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.
… the number of trick-or-treaters.
I just frustrated a few middle schoolers (way too old to go trick-or-treating) who knocked on our door and were miffed that we had no candy to give. They were probably also confused by the fact that both my roommate and I had yelled “come in!” in reply to the door-knocks.
We had done this because last year my roommates and I bought a big thing of candy in anticipation of the trick-or-treaters and none showed up. And so we expected this year to be the same. We didn’t even think about the chance of any trick-or-treaters coming. But, alas, they won’t stop knocking on our door tonight; the street is teeming with them. At this point, we’re just ignoring the knocks, not wanting to incur the wrath of any more children.
So much must have happened in the past year in our particular neighborhood of Graduate Hospital in Southwest Center City Philadelphia. It’s exciting to watch all that is happening in this amazing city we call home.
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)