Friday, July 31, 2020

The need for flourishing cities

After the election, conservative intellectual Yuval Levin put his finger on it best.

“At the root of the most significant problems America faces at home is the weakening of our core institutions—family and community, church and school, business and labor associations, civic and fraternal organizations.”

To explain Trump’s core supporters, many commentators pointed to the factories that were closing, but they should have been pointing to the churches that were closing. …

Idleness is the word scholar Nick Eberstadt used to describe the central problem of the working class. Charles Murray documented the collapse of certain virtues in white working-class America. It’s easy to see these judgments as attacks. “Idleness,” after all, is often counted as a root of many sins.

But if we see the problem as primarily a dissolution of civil society, a collapse of community, then it becomes clear that “idleness,” if you want to call it that, can be understood not as a sin but as an affliction.

These people have been deprived of meaningful things to do. …

“Seek the shalom of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for in its shalom will be your shalom.” —JEREMIAH 29:7

The Hebrew word shalom is typically understood as “peace” and often gets translated here as “prosperity.” These two divergent translations show the breadth of meaning of this word. “Welfare” is another common translation in this passage.

This word’s meaning is broad, because the good it tries to convey is broad. It could be translated as “flourishing” or “well-being.”

Jeremiah, in this letter to the exiles, relays from God a striking causal statement.

God says that an individual’s flourishing relies on something very worldly: the city.

Only if the city flourishes can you flourish.

If the city doesn’t flourish, you cannot flourish.
Source: Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Tim Carney

The closing of churches is no surprise when many of them have closed the Book. If they no longer believe and preach the Word of God, if they leave that foundation, then it's no surprise to see that core institution weaken without the support of its foundation.

Further, if they do not return to the Word of God, and refuse to return to the Word of God, then they should weaken and close. Dry up the fig outside the city that does not feed (Matthew 21:17-19).

Acquiring the knowledge of God is the most meaning thing to do. Education in this nation was built for that purpose. That's not to say they're should be only Bible classes. That's to say every class should be a Bible class. God's Word deals with many topics and has given us much to learn.

To the extent that education has left that purpose, and increasingly displaces it with other things, it is no surprise that this core institution is also weakening. Stop depriving people of learning about their Maker and why He made them.

In that letter, God tells people to do some things and not to do other things.

Build shelter. Build a food supply. Have a family.

Don't listen to prophets, diviners, and dreamers who tell them things contrary to what God has said.

The Church in America is not in exile. Many church leaders think and act as if we already are, as if that's our natural state and our destiny. No, our natural state is freedom, and our destiny is freedom in heaven. “The Jerusalem above is free” (Galatians 4:26).

Yes, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” and it's trouble that He is going to overcome. Resistance from the enemy should not lead to acquiescence. Ours is a “joy no one will take” from us (John 16:22).

God has given us a message of great hope. It is ours to believe, to be free in and not shy away from no matter what others say.

The joyful city is the city that believes and trusts in God. “The name of the city from that day shall be: ‘THE LORD IS THERE’” (Ezekiel 48:34).

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