Thursday, August 25, 2005

Two quick stories


Well, I've not much time this evening, but I thought I'd share with you two stories that I've found in the last few days. One of them is a commentary by Boston Globe writer Derrick Jackson entitled Guzzle Gas, and Pretend:

"Gasoline is over $2.50 a gallon, the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq is over 1,850, and what patriotic, heroic displays of sacrifice can we find on the American landscape?

Bigger garages. Bigger houses. New fuel economy standards that will omit the biggest cars. Hoo-aah.
Brave Marines we are. From the halls of McMansions to the steps of our SUVs, we fight our exurban battles, ripping up every living tree.

Next month will mark four years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Four years is a time period often associated with sending children off to institutions of higher learning in the assumption they will become members of an enlightened citizenry.

But the four years since 9/11 have come and gone with no sign that the United States sees the light. As soldiers pay the ultimate price in Afghanistan and Iraq, we continue to be toy soldiers, the invulnerable warriors of consumption. No report of a real soldier dying from a roadside bomb, no administration assertion that fades into falsehood, not even fill-ups that hit $40 and $50 a tank has spurred us to question our schizophrenic nature.....".

Read the entire article here

The other article I found is really worthy of an entire post and discussion on its own, but I think it should be required reading anyway. As one who grew up in the suburbs and spent the majority of my formative years at a Mega-Church™ in Atlanta, I see massive ramifications for the church in regards to our current crisis of growth, development and planning. I don't really want to go into the whole deal now, and I don't really want to just stick my toes in.

Eric Jacobsen, who is mentioned in this article, wrote one of the best books I've read in the last few years called Sidewalks in The Kingdom. He spends an entire book dissecting New Urbanism from a Christian perspective and trying to determine what role, if any, Christians have to play in this story.

This article by Marshall Allen appeared in Religion News Service:

"Christian advocates of New Urbanism cite suburban sprawl as an isolating factor for many churches. The sprawl began in part because of federal subsidies after World War II, said Philip Bess, professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame. Bess, who has a master's degree in church history, is a Catholic and New Urbanist. The low-interest housing loans the government provided GIs returning from the war applied only to new houses. Meanwhile, the government was funding the interstate highway system; zoning laws separated communities into their commercial, industrial and residential uses.

The suburbs were born, neatly dividing people by economic class and forcing them to drive everywhere -- to the market, to work and to church.

Churches followed people into the suburbs. Bess said they also adapted suburban development patterns, buying sizable plots of land, erecting a church and surrounding it with a surface parking lot. Churches then offered multiple programs to draw members, who drove to the site, leaving neighborhoods behind.

Sprawl makes it more difficult for churches to achieve their objectives, Bess said. For example, anyone who can't operate a vehicle -- the young, old or disabled -- are disenfranchised, he said.

"Just as a matter of social justice it's arguably better to make mixed-use, walkable environments," Bess said.".

You can read the whole article here. Comments and discussion are welcome.