Eric Jacobsen – Three Glass Items – Bible Type

Eric Jacobsen – Three Glass Items

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A sign, an instrument and
A taste of belonging

A functional check by

Three pieces of glass: why we feel lonely in a screen-mediated world
Eric Jacobsen

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2020
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Reviewed by Nathan Geeting

In the past two decades, theological discussions about the body have shifted. What was once condemned as a sinful burden was freed, so to speak, from the dualistic tendencies that prevailed in Christian communities. Now the body is beautiful and worthy, even good. Christians are not afraid of being embodied beings. While this shift may appear insignificant in the context of modern theology, it has caused a ripple effect on the mental life of modern believers. The Church is now having significant discussions about what it means to be an embodied soul in terms of sexuality, health, ecology, and more.

Eric O. Jacobsen's three pieces of glass: Why we feel lonely in a screen-mediated world is another important wave in the theology of the body. In many ways, the book looks at what it means to live as a personified person in a physical place. Jacobsen repeatedly suggests that Christians can address the crisis of belonging to American culture by involving the communities (or the spaces) in which they live. For Jacobsen, this means learning how people shape and are shaped by the built environment, institutions and community practices of their community.

Before discussing these issues, Jacobsen discusses the idea of ​​belonging and equates it to the biblical idea of ​​the Shalom. He further defines the concept of belonging as “organized complexity”. The Jacobsen affiliation is shaped by relationships, places and stories and is divided into four levels: intimate, personal, social and public. These distinctions become very important in the course of the book, also because Jacobsen focuses on what he describes as "civil" affiliation or affiliation on a social and public level. According to Jacobsen, the civil sector in particular is most affected by cars, television and mobile phones – the three screens that are highlighted in both the title and the cover picture.

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The main argument of the book is that Christians can achieve citizenship by deliberately participating in and investing in their local community. This in turn will help them tackle the crisis of belonging to culture as a whole. This idea intentionally reflects the instructions given to the people of Israel in exile: "Seek the welfare (shalom) of the city in which I called you" (Jeremiah 29: 7, ESV). In this way, Christians can serve as signs, instruments, and a foretaste of the full belonging that God offers in His kingdom. In light of this mission, Jacobsen suggests that Christians should deliberately choose where to live and how to actively participate in the culture of these spaces. They should also intentionally use television and cell phones, tools that can inadvertently keep them away from where they live and shape their cultural narratives. In short, Christians need to be present and create narratives for the places where they live.

Jacobsen describes his thoughts in six parts with different meanings and merits. After defining the affiliation, he compares the image of belonging to the kingdom with the image of secular affiliation. He also argues that the gospel is a story of belonging that is told when a relationship is restored, exile ended, and the king returned. Later in the book, Jacobsen explains what he calls the membership crisis and how it occurs in relationships, places, and stories. The last section – by far the strongest part of the book – describes practical ways that Christians can embrace their local community. In it, Jacobsen offers specific design solutions that people can implement to promote a deeper sense of belonging in their city. B. Accessibility, thresholds and hospitable spaces. He also talks about the need to establish new habits, routines, practices, and perspectives that promote belonging. He also discusses how people can create common places and stories to develop a strong local culture. In short, in this section Jacobsen goes from a relatively uncontroversial claim that America has developed a physical and social culture of loneliness through the widespread use of cars, telephones, and televisions to the question that raises the claim: what can be done? ?

One annoying mistake of the book is the lack of diversity in what Jacobsen's audience apparently intended: middle-class white Christians. Although he never directly claims that this is his audience, most of the spaces he speaks about are single-family homes, suburbs, or middle-class neighborhoods. When it refers to diversity, it is usually economic diversity. Jacobsen appears to almost completely avoid racial diversity, including segregation and the other laws that have drastically affected American spaces. Indeed, in a book full of discussions about how local laws, regulations, and infrastructure shaped American thinking, Jacobsen devotes a single paragraph to redlining practice. He then closes the paragraph with the words: "We are rightly proud that it is no longer legal to exclude someone from buying a home in a particular district based on their ethnic or cultural background" (184). This statement comes directly after a section on the Supreme Court case, Village of Euclid v Ambler Realty Co., dealing with "economic" zoning guidelines that disproportionately affected color families, which Jacobsen does not mention. By neglecting Jacobsen's assessment of the different realities of class and race in the American Church, let alone the nation, he is not addressing a number of related problems and perspectives that would certainly affect his message. For a book about belonging, it seems at best to be a dangerous oversight.

Despite this disappointing omission, Jacobsen's book is still an important read for those who want to understand the growing theology of the place. While not taking into account the required amount of conversation, several issues are effectively framed, while providing a helpful, positive language for the upcoming conversations. It also offers some concrete practices that Christians can use to address the growing crisis of loneliness and belonging. It also gives the reader an important conceptual framework to understand how they can serve as a sign, instrument, and foretaste of belonging – something that this broken, lonely culture desperately needs.

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Nathan Geeting

Nathan Geeting has a B.A. in secondary education and a B.S. in biblical studies. He currently lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches English to a lively class of sixth graders. Before that, he lived and taught in his hometown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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