Here in the Twenty-first Century, there are still a few taboos that our enlightened society can’t seem to rise above. One of them: Faith.
This seems particularly true in areas like architecture and urban planning, where it’s presumed that all “people of faith” have bad taste, are afraid of progress, hate cities, and want to live in McMansions in the suburbs. These stereotypes are not completely unwarranted; there are factions of the Christian faith that are in opposition to contemporary voices in culture and urban life. But this small percentage does not speak for the whole.
Faith is particularly taboo in the academic realm where students are told to check their religious lives at the door and, consequently, never have a chance to develop the relationship between their private faith and their career. (Check out Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed for his perspective on how this plays out in the realm of science.) This produces a lot of young people who believe they have to choose between two things they are passionate about: their faith and changing the world.
Is it possible to have both?
Some of us believe so.
A friend of mine, an urban planner in a moderately large city, recently asked me how I navigate my work in the public realm as it relates to my faith. Her experience is that Christians (especially of the conservative vein) are, at best, a joke in the city planning world. Now, my work in community improvement is not nearly as “public” as her position with the city. But, she has heard me speak (and write) quite a bit about how my faith informs my views on politics, community development, and urban life. And she was curious how I manage being an “eco-friendly, urban, transit-loving, libertarian Christian” (her words–not mine) without feeling emotionally crushed while working with my peers.
The basic gist of the podcast is this: historically speaking, faith has always been a prime motivator in public life, for progress and justice. So, why do we ignore this connection when training those to whom we entrust our public life?
There is a lot of discussion in Christian circles these days about urbanism and how the Church should address issues related to city life and urban culture. But, the secular arena doesn’t seem very educated about the contemporary Christian perspective–and they definitely ignore the historic one.
I’m fairly new to the conversation and definitely don’t claim to have all the answers for how faith and public life are supposed to intersect, but, I am convinced that I need not “check my faith at the door” in order to have something to contribute to the broader conversation.
And I would encourage any young, passionate “people of faith” to pursue the health of their faith and the welfare of their city.
Maybe we can have both.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – the prophet Jeremiah, Old Testament.