Date of Award
Doctor of Theology (ThD)
S. Joel Garver, Ph.D., La Salle University
Reverend Francis Berna, Ph.D., La Salle University
Eric O. Jacobsen, Fuller Theological Seminary
When Christians think of “transforming the culture,” they often picture voter guides, national politicking, and bringing “Kingdom values” to Hollywood and Wall Street. Frustrated by two generations of this sort of fruitless culture warring, many have siloed and privatized their faith. This dissertation will outline a vision of cultural engagement that’s neither triumphalist nor defeatist. Cultural transformation, I will argue, is indeed laudable and accomplishable if done on a human scale, i.e., on blocks and in neighborhoods rather than at the national level. Building such “Micro-Christendoms” is not at all new to the Christian faith. Indeed, the dissertation will explore the role “place” had in Ancient Israel. God’s people have always been called to attend to the locality in which they are placed. Then, the dissertation will turn its eyes to the great tradition of Christian public engagement. Particularly, the notion of “subsidiarity” in Catholic Social Teaching and “Sphere Sovereignty” in Neo-Calvinism will be held up as helpful tools in the effort to transform local cultures. Then, the project will consider the ways in which neighborhoods actually change. While offering a critique of the so called “broken window theory,” the research will show that, in fact, the strength of local neighborhoods has an outsized influence on the mental, physical, and spiritual health of the citizens. Thinking slightly larger, the research will then consider cities, and how city planning strengthens or diminishes localities. And v i finally, the project will highlight the unique role the church has to play in the renewal of localities, with specific attention given to the catholic nature of the church. In every part of the dissertation, I have kept the end goal of La Salle’s doctoral program in mind: real life ministry. The tone of this project, then, is popular, accessible, and practical.
Messer, Dustin, "Micro-Christendoms: Cultural Renewal on a Human Scale" (2021). Th.D. Dissertations. 14.