Picturing the City

I have written and spoken a lot about my work alongside unemployed young men on the large Bromford estate in Birmingham and about the graffiti spiritualities project, ‘Bromford Dreams’ that we developed together in 2012 – Urban Theology in action…..Enough words, here is the project in pictures

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NEET ‘Believers’ & Graffiti Spiritualities

Gaza wall not freedom

Is popular culture empty ‘lift music’ or bubble gum pop intended to keep us whistling on the way to work as Theodor Adorno might have argued or might it, as Antonio Gramsci insists, be the possible site of liberative struggle against oppression?

Arising from my own research working alongside unemployed young men on a large urban housing estate this is something I have thought a lot about recently.

Have a read of the paper I gave at the University of Manchester entitled ‘Social Exclusion & Graffiti Spirituality and let me know what you think. Perhaps also have a ponder about what implications this way of thinking about theology might have for faith groups, theologians and those involved in education….

Social Exclusion and Urban Youth Spiritualities

Here is a brief interview I gave just over a year ago about my two year ethnographic project working alongside unemployed young men on a large Birmingham housing estate – graffiti arts meets and challenges social exclusion and provides a new mode of theological discourse for young men who have no time at all for organised religion.

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The Obama Doctrine and Civil Spirituality

Barak Obama Hope

During the early years of the 21st century Labour government in the UK, Alistair Campbell (the spin doctor for Prime Minister Tony Blair) famously told a journalist, ‘We don’t do God…’ (in spite of the fact that Tony Blair clearly did ‘do God). Cross the Atlantic to the USA and, in spite of the separation of church and state, no candidate has a hope of being elected to the Presidency unless she/he [usually ‘he’] publicly proclaims their religious faith (even better if they used the term ‘born again’!).

With that in mind President Barack Obama’s development of what might be termed ‘civil spirituality’ is an intriguing development. Obama is a Christian but seemingly not of the George W Bush variety and was a community organizer in the mid 1980s in the faith-based Gamaliel Faoundation. So what is ‘civil spirituality’? A post-secular religious discourse? A pragmatic community organizer’s attempt to engage with all faiths and none? Something else? Have a read of ‘The Obama Doctrine’ by Diane Butler Bass and you decide….

Urban Rituals

magnetism of city

Ritual is almost always connected automatically with religion but I wonder if, as Suzanne Moore of The Guardian newspaper in the UK is onto something when she suggests that all people need the solidity, the security and rhythm that ritual provides.

If she is then what kind of rituals characterize the life of the city? What rhythms provide structure and meaning in a fluid and ever changing city? Where do we find our fixed points?

The structured space we share in the city is the crucible within which we create meaning but where do we find the space to breathe and reflect? Where might we find the ‘city of spirit’ to which the urban theorist Leonie Sandercock refers in her 1998 book ‘Towards Cosmopolis’?

In family, in community, in politics, in work, at the football, the club, the office, the ‘Boxing Day Sales’, the neighborhood meeting?