Tomorrow Land

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It’s always hard to see the world as it actually happens, to experience in real time. Thirty years ago or so, Joel Garreau did that with Edge City. Not everything he saw about the emergent suburban culture proved accurate, but the overall picture? Yes, it gave us language to describe our time, and yet, time moves on.

Jeff Blumgart gives a solid overview of Edge City, the book the concept, the reality.

Jeff Blumgart, “Return to Edge City”, Citylab.

 

 

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Dry land is a privilege

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One of the things that goes unmentioned in many discussions on race is this:  for some of us we can worry or not worry about POC, about the impact of race in our community. I can choose to pay attention or not.

I have a space where the black person is not my neighbor. In that light any talk of BIG SIN is really a talk about perfectionism, because I can escape.

But the question of race strikes me more like the biblical mire, that mix of mud and sewage. One has to escape, but it is not easy to escape, let alone to be clean. But one has to.

Berning down the house

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Bernie Sanders traveled to Mississippi to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death. Along the way, he got distracted, turning his attention to the failures of the Democrats and President Obama

“The business model, if you like, of the Democratic Party for the last 15 years or so has been a failure,’ said the Vermont Senator.

“People sometimes don’t see that because there was a charismatic individual named Barack Obama. He was obviously an extraordinary candidate, brilliant guy. But beyond that reality…”

There’s a fundamental question of (lack of ) political intelligence at work here: What we know about 2016 was that voters who voted for Obama ended up for the Orange Man.  Dissing Obama doesn’t help with that basic calculus, if anything it reveals an arrogance about the so-called progressive cause, an arrogance that is altogether too white.

Second, the Bernie comment simply feeds the separation of the progressive left — largely a suburban phenomena — and the urban communities of color. if there is one sure way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, this split is it. In Michigan in particular, the two communities need to work together to take back the key state offices, otherwise we get Gov Schuette.

Holy Saturday

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Deb Rienstra points to the physical practice of getting ready, for this time of dormancy, a non-time if you will. Along with many good liturgical ideas she suggests

If you are a gardener, today is a good day to perform an early spring task that prepares for new life.

Ah gardening

It’s certainly something of a odd paradox, that while Christ is in the tomb, buried in death, we are in the garden stripping dead leaves out, cleaning. And for what? The red knob of the rhubarb knows; the practical first tulip pokes through with a hooded glance as if to say, “soon there will be more;” overhead the robin also sings of days to come. We work through the yard, front to back, raking, scraping, removing, filling bags with the debris and old leaves. All this will be taken away, but for now we can only take off, waiting to see what will be.

Poverty Quicksand

Family formation has often been cited as a principle avenue out of poverty. A recent study from the Brookings Institution indicates that for black women, this may be an illusion, that married black women actually have a higher tendency to stay in poverty than black men, or their white peers. Rather, the path out lies with better economic outcomes for black men. The authors conclude:

This is certainly one of the most important implications of both their study and our own. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty for black Americans requires a transformation in the economic outcomes for black men, particularly in terms of earnings. One important point here: the relationship between earnings and marriage runs in both directions. Married men tend, other things equal, to earn more: one study of identical twins suggests that being married raises earnings by one-fourth. Married men may feel more responsibility to provide economically for their families, and especially their children. Low marriage rates may therefore have some impact on earnings.

It is also clear that the vast inequalities by race cannot be alleviated by upward mobility alone. Black girls are, relatively speaking, more likely to move out of poverty in terms of their own earnings. However, we should keep in mind the sheer number of black children being raised in low-income households in the first place. Closing the race gaps in upward mobility will require wholesale shifts in economic outcomes, perhaps above all for men’s earnings.

 

 Scott Winship, Richard V. Reeves, and Katherine Guyot 
"The inheritance of black poverty: It’s all about the men". 
Brookings

 

The Open Question

Alan Jacobs, as usual, digs into another interesting issue with technology, in this case the need, the necessity for the Open Web. Given the revelations of Facebook this essay is all the more pertinent.

I say there is no financial compensation for users, but many users feel themselves amply compensated by the aforementioned provisions: ease of use, connection with others, and so on. But such users should realize that everything they find desirable and beneficial about those sites could disappear tomorrow and leave them with absolutely no recourse, no one to whom to protest, no claim that they could make to anyone. When George Orwell was a scholarship boy at an English prep school, his headmaster, when angry, would tell him, “You are living on my bounty.”6 If you’re on Facebook, you are living on Mark Zuckerberg’s bounty.

This is of course a choice you are free to make. The problem comes when, by living in conditions of such dependence, you forget that there’s any other way to live—and therefore cannot teach another way to those who come after you. Your present-day social-media ecology eclipses the future social-media ecology of others. What if they don’t want their social lives to be bought and sold? What if they don’t want to live on the bounty of the factory owners of Silicon Valley? It would be good if we bequeathed to them another option, the possibility of living outside the walls the factory owners have built

Alan Jacobs, “Tending the Digital Commons: A Small Ethics toward the Future,” The Hedgehog Review.

Flat Earth?

Over at The Twelve, Joshua Vis keeps exploring the theme of Lent but not Easter. That is, we all have a tendency to read Easter back into the story, to think of Easter as a miracle that does not really touch our lives. (Put another way, even the resurrected Lazarus still dies — miracles are not forever). Here is how addresses the issue:

The message of the triumphal entry is that we should reject the idea of a fantastical and mercurial God who occasionally breaks into our world to save someone from pain and suffering. Likewise, the cross says “no” to that version of God. Instead it asks us to find the courage to hope in each other, in our acts of love, mercy, and kindness toward one another—not because God has abandoned us, but because God has empowered us.

God urges us to choose to love one another. God will not be experienced through miraculous interventions. Rather, God will be experienced through acts of justice, graciousness, kindness, mercy, and love.

On level, he’s right, God is not experienced through miraculous interventions, but seen another way, the experience of knowing God does leave open the possibility of the miraculous. While the narratives of rationalism (per Hume) or of apophatic theology want to rule out divine intervention, the people of God have also held other narratives where God in-breaks, and where that in-breaking is known. Vis only gets to his position by starting with an assumption about what narratives are to be listened to.

The embodied life of faith knows that the universe has a surplus of meaning, that there is more to our lives than our own particular frame. “Miracle” is one of the ways that this reality gets proclaimed, that “justice,” “mercy” and “love” are in fact possibilities for people generally and not simply for our kindred. Indeed, justice requires an open universe, one larger than the imagination of the status quo, for only in that universe can forgiveness be shared and the wrongs be restored.

So today, on Palm Sunday, the Triumphant Entry is not so much a hope of cheap grace, but a prophetic act, a pointing away from the Palace and the Temple to the purposes of God. There is another story being written, a good story: God’s purpose for us and for our communities is not played out.