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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Are you cool enough to raise kids in the city?


Halloween-RittenhouseFor my “Urban Christian” class, we’ve been looking into family life in urban areas. I was asked to comment on the challenges and benefits to raising kids in the city. Because it’s almost Halloween, I decided to use this incredibly cute picture as well.

Let’s face it, if you’re not already raising kids in the city (and probably even if you are), the idea of doing so can be terrifying. But, thinking about it, I wonder if this has less to do with the nature of cities themselves, and more to do with the lack of precedent many of us have when thinking through raising kids in the city.

This leads to two dynamics: fear of the unknown, and so concerns about safety, money, education, and child “corruption” by the wider culture arise because of the limited exposure most of us have to anyone that has done this before and come out the other side. This leads us to have to rely on stereotypes and caricatures of the city to inform our fears and concerns.
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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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I’m starting to wonder about this whole Urban Christianity thing…


rooftop-philly-2

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.)

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