Bonus thought for the agrarians in the audience

Something that Gabrielle and I realized when reflecting about our game of Bliss Stage is that our characters did the exact thing that we often criticize in other Christians: bailing out of the city to hide in the country. I think that our playing through this game has given us a different perspective on the issue. Yes, it’s possible to be hiding in the country from the problems of the city. At the same time, it’s also possible to withdraw from the city in an attempt to regroup and to train your children to be better warriors than you are. Sometimes you just don’t have enough of a foothold to be able to fight effectively.

Still, it feels retreatist to me. But how much of that is because it’s the truth, and how much of it is my own hang-ups? I’m still trying to figure that out.


8 responses to “Bonus thought for the agrarians in the audience

  • James

    I’ve often thought you and Gabrielle were a little hard on those who are making the decisions that they are that are seemingly opposite from what ours are, even though I have the same tendencies as ya’ll. I witnessed an email exchange recently where someone said that the ideal was his family alone in the middle of 300 acres so nobody else could influence his children, and that made me a bit angry at the apparent retreatist attitude.

    But I don’t really know (or could know through an email) what the attitude is.

    Here’s what I do know: There is no escape from danger. No matter where we are we are “counted as sheep for the slaughter.” There is no escape from sin. We take it with us wherever we go.

    I also know that we need the community of faith. I want my sons to grow up and be men that are greater than I am. But can they really do that if I am the only influence they have? I don’t think so.

    I also know that we are called to be salt, ligh, and leaven. That looks different in different lives, but it is a calling for *all* of us. I have friends who are missionaries in countries that I don’t ever want to have to visit, let alone live there. But I have become a missionary to the UE neighborhood. What happens if through the efforts of the city our neighborhood becomes replete with rich white people who now live in the suburbs? Does that change our calling? I don’t think so.

    And so those who chose not to be in the city must do so for the right reasons–but I cannot just assume that we are all called to the city any more than I think we are all called to Pakistan. Every man must be fully convinced of his own calling — no matter what that is and where.

  • Michael

    This may prove to be a strange line of thought but is something to think about. About three months ago I moved to Eureka and away from the hood of Peoria. When we lived in Peoria the children were never out of my sight. In Eureka I am able to send them on their own to the grocery store, the park, or just out to walk around the block. Eureka is not 100% safe. Every time I send the children to walk to the grocery there is a risk. In Peoria the risk was to high, in Eureka I belive it to be reasonable. In the short time I have been there I have seen many positive changes in the children do to the fact that they can get out a bit. Now I guess my question is this- Is there really that much difference between locking your children up in the middle of 300 acres, or locking them up in the middle of the city? You talk about hiding in the country but most people are not hiding themselves they are hiding their children. You could correct me if I am wrong but my guess is that you do not let your children walk alone to the grocery. You have spoken many times about how great it is to have shops within walking distance. Would you send your daughter on her own to walk to any of them? Moving to 300 acres so as to hide your children away from any and all risk is silly at best. Moving to an area that has a reasonable level of safety so as to allow the children to get out into the world and learn to spread their wings seems logical. You talk about community all the time. Is it really a community worth having if the children are not able to get out and explore it?

    I have lost were I was going with all of this and will just end it with that.

  • Crystal Ben-Ezra

    Thank you, Michael. That is something to chew on.

  • James

    I too appreciate your comment, Michael, but I don’t think we’re hiding our children. They do explore the community, but they do it under watchful eyes. My children get to interact with others in the neighborhood on a regular basis–they’re not locked up inside my house.

    Choosing to move to a small town is certainly your choice and right–and may God use you there in Eureka! Not everyone is called to the city–and if you are not you shouldn’t be here! God will use you where He wants you and I pray that He will do just that.

    Thanks again for taking part in the discussion.

  • Michael

    Sorry guys, sometimes when I read these post I get the idea that you belive that all good christians should live in the hood. Perhaps it just those of us that want community that should live in the hood.

    I spent four years in the hood and found nothing to rave about on either front. If the choice were live in the hood, or live in some prefab modern subdivision, you might have a point. The fact is however that there are great walkable communities that you can actually send your children out to walk in. Within walking distance of my home are about six or eight places to eat, a grocery, a couple of banks, several insurance agents, a Radio shack, a hardware store, several parks and playgrounds, the library in just across the street, a church run goodwill is next door, ect, ect, ect. I want and value community and that is why we are there. I want my children to not have to be “under my watchfull eye” every time they step outside. I do not belive that any of this makes me less of a christian, or you more of one.

