Good Places for All
- Published: January 31, 2020
- Publisher: The Calvin Press
- Page count: 128
- ISBN: 978-1-937555-41-2
- eBook ISBN: 978-1-937555-42-9
Good Places combines a biblical framework with an exploration of how cities, neighborhoods, housing markets, and transportation systems work.
This short book invites readers into a deeper understanding of cities and suburbs and the challenges they face. Because places play such an important role in human well-being, loving our neighbors includes caring for and cultivating good places for all. Despite their great prosperity, North American communities are beset with challenges: fiscal crises, concentrated poverty, fragmentation and division, failing schools, unaffordable housing, and lack of community feeling. Good Places combines a biblical framework with an exploration of how cities, neighborhoods, housing markets, and transportation systems work. Readers will find themselves challenged to extend Christian hospitality beyond the walls of their private homes into zoning codes, local politics, neighborhood associations, faith-based housing providers, and real estate development.
Mark D. Bjelland is Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His research and teaching draw upon academic training and real-world experience in civil engineering, urban planning, and urban geography. He has received Fulbright awards to study urban planning in Germany and the United Kingdom and has studied theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of Human Geography: Landscapes of Human Activities and research articles in The Geographical Review, The Professional Geographer, Urban Geography, and other journals.
"Mark Bjelland explores the painful truth that in modern times we have largely failed to make our communities good places in which to dwell. He vividly details ways in which such things as zoning, tax structures and our preference for cars over people have made cities into deserts, and raised barriers between people. But he is equally eloquent in showing ways in which we can build our towns and cities into good places. For arching over this splendid, wide-ranging and highly-readable book is the great rainbow of the Biblical story, which invites us into the movement from Garden to Garden-city." --Loren Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Interdisciplinary Studies and Philosophy at Regent College
“In a time of disconnection and division, Mark Bjelland's Good Places for All thoughtfully examines the importance of understanding the patterns of geography that shape our neighborhoods, schools, and churches. With a compelling invitation to place-making for the common good, Bjelland reminds us that Christian love of neighbor requires paying closer attention to our cities and crossing boundaries that have long divided us.” --David Leong, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Missiology at Seattle Pacific University and Seminary
"Spaces and places in the city are not neutral containers which hold the life and culture of cities. They were fashioned for specific reasons and communicate a value system; who’s welcomed and who’s not. In Good Places for All, Mark Bjelland does a masterful job of tying together the history and development of these spaces and places within cities to show us how we got to where we are today. More than that, those of us who identify with Christ are to live intentionally in the city stewarding our biblical mandate of hospitality to make our cities healthy and welcoming to all." --Dr. Sean Benesh, author of Blueprints for a Just City, Senior Editor of the International Journal of Urban Transformation, adjunct professor at Warner Pacific University
"Place is vitally important to our identity, human flourishing, and to justice. God created us good and with a purpose (Gen 1:26), but he also placed us in order to fulfil that purpose (Gen 2:15). And yet, a persistent error of our time is that place is insignificant. The world may long for a virtual existence where humans can be anywhere and nowhere at the same time, but Biblical Christians should know better. That is why it is so important to have such an insightful and accessible Christian reflection on place like this one. In Good Places for All, Bjelland does a fantastic job helping his readers understand what place is and why it is so important. I recommend it highly to students or to anyone who wants to better understand their place in the world." --Eric O. Jacobsen, Senior Pastor First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, WA and author of The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment and co-host of The Embedded Church Podcast.
"Where we live influences everything from our identities and desires to our educational outcomes and health. Indeed, few variables can match the effects of place on us and our relationships with neighbors. Unfortunately, place is an oft-overlooked dimension of our lives together and few texts have brought the insights of the Christian tradition to bear upon our obligation to promote flourishing places. Enter Mark Bjelland. In Good Places for All, Bjelland makes a case – a Biblical, theological, and practical case – for the Christian responsibility to cultivate places in which communities can thrive. I recommend Good Places for All to anyone considering their next steps toward a thriving community." -- Noah Toly, Professor of Urban Studies and Politics & International Relations and Director of the Center for Urban Engagement at Wheaton College; author of seven books including Cities of Tomorrow and the City to Come: A Theology of Urban Life and Cities and Global Governance: New Sites for International Relations