Is Suburbanization Evil?

In my mind, there is no question that it is.

It is only the conservative values ingrained on the mind of the evangelical church that blinds us to this. The suburbs were formed when technology gave people the ability to commute; and hence to choose to live apart from where they work. People were beholden to the cities for jobs and economic infrastructure, but did not want to live with the problems that such environments create. In moving to the suburbs they could have the benefits of the city without the problems. They could share in the resources of the City without taking responsibility for the City.

Were this all there was to suburbanization it would be bad enough...

Unfortunately there is an explicitly racial component to the entire structure as well. The suburban environment is vastly different than the urban one in terms of ethnicity. This means that our economic system treats people of different ethnicities vastly different. Conservatives argue that it is okay that we treat minorities worse than whites because we don't treat minorities bad because they are minorities; we only treat them bad because they are poor.

It is the same argument used to disenfranchise minorities historically. "We aren't preventing blacks from voting, only illiterates!" Intentionally ignoring that blacks largely couldn't read because our nation had set up the educational system to educate whites and not blacks...

The real question is, will we see that no matter what has caused the problems the poor face, whether that is the actions of evil men with power, or well-intentioned but ignorant men with power, or the apathy and sin of the poor themselves; as Christians it is our duty and our joy to be among them!?


LindaFaye said...


Matt Kauffman said...

You've talked before about casting our enemies in the best possible light, instead of making them out to be monsters that they really aren't (the consequences of their actions may be monsterous, but we, like them, are also sinners in need of grace).

I don't know that many suburbanites would openly admit that they feel it is ok to mistreat the poor. To many this thought never crosses their mind. They are simply seeking to provide the best opportunities to them and their families. This ignorance and selfishness is still sin, but I'd be careful putting words in their mouths or thoughts in their heads - "we don't treat minorities bad because they are minorities; we only treat them bad because they are poor."

Others have come from very affluent backgrounds and are honestly seeking to simplify. If someone's simplicity looks more affluent than mine does, should I discount their efforts. There are some in suburbia that are thinking through the conservative values they've inherited and how as Christians they respond to what's happening in the communities around them.

I agree suburbia is evil, but I'm not ready to insinuate that suburbanites are evil.

Steve S. said...

"I agree suburbia is evil, but I'm not ready to insinuate that suburbanites are evil."

I sure wasn't trying to say that! If I came across that way, it wasn't my intention. I don't think suburbanites are evil, I think suburbanization is. The quote wasn't an attempt to put words into the mouths of individuals, but rather into the mouth of the system.

Unfortunately, however, I have heard people express that exact sentiment. It is the rationale people use to avoid doing anything about racial problems. 'Hey, its just the way things are, its not like we are a racist society or anything.' It is, in fact, the exact argument that I have heard over and over again, that conservatives use against affirmative action and other such programs.

You called me on not 'casting our enemies in the best possible light' and you are probably correct in your assessment here. I wrote too quickly to think, but such is a blog!

Brittany said...

C.S. Lewis has, what I have come to associate as, a glimpse into suburbia in The Great Divorce. Technology has indeed allowed us to move apart from each other, but it calls to mind the imagery of moving so far from the bus stop that we can no longer dream of making the trip. We so far remove ourselves from community that it becomes uncomfortable to even think about entering back into it.

I think you need to consider joining the WSM Board.