  • Michael

    I just wanted to add a couple of additional observations. Your statement that “its possible to be hiding in the country from the problems of the city” seems to imply that the only reason to move out of the city would be to “hide”. What about moving out for a better life. It seems that you think that the crack–heads, prositutes, poor schools, ect, are the reason for moving out. Even before Peoria was taken over by these problems lots of people thought that small town life was nice and choose to live there.

    You note that it is “possible to withdraw from the city in an attempt to regroup” and that “it feels retreatist”. This again implies that christians belong in the city not in the towns or country. Where does this come from? I am not aware of any bible verse or section that would lead me to this conclusion.

    It all seems to come down to us being a light. Even on this point however I am left to wonder if it is really about others, or more about ourselves. I have had many friends who head off to parts of the third world, indian reservations, urban ghettos, the rural ghetto, ect, ect, on mission trips. Locally churches send their busses out each week to collect ghetto kids for church. When was the last time you heard of someone other than the Mormons or the Seventh Day folks sending people to do mission work somewhere nice. I guess that its easy to feel sorry for the poor masses and to try to give them hope though god. In the end however a christian sticks out just as much in a nice area as in a ghetto.

    I guess in the end I would be curious if there are more “TRUE” christian famillies (per capita) in the nice area. I would question it. Christians are a rare breed no matter where we live.

  • Seth Ben-Ezra

    Hey, Michael.

    First, a little background. I see the city as a cultural center which affects the surrounding area. Culture flows out from the city. Therefore, I see seizing the cities for Jesus as being of strategic importance. However, in the circles I move in, due to a preponderance of agrarian thought and as a reaction against the corruption of the city, city life has been looked down upon as being an inferior way to live. So, yeah, I can become defensive about this, which was the impetus for my original post, actually. I came to a point of understanding emotionally why someone would make certain choices. This will factor into my future considerations of this issue.

    I do not want to say that all Christians should live in the country. Rather, I do want to say that all Christians should be following the call of God on their lives, regardless of where that takes them. I know Christians who are called to be farmers, and praise God for them. It is increasingly difficult to buy food that is healthy and affordable, and I am grateful for the God-fearing families that have decided to pursue that course. I know Christians who are called to the suburbs, such as my father, who is a pastor of an upper-middle-class white professional suburban church. He sees himself as a missionary in that place, and God love him for it.

    So, that’s my current stance. Are you where God has called you to be? Are you pursuing His will? If so, then great! However, I also know that it’s possible to pursue other things which can look like His will. Things like family and comfort and safety and a good job and a good house.

    To be frank, my ideal house exists in the middle of the country. It is near a pond (without mosquitos), and it is also near an interstate (but I don’t have to hear it). This interstate leads me (within 5-10 minutes) to a large city where I can enjoy the various cultural offerings of that city. Thus, I can scoot into town whenever I want, enjoy the peaceful solitude of nature whenever I want, and generally do what I want in peace.

    This house may yet await me in heaven, but, over the last several years, I have come to see this as idolatry for me. Why do I want this house? It’s because it’s quiet and peaceful and safe, and I don’t have to deal with people and their problems. Just me and the rain and the sky, but I can still get coffee from Leaves and Beans. 🙂

    If I were to try to buy that house, I would be “retreatist”. That’s not where God wants me. Rather, He wants me on Orange Street. Right now. With my children beside me.

    And yes, that means that my family is in more danger than they would be if we lived elsewhere. I do not relish the thought of finding out that my car has been vandalized, or that one of my sons has been in a fight, or that my daughter has been harrassed or molested. And I know that these things are more likely to happen where I live. That’s is the choice that I made when moving down here, and I pray that God will shelter us. But, I know what Jesus says: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’ (Matthew 16:24-25)” So I trust His word to me.

    And, at this point, I’ve lost track of where I was going, so I’ll just drive this comment into a brick wall and call it a day.

    (As a total aside, I was in the Book Nook recently. Nice store!)

  • Michael

    I have gone on a rant for this all relates to my own struggles. Today for us it is more related to school for the children. It all goes back to community though and how we and our children fit in to that community. I think I can speak for most parents when I say that it is rare for a day to go by when I do not worry if I am doing the right things. Were we live is the choice that people talk about the most. It is no more or less important though then the hundred others we make every day.

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