DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Social Geographies, Space and Gender Relationships

Written by: on October 8, 2015

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The typical book on social formation generally deals with race, gender, socio-economics, health and sexuality. However, Gill Valentine, in her book, takes a unique approach. She does not look at social theory in these distinct categories, rather she focuses on how societies form within a certain space or context. She states her thesis within her introduction when she proclaims, “Space is a central organizing concept within geography (p.2).” In other words, how one lives or where one lives has a profound effect on shaping their culture. Space is critical in the development of a person’s life.

 

SUMMARY

 

Given the fact that the author focuses on space as a central theme, she breaks down and analyzes various aspects of society and living. While there are concepts that are certainly intriguing, Valentine’s main argument is synthesized into one simple idea. Valentine believes that space and geography is the primary developer of personhood. Gender roles are neutral, sexuality is neutral, and economics and race are neutral. She sees that all of these concepts are shaped by where a person lives and how they are reared within their given context. In commenting on research, she states, “In other word, gender is an effect of dominant discourses and matrices of power (p.22).” Valentine continues to support this theory throughout the text. The underlying assumption to her thesis seems to point out that man, space, and culture create the man and not that a Creator is consistently present.

 

ANALYSIS

 

Valentine’s book is intriguing, but it seems fundamentally flawed from a Christian perspective. While space, whether it is rural or city or how a home is structured is vital to the shaping of an individual, she leaves no room for God within the development of a person. As a Christian, God and his word shape my view of personhood. Scriptures such as being “fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139.14)” by God and being known by God before we were “formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5)” seem to fly in the face of Valentine’s thesis.

Gender or sexuality is not neutral. While our sinful culture can negatively shape the concepts, our sinfulness has distorted these images of gender, sexuality, and even race. However, Valentine ignores the God equation, which is not surprising because it reflects our current American culture.

Even within the southern American culture, the worship of God is being replaced with the worship of self, family and the culture. Mindsets of such topics like abortion and homosexuality have shifted radically even amongst conservative evangelicals. It is not due to the lack of preaching and teaching about subjects, although there may be a lack of those things, but it seems that our culture worships self and personhood more and more. The Apostle Paul points to this idea in Romans 1. In verse 23, Paul mentions that people have traded worship of God with the worship of created things. This led to corruption, wickedness and depravity. As Valentine would believe, the highest human achievement is the focus on personhood. Therefore, neutral gender and sexuality is common when all cultural spaces and influences are removed, but for the Christian, when sin and all cultural influences are removed, the Bible indicates that gender is specific and not neutral and all sexuality is rooted in male/female relationships.

Again, it is true that culture shapes and influences behaviors. However, sinful behavior and the lack of acknowledging God lead to these neutral positions. In order to engage and oppose this mindset, the church cannot be afraid to address issues of sin, creation, and personhood in light of these issues.

 

Conclusion

Valentine’s text is intriguing in which it focuses on how space influence personhood and society. It is true that a person in a rural context may have different concepts on family, race and gender than a person in a city may have. She also points that culture is influenced by the home. She is absolutely on point with her thoughts.

She does however miss the fundamental concept of God, the concepts of absolute truths, sin, and transformation through the power of God. Given the fact this is a non-Christian textbook, this is not surprising. However for the church, we must be aware that this is the philosophical shift within the culture, and we must be aware in order to defend the or faith.

 

About the Author

mm

Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

12 responses to “Social Geographies, Space and Gender Relationships”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason for great blog, your first sentence caught my eye about “Valentine’s book is intriguing, but it seems fundamentally flawed from a Christian perspective” I wondering if it should be christians perspective or maybe biblical perspective, to reveal the light of Christ. Please allow me to share my thought on the matter. You gave us some food for thought; but let us review what Apostle Paul told Christian to do, “And be not conformed to this world: but are ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) KJV. Paul says that you should be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Just from the language, you can see that Paul is talking about a process. Adopting and accepting a Christian worldview doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It is a process of evaluating how and why we see the world the way we do. It is a process of weighing our thinking against the teachings of the Bible. In fact, the English word “renewing” in this passage translates a Greek word that gives us the English word “renovate.” The process of refining our worldview is a renovation process. Have you ever watched one of those TV shows where they are renovating a house? It takes a long time, and it can be messy. The same is true with the process of renovating our worldview. It takes constant effort and it can get messy. But we can’t give up. The way you think determines how you live. Renovating your worldview is a big step towards becoming a living sacrifice, which is something every Christian should be concerned about.
    Do you know or have friends who have accepted Christ Genuinely as their savior, but have never renewed their minds since they got born again? If your answer is ‘yes’, then we need to define the word christian. Maybe it flawed according to the biblical perspective . I like to know your thoughts on it? Thanks for allowing me to share. Rose Maria

