Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mere Orthodoxy: Are the Metro-Evangelicals right?

... there is a timbre amidst all of this city-centrism that troubles me.

Maybe this is because the metro-evangelicals are not counter-cultural, but rather a baptized version of New Urbanism. In a culture that idolizes living in a loft in a gentrifying art district, a church planter is not exactly bearing a cross in deciding to “rough it” under such conditions.

Maybe it is that some of its advocates tell a story that previous generations fearfully abdicated the dirty, sinful cities. Thus, all this new “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” generation needs do is show up and things will get better. It’s worth noting that this mythical Evangelical abandonment never really happened and we should be more careful at imputing impure motives to previous generations of believers.

Or maybe the metro-evangelicals’ claims of self-importance are so hyperbolic that they insult the gospel work being done in less densely populated zipcodes. For example, some urbanist church planters claim that cultural transformation emanates exclusively from cities, as Mark Driscoll writes:
[C]ities are of greater strategic importance because they are upstream where culture is made and changed, yet most Christians today are downstream and subsequently are incapable of effecting cultural transformation. (Vintage Church, p. 298)
Incapable. Incapable? I do not think that word means what you think it means. /Inigo_Montoya_voice

I did my time in the Big Apple, but now reside in a thriving metropolis of 8,305. Yet I live alongside a whole lot of faithful Christians who sacrificially love their neighbors, share the gospel, build civil society and raise their families in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It may take some time, but I would wager that these folks will have some kind of transformative impact on the culture when all is said and done.

Remember the story of Abraham and Lot. When they parted ways over business squabbles, Lot chose to pitch his tent near the affluent big city while Abraham sojourned in wilderness isolation. Yet which of them ended up displaying a greater capacity for cultural transformation?

Cities may seem to be of more strategic importance but as some authors at Seattle's local paper The Stranger have insisted, cities are also often more liberal (language warning well in advance for those who've never heard of this paper).

For people who imagine that great innovations happen in the great cities and thus that's where we should focus our effort you can buy that but the thing about history is that history isn't always made in the big places where you might expect it to be and not always through easily anticipated means.  While in Haydn's time Vienna was the place to be he didn't exactly change the history of music by being in Vienna for most of his career.  These days people might sooner think of the film Showgirls than Haydn when hearing or reading the name Esterhazy.  Such is life.  Haydn managed to become famous across the world while being stuck in an estate in Hungary even though Vienna was consider the hot spot to be. 

As Tom Wolfe put it in The Painted Word, an artist can go get Windsor & Newton paints just about anywhere in Ohio but they dream of "the loft" in "the city", THE city, New York. 

Palestine was not exactly the most important place in the world at the time Jesus showed up, was it? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The other aspect of all of this is that there is a kind of implicit fetishism of certain aspects of technology in this sort of thought. Not all technology - or even the most important and persusive ones are the iSomething.

Just because all media is made in three places, doesn't make all of that media equally influential.