Monday, January 3, 2011

Two Cheers for Suburbia

We are what we cheer. Which is one of the many things that ought to concern us. Consider, for a moment, the literary world. Our heroes, in terms of the modern canon, are Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Hedda Gabler. The villains on the other hand are men like Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt. The former, misunderstood ladies, were heroes because they cast off conventional morality and adulterated. The latter is wicked because he lived a decent, honorable, middle class life. Babbitt worked hard, provided for his family, labored for his community, and received for it our disdain.

Babbitt was on my mind this week as I took the opportunity to walk among the homes of Morton, Illinois, a rather ordinary suburb of Peoria, in a rather ordinary part of the country. What I found there were well cared for homes and lawns, white picket-fences, children’s toys in the driveways. I found beautiful what the progressives and elites find so reprehensible and banal. These are homes peopled by husbands who love their wives and children, wives who love their husbands and children, and children who love their parents. Where is the excitement in that? Why are there no magazines at the grocery check-out with headlines screaming, “Mr. Jones Takes His Three Year Old Daughter Out for Breakfast!” Why are there no paparazzi snapping pictures of mom folding laundry, or big sister teaching little brother to ride a bicycle? Decency has its place, and ought to be honored. But we, as CS Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man, laugh at virtue and are stunned to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid geldings to be fruitful.

In the great war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, that war that began in Eden and will end fully and finally at His return, we have got to recognize that which is of the serpent within the woman. Our white hats are rather filthy. That is, the front of the war is right in front of us, where we citizens of God’s kingdom behave like citizens of Satan’s kingdom. But we would be wise as well to learn to recognize the remnants of the image of God amongst our enemies. When unbelievers love their families, when they work honestly, when they seek out beauty, we need to encourage them, and to rejoice as well. They live off borrowed capitol, but we ought to be happy to lend.

We must, however, be careful. While we recognize the relative goodness of the “good life” lived by our neighbors, what they desperately need is direction on how to have a good death. Suburbia, so long as it is content with mere blessings, will not miss out on the Giver of those blessings, but will find Him too, in His wrath. We must call good good, and evil evil, burning wood, hay and stubble, but strengthening the things that remain. Two cheers we ought give, and a call to flee the wrath that is to come.

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