Weekly Digest: Why Cities Are Important
Welcome to my weekly digest for August 5, 2022.
For new subscribers, this contains a roundup of my recent writings and podcasts, as well as links to the best articles from around the web this week. You can control what emails you get from me by visiting your account page.
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Why Cities Are Important to the Church’s Mission
My latest piece is online at the Gospel Coalition. It’s a look at why cities are important. I review trends in global urbanization, as well as discuss the nuances of urbanization in the United States.
Cities are important for the church’s mission because, increasingly, that’s where the people are. Until very recently, humanity lived almost exclusively in villages or rural environments. As recently as 1910, only 10 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today it’s over 50 percent urban, and that number may rise to 75 percent by midcentury. Paul Romer describes this radical change as human beings going from living in packs like wolves to living more like ants or termites.
Urbanization looks different when we’re studying the United States. If you follow the Census Bureau’s classification, our country has long been filled with city dwellers—reaching 50 percent urban in 1920 and sitting at around 80 percent urban today. But the “80 percent urban” figure is misleading as the bureau says that any place with 2,500 or more residents is urban. Someone living in John Mellencamp’s “small town” home of Seymour, Indiana, is now technically a city dweller.
Also, when most hear the word “urban,” they think of higher-density areas with multifamily housing and mixed-use developments. They think of walkable streets laid out on a grid-like street plan that are accessible by transit. This description doesn’t characterize the places where most Americans live.
Click through to read the whole thing.
Related from the Economic Innovation Group: Families With Young Children Led Exodus from Major Cities During COVID
New Content and Media Mentions
New this week:
My Video Essay on the Today's Evangelical Conflicts - I recorded a couple of videos for First Things about my three worlds of evangelicalism article. They turned out really well.
At American Reformer, Brandon Meeks writes on the danger of a good reputation.
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By the Sweat of Our Brow
Georgetown professor Joshua Mitchell has a great long essay in First Things this month called “By the Sweat of Our Brow.” It discusses identity politics and much more. An excerpt:
How does this democratic solitude allow identity-politics parishioners to ignore the ongoing need for competence? Imagine a group of college students, who live in a dormitory designated for “women and transgender persons.” The radiators must be replaced if the students are to stay warm through the winter. The work is successfully performed, and outrage erupts among the students, who feel that cisgender workmen have violated their safe space. “They should have performed this service over the summer, when we were away,” the students declare.
This need not be imagined; it happened on the Oberlin campus this past October, and it is not an isolated incident. Segregation in America today is not racial; it is imposed along new lines, which a twenty-first-century Ralph Ellison has yet to lay bare. Nineteen out of twenty dirty jobs in America—infrastructure building and maintenance—are performed by cisgender Invisible Men, who construct the dis-inclusionary social spaces within which identity-politics parishioners convince themselves that intersectional scores matter and competence does not. Safe spaces from cisgender men are built almost entirely by cisgender men. Toxic masculinity underlies every detoxified space identity-politics parishioners occupy. There never has been and never will be a pure and innocent world; parishioners on the left occupy theirs through excision, forgetfulness, and power. Just as American political hegemony created an interlude in which it could be pretended that competence no longer mattered, so social hegemony in America today allows one class of people to ignore the fact that their daily bread is provided, and the thorns in the recalcitrant world of things are daily cleared away, by another class altogether.
Best of the Web
Hedgehog Review: The Evangelical Question in the History of American Religion - This piece provides an interesting framework of evangelicalism, saying there have been three versions of it, A, B, and C. The Hedgehog Review is a nice little magazine published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, which is run by James Davison Hunter, the Gandalf of what I described as the “cultural engagement" model of evangelicalism.
Daniel Cox: The Political Gender Gap is Exploding - young women are much more liberal than young men, and the gap is growing, driven apparently by increasing liberalism among women.
At the same time, the religious gender gaps has closed for Gen Z.
As recently as last year, the religion gender gap has persisted among older Americans. Survey data from October 2021 found that among those born in 1950, about a quarter of men identified as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular, compared to just 20 percent of women of the same age. That same five-point gap is evident among those born in 1960 and 1970 as well.
For millennials and Generation Z, it’s a different story. Among those born in 1980, the gap begins to narrow to about two percentage points. By 1990, the gap disappears, and with those born in 2000 or later, women are clearly more likely to be nones than men. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, 49 percent of women are nones, compared to just 46 percent of men.
The author of that piece, Ryan Burge, is a legit scholar on the topic and actually wrote a book called The Nones (i.e., those with no religious affiliation).
An interview with Andy Crouch on community and human flourishing.
Tanner Greer: The World that Twitter Never Made
London Review of Books: The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking