Tuesday, July 25, 2006


A friend sent me this and this link-both having to do with the book Death by Suburb by David Goetz. The first is a book review by Caleb Stegell (editor at The New Pantagruel) the second an interview with the author.

This seems to be another book which decries consumerism or the American lifestyle. (Others of course are Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher and Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals by Bill Kauffman) Each has a different take on a solution (although there are overlaps)-but in common, each sees a problem. Now, I haven't read any of these books, but I have read alot about each.

This latest seems to recognize that suburbia has its god: personal comfort and instant gratification: (from the review)

The real spiritual battle, according to Goetz, is overcoming the illusion. Because suburban life so privileges the self—its instant gratification, its desire for greener pastures always over the next fence, its search for ease and comfort—the Christian life aimed at crucifying the old man of sin is handicapped, perhaps fatally. Goetz recognizes that the principle of self-love at work in suburbia manipulates Christian desires and offers the illusion of spirituality and religion as just one more product to be acquired.

And from the interview:

In the rural culture, people are always tied into the agrarian community, and there is a deep understanding of the nature of life in the agrarian community. You are not necessarily in control of your life. There are good years and there are bad years. People are maybe just a little more humble. Here, you are in control of your life, at least you think you're in control of your life.

Sounds like he has a handle on things. It appears that Mr. Goetz does not advocate leaving suburbia-just adjusting it so Christ can be found there. Not knowing the details of his book, I can't comment. But certainly-as we discussed in this post post a week or two ago, we need to discern God's will for us and embrace it no matter where we are. For some it will be to 'flee to the fields'. For others it will be to stay put and live a life of example and giving amongst the needy (materially or spiritually) around us.

Wherever we are: we need a deep prayer life.


TS said...

Comfort is not the mission of life nor the purpose of life, but it's a positive good. So the tricky thing is how not to either slide into:

a) comfort uber alles


b) to equate Christianity with suffering, as if suffering is the end itself and not a means to an End.

I think the real trick is not to get hooked on feelings of holiness. I recall a long-distance runner saying that a good workout makes you feel holy. And yet there's nothing in a good workout that really makes you holier (look at our star athletes).

My beef with some of the Crunchy Con set is I think they get a high off the fumes of holiness. (NB: Not you!) Mother Teresa said that we should want to be good not to feel holy, but to please Christ. Difficult sometimes to discern but even more so to live up to. As you say, prayer is huge.

JCurley said...

TS-I think I agree with you. Its not that suffering is intrinsically a holier condition (we don't expect to suffer in Heaven), it is just that a lot of us clods need suffering to make us rely more on God.

Comfort is not intrinsically evil (don't we expect comfort in Heaven?)-it just sometimes is cloudy in our minds if the comfort came from God's blessings or because we "pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps".

The problem is that some people say that "This (agrarian, missionary work, bible study, whatever) lifestyle worked (either honestly or because it makes them feel that way-as you say) for me: thus any other way is less good for everyone else.

Catholicism is so great because it allows (with orthodoxy) so many different charisms. Can't beat it.


TS said...

Of course immediately after writing that I thought of St. Thomas More who wore a hairshirt much of the time, meaning he was literally embracing discomfort. So what do I know!

TS said...

Good point about the different charisms; I guess not everyone is called to wear a hairshirt!