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Suburbs are for the Poor

There’s been an interesting ongoing conversation at Mere Orthodoxy about the theological fascination with cities and corresponding antipathy towards the suburbs. You can see Keith Miller’s initial post here and a response by Matthew Lee Anderson here. While there is a lot of good socio-philosophical-theology involved in this conversation, we also shouldn’t out-think the room. Most people who live in suburbs live there because it is the only realistic option for them. Agrarianism is essentially dead. Certain people can survive on it, I suppose, but the real agrarian economy is now big Agribusiness. It takes an enormous amount of money to even get started with a self-sustaining farm. It’s hardly an option for a “traditional” family who also wants to have 3-5 kids.

And so too, the cities feel off limits to many. Even if you aren’t trying to buy property (which is basically impossible), you still have to reckon with educational options for children. And city living does make a home centered economy and lifestyle virtually impossible as well, which is why Chesterbelloc itself looked to the suburbs for hope. They were the last place where the average family could still own some land and maintain a semi-healthy home.

Now none of this is meant to wave away the problems of the suburbs or to dismiss the genuinely important contributions of the new urban emphasis. But let’s not mistake Boboism for prophetic idiom. With the widening economic divide in America, the middle class isn’t so “middle” anymore, and now we’re even seeing that the suburbs are for the poor.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.