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November 02, 2005


I'm 33 now with three children and have never had the weight of this type of decision weigh on me so heavily until fairly recently. You'll be happy to know a friend bought me SIDEWALKS IN THE KINGDOM for my birthday and I look forward to reading it.

My wife and I lived in an urban setting for most of our marriage. We have endured everything from taxi cabs destroying our parked vehicles at 3am, burglaries, murders across the street, and even waking up to cars on fire. It sounds like a war zone but it is just the only sidewalk in the kingdom that had an apartment we could afford.

We have moved, much to my wife's disapointment (believe it or not) to a "nicer" neighborhood). My guess is that one day we will be back in the city. I just want to say that it isn't always as swank as its cracked up to be.

With appreciation for your ministry . . .

My sister and her husband are living and working in Kazakhstan for Inter-Varsity. They have been there for two years with their two youngest children, having left their two oldest behind at college. They will be coming home because they feel that the two older children need them around. They have had a very successful time there and will continue to be extremely involved with ministry--just from a different location. Here's my point: Not once, have they ever tried to make me or my family feel guilty because I have chosen to live in the suburbs in a "lifestyle enclave."

So let's turn this around. Why aren't you, Mr. Jacobsen, living in some third world country where they really need "our help?" I don't think you have really given up enough of your personal freedom and "I can’t think of any compelling reasons why the Christian community should support the current practice of building new communities that are so inimical to Christian compassion." Because make no mistake, when the world war between the haves and the have nots begins, you and all the people living with you in your "urban enclaves" will be struggling for life on the side of the "haves."


You write:
Not once, have they ever tried to make me or my family feel guilty because I have chosen to live in the suburbs in a "lifestyle enclave."

Would you say that Eric is trying to make you feel guilty?


There are two reasons that I haven't moved with my family to Kazakhstan. 1) We haven't been called by God to do so and 2) I lack the courage. I also don't offer help to every person with a need that I encounter in my daily life. I hope that no one gets the impression from my post that I am some sort of super-disciple. I'm only suggesting that as we attempt to walk with (or be dragged by) Christ, we don't limit ourselves to the daily ad-hoc decisons of life.

I loved the article. The part about predetermining decisions was compelling to me.

I was wondering a couple things:

First off, I was curious what city looks closest to the model of what your describing in this article. Maybe you'd say certain neighborhoods fit the description, but not cities as a whole. So my question is open-ended. I guess my one difficulty is that I feel the cost prohibition, while you mention it in passing, is often downplayed. I have trouble imagining a family of 5 being free to be generous to the needy if an overwhelming portion of their net income is going towards rent. I agree we can't let market conditions dictate our local responsibilities. But to fulfill local responsibilities, you have to have some disposable income, right? I'd love to see more extensive analysis of how this plays out economically for a family of 5 making median income.

Second, I was if there is any evidence produced that suggests that urbanites are more giving towards the needy and other local responsibilities. I have no idea if this is the case or now, I was just genuinely curious.

I prefer the urban setting, but I honestly don't understand the anti-suburb campaign that seems prevalent. (Sorry to be opinionated about something I know ZERO about, but I'm assuming that's what blogs are for.) It seems to me there are legitimate trade-offs and temptations either way, and conscience should dictate. I feel like certain people can't move to the city without becoming hard-edged, elitist, & insufferable. And other people can't live in the burbs without ignoring the poor. I mean question genuinely while humbly acknowledging my own ignorance and your VASTLY superior knowledge on this issue: why can't we as the Church just let each person evaluate his own situation, pray & seek counsel from his own spiritual mentors, and if he lives in the burbs and commutes 45 minutes a day trust that the Lord has led him to that decision?


Thanks for your questions and expressions of epistemological humility. I hope Eric and others also weigh in with their perspectives.

In reply to your final question, look around at what happens when we leave things entirely to the individual. The heart is deceitful above all else. While there is a personal dimension to our walk with the Lord, there is also a corporate dimension. Assuredly, social forces impinge upon you and me every day, influencing our perceptions of what is true, good, beautiful, worthy. I suspect that few (perhaps virtually none) of your determiniations about the worth or desirablability of persons and things is individual to you.

I think Eric is attempting to get us to question, as a collective known as the Church, the social forces that define reality. Since social forces do influence us in the ordering of daily life, why not seek to create structures and create new forces that are aligned specifically with Scripture?


I will admit I'm a little paranoid about this issue, i.e., "am I doing enough for the Lord?" But yes, unfortunately, I do feel that Eric was trying to make me feel guilty by saying that the church shouldn't support "lifestyle enclaves." I'm not exactly sure what it means to support them, but I assume he means buying a house and living in a suburb somewhere, instead of in an urban setting where some homeless guy might knock on your door or maybe even urinate on it. I admit to feeling offended, once again, by a writer on common grounds who appears to be saying that a comfortable life is less biblical than an uncomfortable one. Oh, what the heck--I smelled liberal guilt in the article. If I've misjudged Eric, please forgive me.


My thought was not that you were some super-disciple. Super-disciples rarely make others feel guilty because of their imperfections. I was thinking that you were a poser, whose intention was to make the haves feel guilty for, well, having. Again, if I've misjudged your intentions, forgive me and please correct my misperceptions.


Thanks. Your point seems undeniable. The premise of my final question was skewed.

I'm unclear on what you mean by the phrase "smelled liberal guilt." Do you think Eric is liberal or a liberal? How do you define your terms? Can you provide some idea of what liberal, moderate and conservative mean to you so I can better understand what you're saying? I don't blame you for my lack of clarity; rather, these words are bandied about a great deal by MANY people today and mean different things to people. I'm trying to understand what you mean when you use "liberal"


Yes, I think Eric is a liberal. But I could easily be wrong if I have missed the point of Eric's article.

Liberals believe that:

Government and government spending provide the answers to life's social problems.

Government can and should make life fair.

It's not fair that some have more than others and government should take from the rich and give to the poor in order to even the playing field.

Abortion is an acceptable alternative to every other choice available.

Christianity is evil or is responsible for most of the evils down through history. (I don't think Christian liberals think this, but I truly believe secular liberals are at their very core anti-Christian.)

There are no absolutes. Therefore, the constitution as an absolute guide to how the country should function can easily be discarded. It's a "living document."

Envy is an acceptable platform for a major political party: that is, "tax cuts for the rich" is an extremely successful rallying cry for Democrats. Unfortunately, I know many Christians whom I love and respect who spout envious rhetoric all the time. I can smell it a mile away, because I still struggle with it myself.

I no longer understand moderates.

If you want me to explain what I mean by conservative, I will.

In short, conservatives believe that the constitution is the reason this country has become what it is and, therefore, that government is a necessary evil.

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