Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Grass is Indeed Greener: How I gave up dreaming about the big city and learned to love the suburbs

Rod Dreher, a self-declared "crunchy con" and editor of the Dallas Morning News editorial page, let slip some opinions about suburban living that was a bit surprising coming from him but all too obvious in my own experience. To understand where he is coming from, Dreher has been a major proponent of living a way of life that combines holding conservative political beliefs and choosing to live an authentic lifestyle that rooted that is cherishes nature, traditional family life, community, and faith. "Burkeans with Birkenstocks", in which back-to-the earth values of hippie movement are grafted onto bedrock conservative principles of self-reliance, independence, religiously-based virtue.  They like to consume market-fresh organic produce, protect the environment and live in historic walkable neighborhoods. They agree with most liberals on a whole of host of lifestyle and cultural issues, but depart from them on issues such as taxation and the level of government involvement. It's rather a private choice to live this way, and policy should be designed to grant independence to people who choose it, while encouraging everyone else to be better connected with nature and eschew crass commercialism and sprawl.

Since popular examples of crunchy-cons are still too few, Dreher openly refers to his own daily life to illustrate. He insists on eating food from the farmer's market or at Central Market (an upscale grocery store, which sells both organic products and exquisite foreign brands) while raising chickens in the backyard. He home schools his children, belongs to a small orthodox Catholic parish, and has purchased and restored a small craftsman-style bungalow in a historic yet transitional neighborhood in Dallas. Reading some of his more anecdotal columns, there is an inevitable air of sanctimony when talking about himself, but the benefit to the reader is that he lets you peer inside into how he thinks about a variety of topics as it relates to his life. His writing makes his personality accessible, which allow readers to see someone who constantly confronts doubts about his beliefs and witness how his opinions change.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Breakdown of a Megachurch Viral Video

What is it that makes the megachurch click? There are so many answers, and since the megachurch phenomenon is relatively diverse, no one can point to any one thing. In a scant few cases, they offer theological certainty to a relativized world. In others, they offer entertainment and a commitment-free faith. In others, they offer a "power of positive thinking" sort of message that resonates with folks beaten down by the sin of the world. In far too many, they offer a "name it and claim it" empowerment to people who feel alienated from their government, culture and even currency.

But a recent viral video highlighted one more reason megachurches have become (at least for now) the pinnacle of the American Church experience: they notice, appreciate, and celebrate the suburban lifestyle and the middle class grind that most Americans experience 6 days a week.