Death by Suburb

My weekend stories are going to be in reverse order today...

This week's service at Sojourn (which Matt & Alisse joined us for!) was powerful. Probably my favorite ever. Specifically, it was about the Beatitudes, why Jesus would have called each of these groups blessed, and why us in the mid-to-upper-class suburbs have a hard time understanding. Dave Rod spoke (live!) and emphasized why the groups of people are blessed now, not just a as future promise for a reward in heaven. Some highlights:
  • The Poor are blessed because they are ready to hear and enter into the Kingdom of God more than most- they have urgent need, they know they can't rely on themselves or on things, they don't think highly of themselves, their fears are realistic, and they know the difference between a Need and a Want. Us rich suburban folk, on the other hand, fail in all those areas.

  • The Meek - "Today meekness doesn't cut it," said Dave Rod. I can't expect to be meek and make it anywhere in this world- not in business, not is social circles- I'm supposed to demand my rights, speak up, be assertive. Meekness is foreign to us.

  • The Merciful- A powerful example why us suburbians don't understand this: On the per-capita income ranking, Mississippi is dead last, and Conneticut is at the top of the list. When you check out the charitable giving ranks, Mississippi's at the top, and Conneticut's way down at the bottom. How can this be explained? Those that need mercy and have received it understand the importance of giving it. Those that need mercy are often the most merciful. You get in the suburbs and run into the most merciless creature of all: The Suburban Soccer Parent Guy, who has no mercy for the refs, the coaches, the other team's kids, HIS team's kid, and, sadly, his own kid.

  • Just as I was ready to ask (because in Sojourn, we always have a discussion), So, what do we do with all this, if we happen not to be poor, mourning, actively persecuted, etc? It came up, and I appreciate the answer. Some of these things, we shouldn't aspire to, but this passage can bring us comfort when we do find ourselves there. When we are there, we are that much closer and ready to enter the Kingdom of God.

The book Death By Suburb was quoted in the service, and I looked at the website today and decided I want to read it. Not so much because I think it's wrong to live in the suburbs- no geographic location can be inherently wrong- but, having been here a while, I see the spiritual danger in getting caught up in the clothes and houses and cars and shallow image that pervades the landscape- the book calls them "Suburban immortality Symbols".

All this discussion Sunday morning was very ironic since, the night before, we had been at a fancy party chock-full of Suburban immortality Symbols. Everyone was dressed to impress everyone else. (I did my best...) There were cocktails and hors d'vores being served by tuxedo-clad waiters while guests mingled. The entertainment was a magician flown in from Las Vegas to impress us with close-up magic. The even setting was refined- the Nancy Noel art gallery I mentioned last weekend. ... And I admit, I fell for it. I was all about image for the night. I wanted to be seen by the refined people I was surrounded by, and pretend like I was part of their world. I'm ashamed to say that the highlight of my night was when a couple other ladies- complete strangers- complimented my dress. I was noticed and approved of, and that made me glad.
The party was a fun adventure, and I was glad I went. It was fun to pretend for a night, and gave me an excuse to dress up. Most of all, I liked people-watching this segment of the population that I don't normally interact with.

The rest of Saturday was almost the opposite of the evening. Where one event seemed to be all about personal image and propriety, the rest of the day was casual fun and community. We ventured to Lebanon first for a dog show where we saw Seth and Amber with Connor and Anna. After lunch with that bunch, we headed to Lebanon's downtown to peruse the Back to the Fifties festival. Elvis was there, as well as poodle-skirt-clad girls. Activities for the kids included playing with the much-loved parachute, petting farm animals, and romping in inflatable games. My big-kid husband and brother-in-laws preferred the car show. As for my favorite part: The library book sale. I picked up a little-known Dr Seuss book for adults entitled The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough.

And that's my non-linear weekend story. If I do pick up the Death By Suburb book, I'm sure you'll hear more about it. I appreciated the thoughts at church, and its something more I want to explore, I think.

See the rest of the weekend pictures:


Ashley said...

It's interesting about the Death by Suburbs, because I know that the rich are the hardest people to minister to as missionaries. We had some friends who were missionaries in Acapulco, and they said how difficult that was because no one had a reason to change! Christianity offers hope and peace, which may mean a lot to someone who has nothing, but isn't as appealing to those who have everything together. Didn't Jesus say something along the lines of it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to heaven?

Anyway, just an observation. Thanks for sharing. :-) And I think the party sounds fun! I like doing things like that too. :-) It sounds quite different from something you'd like, so I'm glad you did enjoy. :-)

mrs.burke said...

Another book Dave has mentioned before, and is great reading, is "Bobos in Paradise" by David Brooks. It's a totally secular book, but it really gets into this suburban yuppie culture and what makes it tick. It has a sequel as well, "On Paradise Drive." I don't know if you're a fast or slow reader, but I enjoyed them both if you have enough time to read more than one book about suburbia.

Joanna said...

I do remember him mentioning 'Bobos in Paradise' now, a while ago. I'll have to pick up one of the three.... maybe when I'm done, we'll be fed up with suburbia and move out to a farm with you :)

Anonymous said...

The point is not to pan the suburbs and leave, but to live reflectively and stay. Walker Percy, the novelist, once asked, "Why does Man often feel good in a bad environment and bad in a good environment?"

I argue in Death by Suburb that it's the unreflective pursuit of the immortality symbols (children, low body fat and fresh cleavage, the perfect family, the size-4 wife, the investment banking job) that turns the good of the 'burbs into a potential bad - not the immortality symbols themselves.

It's an important nuance.

Dave Goetz
Death by Suburb

Joanna said...

Thanks, Dave, for your input- I look forward to reading your book! It's on order!


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