(Image from an actual suburb of Toronto)
One of the primary attributes of the suburbs that comes to my mind, (besides cookie-cutter houses, family idols, commuting, and affluence), is isolation.
It could be densely disconnected like in the image above or even in a tightly secure urban condominium, but isolation is still at the heart of suburbia.
In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a parable of a rich man and Lazarus. Some interesting things that I think might have some implications for suburban living
Unlike Lazarus the rich man was nameless throughout the story – maybe because he blended in so well?
No one is in hell here due to doctrine or a disagreement regarding belief statements
We spend more on garbage bags than half of the world does on all goods. Lazarus longed for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Could garbage bags be the modern day crumbs?
The rich man built a ‘gate’ to keep people like Lazarus out. We build fences and zoning laws to distance ourselves from people and problems, and people with problems.
A ‘great chasm’ developed where even those who wanted to cross over to the rich man, could not. Maybe the danger of the suburbs is that as we avoid interruptions of those unlike ourselves more, we become increasingly unable to allow anyone in.
To quote Gladiator, “What we do in this life, echoes into eternity”
Could the gates we build not only lock others out, but also lock us in?
In a great role reversal, the rich man finds himself desperately needing Lazarus in the next life. What would it look like for us to come to terms with actually needing those we try to avoid in this life?
Could it be that we can become so isolated in the suburbs, that we no longer see people, as people? The rich man in the parable repeatedly argues with Lazarus in the third person, telling him what to do, as if he was his slave.
You would think someone tormented in the flames of hell wouldn’t be so verbose.
I wonder if suburbia dehumanizes us? We’re known as one person at work over here, and at school over there, and at the club or the church over there, and we become fragmented. No one fully knows who we are.
Maybe that’s why we in turn treat people as work units, assets, or distractions to avoid?
Isolation and building gates isn’t so hard when you’re not quite as important as I am.