Ideopolis
(I.e. an Industrial to a post-industrial city) – Regeneration or
Regenerating Communities – A Theological and
Strategic Critique (2002-5) – CUF £25K
• Three reports
• Mapping the Boundaries 2003(25 participants – 3 areas of
East/South Manchester - faith/secular – how is regeneration
• Telling the Stories; How Churches are contributing to Social
Capital. 2005 (40 participants, 9 panels – Churches’ views of
• Faith in Action: The dynamic connection between religious and
spiritual capital 2006 (Theoretical and strategic review)
Methodology - 4 paradigms
• Primarily Qualitative (but did use Deprivation Indices and SOA data)
• Inductive – hearing stories and letting themes and patterns
accumulate – open question technologies
• Interpretive (social reality is socially constructed - interested in
understanding the meanings people give to reality) vs.
Functionalist (repeating patterns in order to predict and control)
(Gioia and Pitre, 1990)
• Constructivist – exploring how different stakeholders in a social
setting construct their beliefs – helps arrive at a consensus
around a social programme or political issue (Guba and Lincoln,
• Action-Research - Not only understanding practice, but
transforming it (Swinton and Mowat, 2006)
Telling the Stories - How churches are contributing
to Social Capital (Year 2)
Following the mapping of deprivation and regeneration in
Year 1 to understand ‘in greater depth the role and
contribution of churches and church-based projects in
post-modern, post-industrialised communities to
emerging understandings of regeneration, civil society and
the creation of ‘sustainable’ communities.’ (p.5)
Telling the Stories – ctd
• 4 Questions
• 1: What are the forces that are changing your area most?
(over the past five years)
• 2 : The government talks a lot about ‘civil society’ and ‘social
capital’. What do these terms mean to you? Are these terms
helpful or empowering?
• 3 : The government talks about the need to engage faith
communities in regeneration. Is there a faith-based language
for talking about these processes?
• 4 : Does a faith-based language add or detract from the
possibility of change?
What does regeneration really mean?
• 1. Focuses on transforming people personally and spiritually, as well as
improving their area physically - has an over-arching hope that this
transformation will occur.
• 2. Values personal stories, especially about how individual ‘regeneration’
• 3. Believes implicitly or explicitly that God is at work within regeneration
and civil society.
• 4. Accepts that there’s a lot of strong emotion felt and expressed when
working for healthy communities – for example, anger, frustration,
cynicism, weariness, fragility – and acknowledges the importance and
significance of ‘feelings’.
• 5. Introduces the values of self-emptying, forgiveness, transformation, risktaking and openness to learning.
• 6. Begins with the intention of accepting those who have been rejected
• 7. Values people’s inner resources - seeing people as capable of creating
their own solutions to their problems
Attention to process and abstract concepts as
well as services on the ground
• This church and faith-based interest in values and processes
can be called ‘added-value’ because these are the more
‘intangible’ processes of regeneration and civil society that
cannot so easily be measured or ‘tick boxed’. If some of the
above elements could be brought into the formation of policy
documents, consultation processes and monitoring and
evaluating procedures, they would definitely ‘thicken’ the
whole way in which governance, civil society and regeneration
works, especially at the local level. (p.28)
Yes to the ‘what’, no to the ‘why’
• Feeling of being ignored or exploited by secular agencies
• • Their contributions to civil society and regeneration are
not valued in their own right
• • Their language and values have been ‘hijacked’ by
other partners because for the sake of ‘tick-box’
• • Government rhetoric on engaging faith communities
and local government implementation of this rhetoric is
largely tokenistic in the sense that faith communities are
often absent from the ‘tables of power’
The importance of spiritual capital to social capital –
the ‘why that drives the ‘what’
• Social Capital – the importance of relationships,
networks and norms that can be used to enrich
individuals and communities (Putnam, 2000)
• Religious Capital: ‘… is the practical contribution to local
and national life made by faith groups’ (Baker and
Skinner, 2006)
• Spiritual Capital: ‘ energises religious capital by providing
a theological identity and worshipping tradition, but also
a value system, moral vision and a basis for faith… is
often embedded locally within faith groups, but also
expressed in the lives of individuals’ (as above)
Spiritual capital and civic participation/political
• To get the best value from working with faith groups we
proposed, you need to work with not only the religious
capital, but the spiritual capital as well: not just the ‘what’ but
the why.
