Susan J. DunlapFeb 28, 2022
The Religious Lives of People without Homes
Fortress Press 2021
In Shelter Theology: The Religious Lives of People without Homes (Fortress Press, 2021), Susan J. Dunlap offers the theological fruits of time spent working as a chaplain with people without homes. After depicting the local history of Durham, North Carolina, she describes the prayer service she co-leads in a homeless shelter. Clients offer words of faith and encouragement that take the form of prayer, sayings, testimony, song, and short sermons. Dunlap describes both these forms of expression and their theological content. She asserts that these forms and beliefs are a means of survival and resistance in a hostile world. The ways they serve these purposes are further demonstrated in life stories told as testimonies, incorporating scripture, sayings, oral tradition, and popular culture. Dunlap concludes that white supremacy and neoliberalism have produced the problem of homelessness in America and are forms of idolatry. The faith and practices shared at the shelter are spiritual and theological resources for people in the grip of and seeking freedom from this idolatry. Claiming that only God can free us from bondage to idolatry and that to draw close to the poor is to draw close to God, Dunlap calls for proximity to people living without homes who are practicing their faith amid poverty.
Brady McCartney is a Ph.D. student and scholar of religion, Indigenous studies, and environmental history at the University of Florida.Email: Brady.McCartney@UFL.edu