What might Jesus say to suburbia today?
Introducing Jake Belder, a fellow Canadian living in Florida right now.
I feel that in many ways suburbia is like the antithesis of how God intended us to live. Where we were meant to live in community, we find rampant individualism. Where we were meant to give of ourselves and our resources, we find greed and consumerism. Where we were meant to serve, we find self-service and pride.
That’s just a couple of examples, but it just seems to be so polar opposite. And I think what troubles me the most about it is how much Christians have accommodated that ideology. I realize there are a lot of factors that drove people out to the suburbs (specifically economic and social issues like crime), and to some extent I suppose it is warranted, but there are also a lot of reasons people came here that are wrong (the mentality of the “other,” the We vs. Them). And Christians followed suit. Enter the whole mega-church nonsense and prosperity gospel junk.
This makes me think about how we have ‘rampant individualism’ because we can. We’re surrounded by such affluence that we don’t really need one another.
I’m critical of it, even though I sometimes take part in it. The church I attend here is lodged in the suburbs, the seminary is in the ‘burbs, and I live in them too. I can’t avoid it because I can’t afford to live down in the city and commute to school. It’s just too far. So I struggle with it a lot.
Many of my young adult friends, myself included, struggle with this. We’re aware of the trade-offs. We want the larger home but we don’t like the commute. We want to be part of this or that church, school, or group, but it’s way over there. I wonder if there are more fundamental questions we need to be asking ourselves before we even consider those options, ie. Where is Jesus in all of this?
It’s just so simple. You just don’t get involved in the messy lives of the poor and the oppressed in you’re locked up in your McMansion and your big SUV. You don’t think about it. Maybe you see the World Vision commercials to sponsor a child and send a few bucks a month to help out, but all that does is satisfy your pride. What about getting your hands dirty? Did Jesus just send money to those who needed help?
The problem of suburbia is so far-reaching that it’s going to be really hard to fix. I’ve found it really helpful to listen to the critiques of non-Christians as well because they realize too that suburbia is a serious threat to culture and community. I certainly don’t have the answers. Where do you even begin? I remember driving through Mississauga frequently when I still lived up there. How do you fix that? Just driving through it made it so obvious to me that it was wrong. But what exactly is it that’s wrong, what do we do to build and create community in a vast spread of urban landscape that was designed to avoid community?
I think this is the heart of the issue. A lot of suburbanites do care about having greater connectivity to their neighbors and to the world, but it seems like the physical and social structures surrounding them makes it so much more difficult. Where do you start?
Jake’s also got a great post on the local church and community here.
* Contact me if you’d like to write any guest blogs on Solar Crash