5 Stars Out Of 5
Christians Concerned About the Built Environment
November 2, 2011
Pastor Jacobsen calls America to account for worshipping three false idols: individualism, freedom and independence. Individualism without constraint results in monotonous suburbs. Freedom to travel for some becomes isolation for others (youth and elderly). And a neglect of interdependence actually restricts an individuals ability to achieve their maximum potential.
Jacobsen believes that to be a Christian means to be a city person. The author defines a city simply as something you know when you see it. All cities possess six identifiers, including public spaces.
In public spaces Christians can walk amongst and greet their fellow citizens. This is incarnational ministry. Without public spaces it is hard to build relationships.
In heaven we will be citi-zens or denizens of the city. Jerusalem is a city on earth that God is using for good.
So why do some people see cities as corrupting? Jacobsen points to three cities in the Bible that were troubled: Enoch, Babel and Ramses. Because of these examples some people seek an eden-like existence in the suburbs.
Jacobsen distinguished between Private Christians and Public Christians. Private Christians focus on the Great Commission and the state of the individual. Public Christians concentrate on caring for the needy through institutions. Neither group has really taken the physical forms of their cities very seriously over the past century. Albert Borgmann, author of Crossing the Postmodern Divide, provides that vision.
Jacobsen notes "We've given very little thought to the physical structure of our cities and how that provides a framework for the human relationships that go on in these places." The author provides a theology that seeks to rectify this situation: (1) learn to live out our discipleship to Christ in cities and (2) stewardship of the environment includes our built environment.
Jacobsen advocates for mixed use zoning which allows for some commercial uses and different types of residential uses to coexist. The result is incidental contact, community cohesion, less time in the car, more walking and more attractive neighborhoods.
In the eyes of the author the suburbs are not welcoming to strangers. It is in the city where strangers meet other strangers. Cities experience problems when civility is in short supply, neighborliness is not practiced and some segments of society are not recognized for their inherent worth. We need 24 hour cities and metro areas that share the LULUs, (Locally Undesirable Land Uses).
Finally, Jacobsen notes over 400 developments in the U.S. have followed the New Urbanist Guidelines for Traditional Neighborhood Design. (See Congress for the New Urbanism [...]). We should enjoy these new developments and our older cities which already embody them. This not revolutionary activity but a return to how cities used to be built, such as Geneva. The church, writes Jacobsen, has an important role to play in the new urbanist movement.