Faith in Action – The Dynamic Connection between religious
and spiritual capital 2006…the story continues
• 43 Google citations: Business studies, human geography,
sociology of religion
• Influential on the idea of ‘faithful capital’ in the Faithful Cities
– A call for Celebration, Vision and Justice (2006)
• Leverhulme Grant (£145 K) – Faith and Traditional Capitals –
defining the cope of religious capital
• Aimed to unpack further the relationship between belief and
action and its contribution to social capital
• Across faith and spiritual groups – 24 focus groups and
participant observation
Leverhulme research – 4 questions
• ‘What benefits do you derive from being a member of this
religious/spiritual group?’
• ‘Are these benefits shared within the wider community, and if
so, how?
• ‘How well do the ideas of religious and spiritual capital express
the way faith groups contribute and engage in civil society?’
• ‘Are there any words, images or phrases other than ‘capital’
that better express what your faith/spiritual group offers to
wider society, and why?
Spaces of Belonging, Becoming and
• Religious and Spiritual capital emerges from a dialectic interaction between three spaces
associated with religious identity.
• Spaces of ‘belonging’ equals those emotionally supportive and
nurturing benefits derived from being a member of religious or spiritual
• These help provide a safe and supportive space by which different
identities can be translated and negotiated into a functioning whole.
• Religious participants move from spaces of ‘belonging’ to spaces of
‘becoming’, in ways that allow them to nurture and develop either a
new or existing identity forged out of different and sometimes
competing identities.
• Spaces of belonging and becoming generally provide the confidence
and peer endorsement that encourages the outward engagement
towards practices of civic participation in an extending radius of trust
and confidence (SoR, 2013)
BBP Grid
I found a home in this church
I feel refreshed and elevated
Help with the daily routines of life
Come to hear the Word of God/come close to God
Church is a family- a place to share life issues and ideas
Learn to exercise forgiveness and the principles of giving
Practice what we preach and leadership by example
Bible as guide/Creates a positive way of thinking
Gaining confidence
Sense of self-awareness – knowing who I truly am
Taking on a new nature
Gives you a sense of priorities
*Responses derived from the question: ‘What benefits do you derive from being
a member of this religious/spiritual group?
It is more blessed to give than to receive
If God uses you to make someone feel better, then your
sadness is turned to joy
God will use you to change people’s lives
Resource Centre – 10 projects e.g., anti-social
behaviour/single parents/obesity/asylum seekers – a hub
for speaking between religion and the local community
Whether we like it or not, we have something to do with
government and local government – we see if we can
deliver in conformity with government agenda
Because we know what we stand for, we do intersect
with all sorts of people – they become friends
As well as opening up and taking risks we persistently
emphasise the Christian values and virtues
Education empowerment, community and development
for those from Africa trying to adjust to life in the UK –
many are not Christians, but come for advice
*Responses derived from the question: Are these benefits shared within the
wider community, and if so, how?’
The postsecular public sphere
• It is not about reversing the processes of secularisation, nor is
secularism as an ideology disappearing from the scene.
• But it is about the re-emergence (or new visibility ) of religion.
• Jurgen Habermas: We need to see adopt ‘a postsecular selfunderstanding of society as whole in which the vigorous
continuation of religion in a continually secularizing
environment must be reckoned with’. (Habermas, J. (2006),
‘Religion in the public sphere’, European Journal of Philosophy
14(1), 1–25.
More Habermas
• 1) Important Enlightenment virtues of autonomy, individuality and
property rights have unleashed a monster that threatens to carry all
before it (namely neo-liberal capitalism) – sweeping away not only
democracy but also our values (An Awareness of what is Missing
• The modern liberal democratic state no longer has the capacity to
motivate its citizens to form resistances and collectivities against this
tidal wave of capitalism from within its own truth claims.
• It needs to rediscover the wisdom, discernment and discipline that
are linked with religious sources because they are ‘pre-political’;
they are independent and self-generating, outside the power of the
newly diminished state and the ever voracious market. Jürgen
Habermas, ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’ in European Journal of
Philosophy (2006) 14 (1) : 1-25
Differentiation imposed on religious citizens
is unfair
• 2) The pressure for religious citizens to mask their identity or
disguise their discourse is unfair under the terms of equality
and democracy founded on modern, liberal principles because
secular citizens are not required to modify their discourse or
identity when they participate in the public square (so-called
‘differentiation’ argument)
• ‘A devout person pursues her daily rounds drawing on her
belief. Put differently , true belief is not a doctrine but a
source of energy that the person who has faith taps
performatively and thus nurtures his or her entire life.’
