Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wrestling With the 'Burbs

Great discussion surrounding the previous post by Jake! For many of us involved (seeing that we predominately live in, or come from, the wealthy suburbs) I think grappling with the American suburban lifestyle is one of the more critical tasks that Shane’s book compels us to do.

To build on everybody's thoughts from the previous post... Jake, I completely resonate with the rub that you feel about the suburbs after digging into Shane’s thoughts. Jamie & Justin, your points about being individually purposeful, no matter our environment, are very well taken. I’d like to try to flesh-out some of this conflict created by the suburban culture with some quotes from the book:

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." And perhaps for the first time, those were no longer empty words that I hoped would come true someday. They became words we are not only to expect to come true but also to enact. was so close to what I saw in the early church: a people on the margins giving birth to another way of living, a new community marked by interdependence and sacrificial love. (87).

As I’ve mused about what makes the suburbs difficult, this thought by Shane has really stuck with me. In my observations, the prevalent (& marketed) suburban lifestyle is heavily marked by autonomy and self-gratification... a stark contrast to the kingdom described above that is "...marked by interdependence and sacrificial love."

We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. (113)

It’s no wonder that the footsteps of Jesus lead from the tax collectors to the lepers. I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end. (114)

Laurie, I appreciated your thoughts on the ranging forms that poverty takes on in a person’s life. I, too, have experienced that the lavishly rich are often (unknowingly) desperately poor, yet I find it important to distinguish between the causes of these varying forms of poverty. In the physically poor, we see causes ranging from racist-cultural limitations to gender injustices to addictions to social persecution to individual failures, etc. For the rich-yet-spiritually-bankrupt, we see causes such as pride, self-indulgence, willed-ignorance, distorted sense of self, etc. And, I’ve concluded that my task in building the kingdom is to counter all of these causes with my love and my life.

Just as many of you have said, this is why we find the suburbs difficult. Because it’s extremely challenging to stay focused when we’re surrounded by a culture that tells us that if we make a lot of money, then we should spend a lot of money, that newer and bigger is important, that life gets better with more stuff. I fear that if we convince ourselves that we’re in the ‘burbs to minister to the rich-yet-poor, then we run the risk of justifying to ourselves that it’s OK for us to live, spend, eat, and drive like the culture we’re trying to subvert... that it’s OK for us to do these things because we’re trying to shine the light of love... but how’s that really working out? (I know this is where I've often found myself...)

[This post is getting kinda long, so I’ll wrap it up.]
All of this to say, while I believe that living in the suburbs and building the kingdom is certainly possible, I think it inherently takes an incredible daily resolve to subvert the Affluenza that surrounds us because it is so damaging to what we're advocating. And this daily action MUST take place among the interdependence of community, and this has to be founded on sacrificial love.

So, maybe we should shift the discussion here to what this subversion in the suburbs actually looks like (anybody read Justice in the Burbs ?... I’d like to). Jamie, you mentioned living without a car and having multiple families under one roof as some counter-cultural ideas. What else? Let’s get a bunch of doable ideas out on the table…

*Photo Credits - Flickr Dave and uncultured

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A revolution

The first four chapters of Shane's book, for me, were inspiring. They promote hope. Hope that contrasts my being overwhelmed at the myriad of ugly things in this world. I'm such a fixer, that hearing the staggering numbers of people starving makes my brain shut down. But Shane's stories wake it up again.

This quote helps summarize my feelings:

While the temptation to do great things is always before us, in Khalighat I learned the discipline of doing small things with great deliberation. Mother Teresa used to say, "We can do no great things, just small things with great love. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing it."

So, good story telling. Just good stories. But for what? A question was posed to me by a friend, in regards to this book. "Okay, most people would agree this book is great. But the question is, what do we do now?" In other words, how do we do this? How do we experience the things that Shane has experienced? Or at least, what is our response? After all, we're not reading it for entertainment alone.

I may be jumping ahead of our first four chapters here, but I'm going to attempt to answer before I hear Shane's conclusion. Here goes:

I don't think we can experience these things from our vantage point here in suburbia. It's just not possible. What do you think? Am I just not looking hard enough?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

An article from my turning point

Hello all,

Adam invited me to participate in this blog as well, but I just don't have much worth sharing right now. I do, however, want to share this article that I found about 5 years ago that really helped me to articulate what I was going through. Maybe it could be helpful to someone else today.