Faith and Scholarship Integration Essays
Anne Hendershott, Professor of Urban Studies
Faith and the City at The King’s College
Introduction to the City at The King’s College integrates a social science approach with a biblical worldview to try and understand how societies maintain stability in the face of dramatic social change. We look closely at the ways in which those living in cities like New York City find meaning in what can be an alienating environment.
Drawing from the discipline of sociology which was founded in the nineteenth century in the midst of major social, economic and political transformation sweeping across Europe as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the course looks to early social theorists like Max Weber and Emile Durkheim to understand how social stability is possible. In the early days, sociologists maintained that social order was founded on a moral order—a common worldview that binds people to their families, to their communities, and to the larger economic and political institutions. Integral to this moral order is a shared concept of right and wrong and a willingness to identify the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
Biblically based teachings helped to identify these boundaries. Yet, most sociologists claimed that religion would lose its position of authority as the development of society progressed toward modernization—and secularization. They were wrong. This modernization theory of secularization has not occurred in the way these sociologists predicted. While some religions have witnessed a diminishing of the authority of clerics as the custodians of revealed knowledge, religion itself has become more a matter of individual choice rather than an observed social obligation.
At The King’s College we look closely at the special role a renewed personal relationship to God plays for those living in the city. While most secular urbanists have embraced social policy solutions that fail to address the moral causes of poverty, drug abuse, homelessness, crime and violence, we acknowledge the role that fatherlessness plays in contributing to the intractable childhood poverty of the inner city. Rather than looking at capitalism as the cause, we focus on the importance of a shared culture of meaning and a commitment to a common moral order. While there is a relationship between poverty and homelessness, substance abuse and crime, and it cannot be denied that economic instability contributes to those urban social problems, students at the King’s College will avoid a reductionist perspective of understanding urban social problems by expanding their discussions to biblical teachings on the origins of these kinds of social problems.