    • Rose,
      I agree with you regarding renovation. There are really two issues in my mind. First, the church must preach and teach the Biblical worldview. All the while, individual needs to be discipled and renovated to have the mind of Christ. Romans is really divided into 2 sections. The first 11 chapters is brutal. Paul discusses sin and justification over and over again. In 12, he shifts to show what sanctification looks like. The word transformed (renovate) is in the present tense. So, the idea is to transform and continue to be transformed. This means that the renovation is never completed until we die or Christ returns. In other words, we want progress and not perfection. It is this progressive work that makes discipleship messy, and why many churches do not have a strong discipleship method because every person comes Christ from different circumstances, learn differently, grow at varied speeds….etc. So of course, it is a process and sometimes a long process. Regardless of the long process, the church must hold to biblical standards of gender, marriage, etc and not be conformed to the pattern of this world. In my view, Valentine’s book analyzes social structures from a poor starting place, so the Christian leader needs to be aware of the issues that they face in the modern era. Thanks Rose….you are awesome.

  2. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason for an excellent rational, I agree that the first eleven chapters were brutal in nature; but in verses 30-32, the word “mercy” is used four times. And the final section of chapter 11 is a doxology of theology. The word “doxology” comes from two Greek words, doxa, which means: “glory or praise” and legein, which means: “to speak.” It means: “to speak of His glory.” These verses are a hymn of praise to Yahweh. The truth of 11:32 compels Paul to burst forth in adoring wonder at the marvel of Yahweh’s mercy: “For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.” Romans 11:32 NASB. The doxology in the final four verses gives us a beautiful glimpse of Theology proper…Doxology of Theology proper is the study of Yahweh. So to receive mercy from God is to live from another. We have been given mercy that contains within it the payment for our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ, which is life. He took our death and gave us His life. Salvation is an act of mercy. Our salvation is not by merit; it is by mercy. Paul tells us here that God’s mercy extends to “all,” to Gentile as well as Jew. Paul first word in chapter 12 was “Therefore” which was based on the fact of what was spoken in the latter part of chapter 11, because of God’s mercy. Paul is saying this is something that the newborn Christian must do. This is not an assignment that Christians pray or fast for God to do, it is something that the newborn christians learn and are taught how to daily change their thought process.
    Oh thanks Jason, for walking down the aisles of the church with me on this little trip; opportunity to move away from academic for a moment and write about our savior. (lol) This blog opposes a question for church leaders, teachings concerning renewing your mindset and practicing Godly Principles. What can Christian leaders take away from Valentine book about, “Social Geographies”. And what are the leaders of God’s house saying about the Biblical world view? May be this book was for us to draw out what is the missing link in our leadership approach in serving others. Jason, it has been fun blogging with you! You are one of the best. Thanks Rose

    • Thank you Rose. I agree with you on Romans 11…it is Paul’s transition into sanctification in Romans 12. His “therefore” does relate to mercy, but also the entire first 10 chapters. Paul presents a sustained argument for 11 chapters, and then he says therefore…absolutely a beautiful passage. He was saying “therefore, in view of God’s mercy to justifying you through Christ who took all your sin even though you who were dead in your sins and could not do anything to pull you out of your condition and were not worthy of such grace….live a life of worship unto God. Absolutely stunning. I appreciate the dialog Rose. You are the best and the best dresser of the whole group. 😉

  3. Jason,

    I came away from the book with the same feelings that you have expressed. I wish I had captured the quote that you used on culture. I think if I am tracking with you correctly that we have the opportunity to shape our culture because of our beliefs not just because of geography, space and society. The missing component I see within the reading was that we are locked into those things instead of being able to move. Or to bring change.

