The Dangers of Urbanization (Daily Devotional)

Today’s Reading: Genesis 11.

(Context: the Tower of Babel.)

Is God against urbanization?

I made myself that question after reading Genesis 11, where God separates the people so they might not forget Him. To begin with, my answer to the question would be a no, but there is some validity to it. Most of you, my readers, likely live in a city totaling more than 100,000 people. I have lived many years in large cities such as Santa Cruz and Seattle, and clearly there are benefits to it. There is more easily accessible work, more to “do”, and more people to interact with. As a missionary, I usually prefer bigger cities and bigger churches for the sole reason of there being more people to be to be taught. D.L. Moody centered in large cities such as Chicago for that very reason. Here is a short excerpt from a biography about him:

In huge revival meetings in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston he created the basic machinery of urban mass revivalism. It was chiefly a feat of organization which sought to adapt the traditional theological and institutional practices of evangelical Protestantism to the new urban environment created by industrialism. (From “Dwight L. Moody Biography“)

That said, are there dangers as well as benefits to the modern urban movement? Cities are constantly getting larger and larger, while rural areas and conservative family values are flying-out-the-window. Everywhere people are moving to the “bigger and better”, only for them to tell you about how much they loved their old country house, or little town. There is a sense of loss and nostalgia as people move from the rural to the urban, as cities skyrocket into the tens, twenties, thirties, and closing in on forties of millions of people.

Urbanization – Not a New Concept

God was unhappy with the urbanization of Babel, let us see why:

… [T]hey said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:4-7)

What was so wrong with some good-old urban-planning? Surely it helps with education, work, cleanliness, justice, etc. Well, not all is fair and bright. Most scholars will tell you that Babel was building this massive tower of brick and mortar in order to do Astrology and worship the stars. I think that is partly true, but also a “cop-out”, because that is a way of not asking if perhaps God doesn’t want massive cities, no matter what they are doing or building.

Is it possible?

This struck me just this morning, and it doesn’t mean I am right, but there is truth to it. Let me give you a few things I came up with this morning as to the downfalls of Urban Society:

1. Little accountability, unlike a small town, where everyone can get away with things they would never dream of doing in a small town. This includes having adulterous affairs, going to stripper clubs, getting high in your private apartment, and other such illicit or illegal activity. This especially affects young people who are finally “free” of their family.

2. A dependence on self, where you can “be anything you want to be”, thus letting God be your co-pilot instead of the rightful “captain of your soul”. You can work, eat, and sleep all by yourself, and one doesn’t need anyone else, let alone God. This is also a great part of American (individualistic) society to begin with, but it is also creeping into collectivist societies. The only place in Bolivia that I see “independent” women and men is in the cities. The truth is that no one is truly independent, because to begin with we are dependent for our very next breath on God Himself.

3. Trusting science and news over rational & individual thought is becoming a growing problem, as students trust their teachers over their logical deductions. Not to take away from teachers, but there is no doubt that teachings such as Evolution and that man is “naturally good” comes from an anti-God bias and from bad science. Living in the real world, instead of a world full of brick, cement, and steel, helps you to appreciate the beauty of this world. It is easy to say that no God exists in a city, or that we all came from nothing by a phony and impossible series of positive mutations (never actually seen) called Evolution. All this said and we haven’t even talked about the bias in the news! In conclusion, a city tends to make us robotic and simple-minded, which is so hilarious, because a person in a city is inclined to think of a rural person as from the “back woods”. The city creates cookie-cutter thinkers, the real world creates unique individuals who question authority when necessary and attack wrong conclusions. This is obviously a stereotype, but one that should be noted as true in most cases. The greatest example is the “back woods” carpenter from Nazareth. Ring a bell?

4. A “busy” life where money is supreme, is another side-effect of city living. I always hear city people tell me how “busy” they are, and they complement you on being so “busy”, as if it was the supreme duty of man! There is no question that stress is very high in cities, the travelling is long, the work hours are laborious, and the effort needed to do things is actually greater. Fast food, the express lanes, and the fast track are the only roads in a city, where everything seems to be more important because it is moving faster. Now that I don’t live in a city I realize why that is so ridiculous, and I realize how easy it is to be just a dog chasing his tail, using energy but doing little. Busy is not our purpose, for can we not glorify God by resting? Of course, God is pleased when men rest, for then they think of Him and the true value of life. Take some time to rest if you live in a city, on a weekly basis. Oh, and we haven’t even talked about money. “Money makes the world go around” they say, but it sure goes around a lot quicker in a city!

Living in a city has obvious benefits, but also it’s downfalls. Enjoy the benefits, but realize the hidden pit-falls. God knew all along about this, and asked us to be careful. Will we take heed?

Be accountable to someone, not a “lone wolf”. Be relational, not independent. Be a unique and individual thinker, not another robot. Be efficient, but know how to rest.

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