Urban Lessons: Why cities will save our souls. [VIDEO]


Yesterday I started a brief little series going through some lessons I have learned from my first semester back in seminary. I first talked about how (at least in my mind) cities had to be taken off their pedestal. There are desires and needs of the human soul that can’t be met in cities. We need other types of livable environments as well.

And yet, through this semester I was re-grounded in my belief in the essential importance and centrality of urban settings. Above, you’ll find a video reflection I had to make in which I give my perspective on this question: Why should Christians engage in cities? In it, I speak about some of these dynamics that are in greater detail below. (Sorry for the poor video quality.)
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Urban Lessons: Why cities will kill your soul.


paul-philly-skyline-2I just completed my first trimester of seminary (round 2). I took a class class on Urban Christianity that, while it may not sound like a difficult and comprehensive graduate course, really was demanding at every level. So much so, in fact, it has really changed a lot of the ways I’ve thought about the city and how humans relate to it (especially Christians).

The class really caught me at just the right time. To a certain extent, even before coming to this class, I “got” it. I had imbibed enough Tim Keller and Church Planting material to understand the centrality of the city in the story of the Bible. Further, my church is now my fourth urban church plant, I go to church and live, literally, in “Center City” Philadelphia, and I work in the midst of the brokenness of the city, seeing the extremes of its beauty and brokenness in ways that few people do in their everyday lives.

And yet, especially due to the rural roots of “certain people” extremely close to me (haha), I felt I needed to engage in this class to develop a far more nuanced view of the city. And I think I got that. Over a few posts over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through this time. I think some of these things are lessons that all of us cool urban twentysomethings could do well to internalize.

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On a Theology of “Non-Place” & Being the Suburb of God


suburbs-flickr

Yesterday’s post on how I’m wrestling through a Theology of the City really seemed to have struck a chord. Here on the blog, there was an interesting discussion about how to theologically view the suburbs. We asked many questions, but landed at few answers. And so, I thought I’d continue the discussion by posting the essence of these conversations on the blog and seeing if we can’t keep the conversation going.

To further offer context, I’ve also added a video I had to record as an introduction to my “Urban Christian” seminary class. In it, I offer a little background on where I’m coming from in this discussion and how I came to question my own subtle sense of urban elitism. The angle also makes my hands look massive, so you can enjoy that as well. Feel free to read these exchanges, and jump in, offering your own comments to move this discussion along!

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Jacob Haynes wrote:
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a profound insight on cities & those that love them


But cities were not simply condemned because they were big or ill tuned for the industrial expansion that had seized them. What was wonderful and exciting about them–the spontaneity, the togetherness of community, the creativity that comes from getting along and not getting along, the endless characters populating the streets, the chaos–never found a natural place in the American soul. The frontier spirit that was so intrinsic to the psyche of the country, the creed of individualism and ruggedness and privacy, of staking out your own piece of land and building your own house, hardly lent itself to the culture and spirit of the city.

— Buzz Bissinger, A Prayer for the City
(see the other books I’m reading here)