The Idols of the City: A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2014

I’ve long been interested in how our built environments, our cities, for example, reflect our deepest values and passions. You can see that clearly in a city like Madison, which was laid out as Wisconsin’s capital, with capitol square in the middle and streets radiating out from it. If you’re familiar with cities on the east coast—Boston, for example—you know that such planning isn’t always the case. In Europe, it’s interesting to see how order and power were imposed and projected on capital cities—Paris or Vienna, for example.
What do the cities of today say about our values? On the one hand, there are cities like Detroit, that have collapsed economically, demographically, and politically and have become laboratories for experiments in creating new ways for people to come together. On the other hand, there are cities like San Francisco where gentrification is running amok, with housing prices again going through the roof, and forcing lower income and working class people to relocate. Madison is closer to the latter than the former as we are seeing a boom in the construction of upscale apartments across the city but especially downtown. We’ve been learning about the consequences of such economic growth—increasing inequality, growing gaps between rich and poor, white and black. Continue reading