Spiritual capital – not just for people affiliated
to religious groups
• Spiritual capital is not the sole preserve of citizens attending
religious institutions, but was also, in terms of its properties as a
value system and moral vision, a motivating force for those outside
formal religious affiliation. In other words, there is such a thing as
secular spiritual capital.
Chris Baker and Jonathan Miles-Watson, ‘Exploring Secular Spiritual Capital; An Engagement in
Religious and Secular Dialogue for a Common Future’ in International Journal of Public Theology 2 (4),
• See Silver’s work on 6 types of No Religion (NONES) – the majority
of people in this category are not hostile to religion and see it as an
important cultural or intellectual stimulus/backdrop to their own
• The tradition of humanist commitment to equality issues
Spiritual capital in the context of austerity welfare
and a culture of political disengagement
• ‘Particularly in times of austerity we need to encourage
people to express their spiritual capital – which like a gear
shaft – engages their visions for change and thus embodies
their ethical values in the public sphere. It is free, but if it can
be harnessed it is incredibly resilient and cost effective (98
million volunteering hours from church goers alone according
to the Church Social Action Survey 2012)’ (Baker 2013 The
postsecular public square, spiritual capital and a progressive
politics of hope p.1)
• In a postsecular space we must allow ourselves the freedom
to experiment with multiple discourses, multiple visions of the
truth and multiple expressions of identity (Baker, 2013: 6)
Progressive Localism
• Progressive Localism equals: ‘community strategies that are
outward-looking and that create positive affinities between
places and social groups negotiating global processes. We use
the term progressive to emphasise that these struggles are
not merely defensive. Rather, they are expansive in their
geographical reach and productive of new relations between
places and social groups. Such struggles can, moreover,
reconfigure existing communities around emergent agendas
for social justice, participation and tolerance’
• Featherstone D, 2012, “Progressive localism and the construction of political
alternatives” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37: 177-182
Emerging Empirical Data
Spaces of postsecular rapprochement (PSR)
• Concept emerging from Human Geography: Cloke, P. & Beaumont,
J. (2012) Geographies of postsecular rapprochement in the city, Progress in
Human Geography, 37(1) 27–51
• Cloke and Beaumont define postsecular rapprochement as ‘a coming
together of citizens who might previously have been divided by
differences in theological, political or moral principles – a willingness
to work together to address crucial social issues in the city, and in
doing so put aside other frameworks of difference involving faith
and secularism’ (2012: 28).
• PSR represents perhaps ‘…new spaces of hope and new lines of flight that
can be released into the politics and poetics of postsecular resistance in the
contemporary city’ (2012: 44).
Why Progressive?
• ‘…. the implementation of the Big Society agenda might
represent an opportunity for the construction of political
alternatives, and whether local government and local
communities can carve out political openings within an
increasingly austere governance landscape to develop
progressive collective approaches to community solidarity,
direct democracy and translocal struggle? (Andrew Williams,
Neo-Liberalism, Big Society and Progressive Localism
forthcoming, 2013))
• .
Key questions
• Are we living in a postsecular space – does it feel there are
more opportunities for civic and public engagement or less
than 10 years ago (despite some secularist rhetoric)?
• What is the role of faith groups in civil society – simply
providers of welfare services (the functionalist view) in an
increasingly divided society AND/OR active agents of
progressive localism who provide local political leadership
through their faith-based engagement?
• Churches as ‘hubs’ of postsecular rapprochement – attract
others to their ‘spaces of engagement’ to deploy their spiritual
• What new models of political/civic leadership are emerging –
what new training is required?
Still an ongoing and evolving
(interdisciplinary) agenda ……
• Re-imagining Religion and Belief for Public Policy & Practice AHRC
(Sept 2014 – 16)
• ‘… to critically map a wide range of contemporary conceptions of
religion and belief and to translate and disseminate this mapping for
policy audiences.
• ….Calibrate cutting edge evidence and theory about the
contemporary religious landscape with policy-makers' ideas of it in
prominent policy fields, especially: security and cohesion;
community and neighbourhood; education; welfare and the Third
Sector; international development; and health and social care.
• The network will put into dialogue different approaches to religion
and belief from participating disciplines, namely Religious Studies,
Political Philosophy, Public, Practical and Political Theology, Cultural
Studies, Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, Social and Public
Policy, and Critical Urban Geography.