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Theology of the Hammer

WOODSTOCK, GEORGIA, USA (4/28/16)-Women volunteers gathered in 10 cities across the U.S., and with the help of Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers, they framed houses as part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week. The largest partnership initiative between Habitat and Lowe’s, the event is dedicated to empowering women while helping families build or improve a place they can call home.  From April 30 to May 8, National Women Build Week brought together more than 17,000 women to build or repair homes alongside 650 families, progressing toward Lowe’s and Habitat’s goal of helping 1,000 families have safe, stable homes by the holidays.  More than 300 Habitat locations hosted National Women Build Week activities this year, including new home construction and neighborhood revitalization projects.  © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

What is the "Theology of the Hammer"?

by Summer Bessent

Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, began working on a concept known as the “theology of the hammer” in 1965. He continued to work on the concept for decades, eventually publishing his book “The Theology of the Hammer” in 1994.

In a letter written by Fuller (2008), he explained, 

Simply stated, the “theology of the hammer” is the understanding that our Christian faith mandates that we do more than just talk about faith and sing about love. We must put faith and love into action to make them real, to make them come alive for people. Faith must be incarnated; that is to say, it must become more than a verbal proclamation or an intellectual assent. True faith must be acted out.

In his book, he wrote,

Within the context of Habitat for Humanity, the “theology of the hammer” dictates that the nail be hit on the head—literally and repeatedly—until the house is built and the needy family moves in. It means, too, that continuing love and concern must be shown to the family to ensure success as a new homeowner.

This theology is one of the driving ideologies of Habitat for Humanity. It is a call to action. An idea of faith in action. It is through this organizational concept that we have adopted the way in which we work. We must work hard, alongside our neighborhoods, using the hammer as a tool to achieve our mission of eliminating substandard housing by establishing partnerships to build simple, decent affordable housing and communities together with God’s people in need.

Later in his letter, Fuller (2008) wrote,

This theology is also about bringing a wide diversity of people, churches, schools, businesses and other organizations together to build and renovate houses and establish viable, dynamic   communities. It acknowledges that our political, philosophical and theological differences exist, but we can all find common ground using the hammer as an instrument of God’s Love.

To pay tribute to Fuller and this concept that has driven our work, to keep it alive, at each home dedication Habitat for Humanity of Horry County presents the keys to the new homeowner’s home on a keychain with a hammer. The hammer is meant to act as a symbol, and a reminder, that decent homes and communities take, and should warrant, action from all.

We look forward to presenting this keychain with the keys to her family’s new home to Niasia Barner this Friday, December 16th. It is a day that HFHHC and the Barner family have been looking forward to since the day she was accepted into the Home Buyer Program.

Please join us for this special day to celebrate the hard work put forth by the Barner family, and this new journey they are embarking on.

Fuller, M. (1994). The Theology of the Hammer. Smyth and Helwys Publishing.

Fuller, M. (2008, May). The Theology of the Hammer and The Economics of Jesus. The Fuller Center for Housing. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://fullercenter.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/default/files/the-theology-of-the-hammer-and-the-economics-of-jesus.pdf

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