    Can you tell me what more you took away on the cultural aspects? Can you change your culture? Does a Biblical worldview change completely what has been discussed or does it simply express the magnitude of what we face as representatives of Christ to spread it’s message?

    Again I thought you expressed a lot of the feelings I had as I was reading through the book. Are we assigned to being neutral to be accepted?

    Kevin

    • mm Rose Anding says:

      Thanks Kevin, those were two great questions;because cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms.But when we speak of culture, it is a full range of human behavior patterns, with levels of culture which are part of your learned behavior patterns and perceptions. When people speak of Italian, Samoan, or Japanese culture, they are referring to the shared language, traditions, and beliefs that set each of these peoples apart from others. In most cases, those who share your culture do so because they acquired it as they were raised by parents and other family members who have it. The second layer of culture that may be part of your identity, which is a subculture. In complex, diverse societies, people have come from many different parts of the world, they often retain much of their original cultural traditions. Yes, i think we can change the culture of the business or the church; but it best to focus on changing some of the factors and conditions that affect culture, rather than directly on culture itself
      On the other hand, I have been taught that a biblical worldview is viewing the world, the beginning of the world, people in the world, the problems in the world, governments in the world, issues in the world, solutions for the problems in the world, and the future of the world — through God’s Word. But I would like to hears others views on this question. Thanks Rose Maria

    • Kevin, I do believe God saves us out of our culture, and then we go to be light in a dark world. We get an opportunity to make our world a little brighter. However, I am not a dominionist, so I do not think culture will get better and better this side of eternity. The world is sick with sin and was fractured since Genesis 3. Therefore, it does not get restored until the New Earth.

      So, yes….people can be transformed. They can transform some of their community. Her book was not entirely bad. There were some interesting things to think about when it comes to church planting etc. The other thing I think she misses is the fact that some people choose certain spaces because they enjoy those spaces. Maybe they enjoy the pace, nature, people, or they are called to those areas. I think she had great points at time, but feel she was making sweeping generalizations.

      As far as neutral, I think the culture does require us to move to be more neutral to be accepted. You have seen this in your context as a youth pastor. Kid’s greatest threats are not “sex, drugs or rock and roll,” but it is pressure by their peers to accept these various taboos. The pressure is for them to be like everyone else. A person’s with conviction is seen as a threat.

      On a personal note, my 9 year old is awesome. I got home from China last week and heard there was a conflict with a friend. One of her friends was trying to fit in with the “cool crowd.” So, she lied. My 9 year old talked to her about that lie and said, “You do not have to lie to fit in. I am different and not always cool, but I do not care what people think. I have friends, I have fun, and God loves me, so that is all I need. Don’t be different then who God made you to be to fit in.” How awesome is that? I mention that story as an obvious brag of course, but I think the pressure to neutral or be like everyone else is huge.
      Thanks Kev.

  4. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason thank you for raising the “God question.” This is a huge hole in Valentine’s presentation. I’ve read ahead a little in “Who Needs Theology,” and clearly Valentine would have given us a more balanced sociology were she to offer more theological reflection.

    • No problem Marc. I believe it was missing from her text. As believers, we must pay attention to our worldview when assessing other people’s work. While I appreciate her thoughts, as a Christian, I could not buy it totally. God changes and transforms. By the way, I high fived my 9 year old for you.

  5. Claire Appiah says:

    Jason,
    Great post with keen observations regarding Gill Valentine’s thesis! Christians sometimes forget that most disciplines outside of theology or religion do not concern themselves with God unless the study is focused on how concepts and beliefs about God or gods have a profound impact on cultural/societal norms and worldviews. In your assessment of the book, you arrived at the right conclusion in your statement, “However for the church, we must be aware that this is the philosophical shift within the culture, and we must be aware in order to defend the faith.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *