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. ...it 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