I am going to begin a couple of posts on life and ministry in the suburbs. Suburban America is a wonderful and dangerous place. This space characterized by safety, homogeneity, and affluence shapes attitudes. These suburban attitudes, that usually remain unexamined and unchallenged, can warp the way we view the world and act in the world. The challenge for followers of Jesus becomes even more intense.
I begin with a blog post by Dave Gibbons
The Most Dangerous Place in America
Yes, the situations in Iran and North Korea continue to give concern to us and our government, but when it comes to our own backyard, where is the most dangerous place in America?
New York City.
Large cities such as these have received a lot of attention as havens of crime, disorder and mayhem. I don’t want to argue that. Sure, violent crimes and societal concerns seem common in our concrete jungles.
But how about cities like these:
Lake Forest, Illinois
Ellicott City, Maryland
Irvine, California was recently given the title, “Safest City in America” (over 100,000 people) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on June 1, 2009. I would like to submit that suburbs just like this may actually be the most dangerous places in America.
The suburban enclaves with their middle class citizens and well- manicured lawns, gates, and guards protecting our Orwellian lifestyle and toys, Starbucks a few minutes apart from each busy intersection, and boasting some of the best schools in the country may actually be the most dangerous locations to live. Okay, we may not have the high murder counts or robberies, but I wonder if the suburbs have become breeding grounds for the accessible and shallow thrills of drugs and alcohol abuse, extravagant parties and proms, and mere facades of happiness and the American Dream. Just ask your local city drug dealer about his primary consumers. . . suburban teenagers and college students.
Okay, I’m not a researcher, but my gut impression from my travels and intersection with youth in the major cities of the world as well as the suburbs and rural communities is that they are all equally dangerous but just in different ways.
The dangers of the suburbs entail the lack of imagination (where do you find real art museums, innovative music venues and creative opportunities to explore nature. Sure there are exceptions but it’s not the norm); materialism; greed; isolation behind cookie-cutter neighborhoods and homogeneous clubs and churches; boredom: apathy; the fascination with the relevant more than the real; a love affair with popularity more than loving the poor; and a thirst for excitement superficially satisfied in the Friday night party. This takes precedence over a dangerous ride with God on the frontlines of His movement.
Ironically, guess what consistently is the hottest selling music in the suburbs? Hip Hop! Seriously. . . check out this article from Wall Street Journal in June of 2005. http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB111521814339424546.html
Why do you think Hip Hop is so popular among Suburban youth?
Hip hop is a voice to which suburban kids want to relate. Perhaps some wannabe has a type of connection to reality through Hip Hop while others envision radical change and revolution, inspired to be at the forefront of a new generation of leaders who will not remain silent. It’s a type of music that breathes with the vibe of danger and rawness.
My concern is that our children are missing out on one of the greatest moments to live in the history of humanity. These are the times of global shifts and crises and once-in-a-life time opportunities. Our generation and the next can be so focused on our own survival and the satisfaction of pleasure that we miss out on one of the wildest adventures. Hip Hop music has become the voice of our youth. It describes a thirst for danger and a rawness that is wild and out of control. It’s filled with angst and cynicism. These elements are the seeds of revolution found in the cities. My prayer is that the intrinsic frustration and boredom in the suburbs and rural cities of America will find its purpose in a radical revolution of love.
Perhaps instead of a one-week mission trip, the next generation will commit to a lifetime of roaming the earth in the power of the Holy Spirit like has never been seen before. Sure, our cities have been the focus of the church, but let’s not forget the quiet suburbs– the current breeding ground of potential zealots who are looking for something more to awaken them out of their boredom.
In response to what I wrote above my teammate, Dave Brubaker wrote: The verse I love for this (if you want one)—Luke 12:13-21. It really could be about the suburbs, the guy is so rich, he’s afforded the luxury of ISOLATION. He’s so alone in his gated community that when he needs financial council he has no one to confer with but himself (verse 17); he’s so out of touch with the poor and needy, he can’t think of a single person to share with when he’s got extra. The only idea that comes to mind is to make bigger barns (verse 18). Apparently God finds this so detestable, he kills the guy (verse 20), the words “your life will be demanded from you” are actually a financial term re: collecting a loan; in the case the “loan” that God is collecting is “life.”
Easy to judge this guy as a “fool” but the truth is, isn’t he “successful” by suburban standards???