Habits of whiteness in the neighborhood: a critical race analysis of urban ministry paradigms
Hauge, Daniel James
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Recent decades have seen an increased interest among predominantly white, middle-class evangelicals in church planting and organizing ministries in urban centers, often in racially diverse neighborhoods undergoing the process of gentrification. This thesis will analyze the phenomenon of white urban ministry through the lens of critical whiteness studies and psychoanalytic theory, drawing on Shannon Sullivan's notion of whiteness as unconscious habit characterized by ontological expansiveness. I propose that sincere efforts on the part of white urban ministry practitioners to form and nurture diverse communities rooted in place are impeded by habitual modes of relationship to place formed in predominantly white contexts, which reproduce, however unintentionally, patterns of white supremacy and displacement of people of color. The thesis begins with a survey of print and online sources including accounts by white urban ministry practitioners and critiques of their models. I then address the theological and affective motives and rationales for these models, and examine their relationship to wider social patterns of gentrification. Next I will analyze these patterns in light of the work of critical theorists on whiteness, focusing on the nature of white relationship to place shaped by centuries of colonialism. Developmental psychology will then be employed to account for white habit formation, drawing upon Kohut's account of the development of grandiosity. I conclude by calling for a paradigmatic shift toward de-centering whiteness, drawing upon theological and psychological resources to transform white relationship to place into one of respect and deference to diverse ways of being.