The Suburban Moment – Glimpses of a Suburban Future
By 1970, more Americans lived in suburbs than in either central cities or rural areas. By 2000, more Americans lived in suburbs than in central cities and rural areas combined. The United States had become a predominantly suburban nation (Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia).
Looking at this note, we see that suburbia is significant. Given suburbia’s new centrality, Christians, especially suburban Christians, must take the suburbs seriously.
Hsu discusses his life and his suburban journey. He sets out trying to define suburbia (which is very complex). He discusses the suburbanization of cities and the urbanization of suburbia. In summing up this section, he states that suburbia has become the context and center of millions of people’s lives, and decisions and innovations made in suburbia influence the rest of society. If Christians want to change the world, they may well do so by having a transformative Christian impact on suburbia and the people therein.
Called to Suburbia?
We have recently seen a renewed call to the urban areas of the country. Many church planters are looking at relocating to urban areas to plant in order to impact the culture, serve the poor and marginalize, and develop multicultural congregations. Unfortunately, a side effect of this renewed emphasis on the city has been the idea that living in the city is somehow preferable or morally superior to living in suburbia.
Hsu wonders, rather than contrasting cities against suburbs, it is more helpful to see cities and suburbs as part of a metropolitan whole. Our contemporary understanding of “the city” needs to include both city and suburb, and God needs Christians to have a presence throughout the entire metropolis.
Ultimately both are legitimate places of Christian discipleship. All of us would do well to consider whether God might use us strategically in a different context. But if we conclude that we are called to stay in suburbia, then we ought to do so intentionally, seeking out ways of participating in God’s work and mission in our immediate environment, loving our neighbors and caring for the poor, whether materially or spiritually impoverished.