Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Suburbia - Parasise Lost?

I have been reading the Long Emergency by James Kunstler. Here are some quotes.

The American way of life is synonymous with suburbia.

America has invested its wealth in a living arrangement –suburban sprawl- that has not future.

The state of the art mega-suburbs have of recent decades produced horrendous levels of alienation, loneliness, anomie, anxiety and depression and we may be better of without them.
What has suburbia done to the church?

Kunstler believes that the coming oil crisis will kill surburbia. Will it kill the megachurch too? Can the church redeem suburbia?

These are questions that I am thinking about.


Gene said...

Ron, I have thought about Kunstler's thesis long and hard. I have read much of what he has written and agree with some. He is an observer but not trained as a sociologist. A journalist.


The oil crisis, high prices. How high would they have to go to have an impact? I don't know. I lived in Europe and bought gasoline at what was equivalent to $4 per gallon. Now it's $6. That was 20 years ago. In real money it's probably the same value. I drove a big Mercedes and drove to a big church 20 miles away.

We in America are already pretty used to $3 gasoline. I suspect we will get pretty used to $4 gas too.

So, at this point I think the suburbs are safe.

I live in a the quintessential American Suburb. Everyone has their half acre. You can walk no where. Only drive.

The Mega Church is safe as long as people drive. But that's not the real challenge.

The real challenge is reaching these people in the suburbs. Because of the nature of the wealthy (average household income over $80,000/yr) disconnected suburbanite, as a minister, here's the challenge in Kane County IL, St Charles Township:

* They all are from somewhere else
* They mostly work far from here
* They live isolated lives
* They have no friends
* They are suspicious of everyone because they have something to lose
* If they have any spiritual background its nominal Lutheran or Catholic
* Most don't go to any church.

Our county and in particular is the most unchurched area in America.

I have been part of planting a church here.

* They don't know anyone
* They don't know their neighbors
* They don't work with anyone from their neighborhood
* They don't have any friends
* From somewhere else all their relatives live far far away.

So, if a person comes to Jesus, they are nearly impossible to reach beyond them. The classic way of asking them to invite friends, family and coworkers is futile. They don't have any.

Believe it or not, the Mega Church works because you CAN invite a co worker who lives in another suburban area 40 miles away to come to church with you.

The Local church is struggling.

I don't think Oil will cause Mega Church to founder.

Besides, as an economist, do you truly believe the price of oil has any fundamental capacity to stay at these levels for very long? You must have a pretty good understanding of speculative blow off psychology. I was a futures trader for a number of years and understand these things from that perspective. If I had the courage and money I would be short oil right here.

Ron McK said...

My most important questio is the last one. Can the church transform suburbia. Or is the Megachurch the best that God can get?