Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh: A Secular Theology for the Global City

Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh: A Secular Theology for the Global City

Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh: A Secular Theology for the Global City

Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh: A Secular Theology for the Global City

Synopsis

Drawing on philosophical reflection, spiritual and religious values, and somatic practice, Spirit and the Obligation of Social Flesh offers guidance for moving amidst the affective dynamics that animate the streets of the global cities now amassing around our planet. Here theology turns decidedly secular. In urban medieval Europe, seculars were uncloistered persons who carried their spiritual passion and sense of an obligated life into daily circumambulations of the city. Seculars livedin the city, on behalf of the city, but contrary to the new profit economy of the time with a different locus of value: spirit. Betcher argues that for seculars today the possibility of a devoted life, the practice of felicity in history, still remains. Spirit now names a necessary "prosthesis," a locus for regenerating the elemental commons of our interdependent flesh and thus for cultivating spacious and fearless empathy, forbearance, and generosity. Her theological poetics, though based in Christianity, are frequently in conversation with other religions resident in our postcolonial cities.

Excerpt

That is God…. a shout in the street.

—JAMES joyce, Ulysses

Within the next decade or two, two-thirds of humanity’s seven billion persons (and counting) will be urbanized—often housed in megacities of millions of human inhabitants. Every day on the Asian continent, 137,000 persons migrate from the countryside to cities, and every year, the country of India “needs to build the equivalent of a city of Chicago … to provide enough commercial and residential space for its migrants.” Already, 76 percent of the North American populace is urban—80 percent of Canada, when it is factored outside U.S. statistics; fewer than 2 percent of the population of North Americans in this postindustrial society remain engaged in agricultural production.

In 1950, only New York City and Tokyo had populations of more than ten million people. By 2010, there were already twenty such megacities— cities such as Lagos, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai, Jakarta, Los Angeles, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Cairo. Demographers expect that by 2015, there will be 59 cities with populations between one million and five . . .

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