The seminary program I’m in is one focused on urban centers, and to that end we end up reading writings by a crew of pastors and theologians and who want to give a theological emphasis to cities. I’m currently in a course in which we’re reading people like Tim Keller and Harvie Conn.
I bought in to all of this for a long time, but now I’m having some reservations (some of which I’ve mentioned before), which I want to offer up to you all and get your thoughts.
Urban “versus” Rural?
Ever since moving into cities, I’ve fallen in love with them. After hearing Tim Keller talk about them for the first time while in college, I totally bought into the centrality of cities into God’s ongoing mission.
And then….I met my girlfriend who grew up Mennonite on a 300-acre dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania. And it threw all my thoughts on this issue upside down.
I 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.
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!
Jacob Haynes wrote:
Let’s file this one under: Things I Never Thought I’d Say.
First, some realities.
America, almost since its founding, has had an Agrarian ideal spliced into its DNA that has thought more highly of the vision of the independent rural farmer–building himself up from nothing and sustaining his family by the work of his brow–over and above the idea of the dirty urban manufacturer, competing with others for the few jobs that are there.
Further, it’s pretty clear that during White Flight in the mid-1900s, whites took the association of “good, religious folk” with them to the suburbs (along with the support and attention of governments), leaving the cities to be seen as the cesspools of sin that deserved to rot away.
Along with this, the American Church (especially so, but this is definitely global) has tended to neglect cities, enjoying the safe numbers and comfort of the suburbs. In my opinion, this has helped ravage American faith, causing it to take on the aspects of the surrounding suburban culture, making it often isolating, consumerist, capitalistic, intellectual, based on convenience, behavior-driven, and not rooted to any sort of historical tradition or depth. (This does not extend to individuals per se, and it is a broad generalization, but it’s one that I think statistics would show is generally true.)
This weekend I find myself with the honor, joy, and privilege of heading to a two-day long leadership retreat for my amazing church, liberti church: center city. In honor of this, I wanted to post articles by myself and others focusing on Church philosophy, community, and such. Some of them are a bit longer than usual, so feel free to grab a cup coffee before digging in. I hope you find these helpful and encouraging no matter where you find yourself in relation to the Christian Church. Have a great weekend. And be sure to stop by next week; I’m pretty excited for the stuff I’ve got planned for the blog then.
And Thus It Begins: liberti home meetings & my heart | the long way home
liberti: center city’s home meetings start next week. I wrote this blog post last year the day before I began leading a brand new group in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s wonderful to look back over the past year with these people and see that God has answered every prayer I had in this post. I’m still serving these amazing people as their leader, and I can’t wait to see them on Tuesday.
On the State of Contemporary Theology | Fors Clavigera – James K.A. Smith
Here, the author of one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, Desiring the Kingdom, offers his thoughts on the current state of theology, denominations, and theological education. A quick must-read for all.
Just wanted to drop a quick note to let everyone about a great deal I saw at WTSBooks.com. I’ve long said that Westminster Theological Seminary’s Bookstore is the best bookstore I know of. Between classes, it where we’d go to have fun. It was like a candy store for all those theologically-inclined individuals. They’re dirt-cheap (more often than not cheaper than Amazon) and usually have some good deal going on. And this one is no exception. Two brand new books. $14.49. Here’s the link:
You Can Change/ What Is The Gospel (Two Pack)- WTSBooks.com