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Theology of Place: Minnesota

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WWFD: What Would Fred Do?

Ever since I read of Fred Sanders’ work developing a theology of place in California, I cannot stop thinking what such a set of thoughts and conversations would look like for Minnesota. Mr. Sanders developed the notion after teaching a summer undergraduate class at Biola University focused on California authors and essayists.


Here’s Sanders describing his project from the EPS blog:

I wanted to apply that great books approach to California literature, about which I knew very little. I just had an instinct that the perennialist approach, in which we read the proven classics, “the best which has been thought or said” in the history of the western world, would benefit from a little dose of localism, where we investigate a regional heritage and get to know our own surroundings.

A Minnesota-based project would have a lot of moving parts.

There are the obvious Lutheran influences, of course. From Germany and Sweden. Catholic influences are also strong and vocal and from everywhere. The two cities where the majority of Minnesota’s population lives, Minneapolis and St. Paul (plus surrounding suburbs), are themselves launching grounds for waves of immigrant communities. Irish folks, Northern Europeans of every stripe. More lately Hmong and Somali folks have entered the area. There are communities of people from India and Ghana and Thailand. The Native American community should be an anchoring presence. Just walking the neighborhoods reveals much about what is important to the different groups.

Then there are the literature pieces: from F. Scott’s newly rejuvenated Great Gatsby to the benign(ish) Lake Wobegon characterization of Minnesota to Augsburg Fortress publishing insightful theological tomes to the nationally recognized Milkweed Editions. I’m missing lots and this is just for starters.

There’s all the science and medicine and vast amounts of research taking place at various colleges and universities. Medical devices and industry headquarters. The advertising and design and communication communities are clever and vocal. How would one start to get a handle on a theology of place: what are the priorities of the people of these communities? How does faith mix into the public and private lives of the people who live here? And what have the results been and what can we say about what is likely to develop in this vast mix?

Maybe the beginning point is to follow the lead of Minnesotan Andy Sturdevant who’s MinnPost column The Stroll is a weekly chronicle of pedestrian interestingness in the Twin Cities. Stuff we typically we don’t see because we rarely leave our cars.

Maybe we need our theologians and philosophers and artists to take group hikes through the cities, followed by a beverage and a discussion about what they saw and understood and what it all meant.

I’d sign up for that walk.


Image credit: Alli Livingston

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  1. […] few days back I wondered aloud what a theology of place might look like for Minnesota. I cited all sorts of influences that would […]

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