Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces

The places where Americans spend their time and treasure are where their hearts are, notes Lutheran theologian and religious historian Jon Pahl. In examining the theological significance of today’s popular places—the mall, Disney World, the suburban home—Pahl draws upon church historian Sidney Mead’s thesis that place functions for Americans as time did for older cultures. This idea fits America, with its relatively short history compared to the cultures and histories of Europe, Asia and the civilizational crossroads of the Middle East. Pahl’s fascination with how space can be sacred and his facility with popular culture also come from his days as a student of Martin E. Marty, trainer of many a cultural interpreter.


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