In American electoral politics, we take for granted that liberals will win in the cities and conservatives will win in the country with the suburbs up for grabs. However, this is increasingly an untenable position as inner suburbs have moved to the left over the past few decades. In the latter half of the 20th century, middle-class families fled the cities for the safety and stability of the suburbs, but this security is proving increasingly elusive. Liberals have come to dominate not just in the cities and inner suburbs, but American culture as a whole. As the many scandals and abuses of power in the Obama Administration have shown, the power of modern technology leaves nowhere to hide.The Victorians were hipsters before it was cool.
In recent years, cities have begun to see something of a rebirth. After decades of decay, once-vibrant neighborhoods are being repaired and revitalized. However, cities are dominated by liberal politicians and so the redevelopment is focused on liberal constituencies, which can only go so far. As cities evolve into trendy tech-savvy hipster paradises, they drive out middle-class families and workers who can’t afford the rising costs of gentrification and see little benefit from the ever-expanding selection of coffee shops, art galleries, “vintage” second-hand stores, and cooperative organic farmers’ markets. These things are not bad in themselves. Indeed, they are all wonderful examples of the American entrepreneurial spirit, but they do not offset the deplorable state of failing schools, high crime, and crumbling infrastructure.
More importantly, these amenities that make cities attractive to young people are mainly geared towards consumption, but in order to afford this exciting modern urban lifestyle, these “young creatives” need better-paying jobs than a dishwasher at the local gastropub. Many of them work in the technology industry, not just as software programmers, but in also marketing, sales, design, management, and administration. These jobs are a major component of the American economy and every city seeks to tout itself as the next big tech center, but the irony is that most of these jobs are located in suburban office parks surrounded by acres of asphalt. The technology industry is undoubtedly a boon to city coffers, but it is not going to save the American city.
At my urban parish, there are so many families who drive in from the suburbs for Mass and to participate in the seemingly endless variety of activities sponsored by various parish organizations. Every day of the week, the parish is always vibrant and full of life, but the neighborhood around it is full of crumbling brownfields and abandoned warehouses. These families could bring stability, prosperity, and (liberal mayors take note) higher tax revenues to this blighted neighborhood, but they need a compelling reason to leave the comfort and safety of the suburbs. Liberals and even some nominal conservatives loathe suburban sprawl, but if middle-class suburbanites are going to relocate to urban row houses and condos, they need to see clear incentives and benefits to this major life decision. Instead, they find hostility.Flevit Super Illam by Enrique Simonet, 1892
Liberals are sending the message loud and clear that faithful Christian middle-class families are not welcome. A city councilman in Chicago has said that businesses that support marriage as one man and one woman should not be allowed to operate in his city. Governor Cuomo of New York has said that people who oppose abortion are not welcome in his state. Most recently, in Silicon Valley and on Nancy Pelosi’s doorstep, the board of Mozilla has said that people who support marriage should not be able to earn a living in the technology industry. In the last case, it is darkly ironic that technology has enabled the spread of information which made the campaign against Brendan Eich possible. How many of the people who petitioned Mozilla to fire him used the web browser he helped create?
This coming Sunday marks the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. After hearing of his many miraculous deeds, the people of the city joyously celebrated his arrival singing hosannas and covering his path with palm branches—an ancient symbol of victory, peace, and eternal life and in Judaism a symbol associated with pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Before all this though, Jesus stood on a hill overlooking the city and wept for its destruction which was to come because its inhabitants would ultimately reject him. At least the people of Jerusalem first welcomed Jesus into the city before turning on him and demanding his crucifixion. Twenty centuries later here in America, urban-dwellers have slammed the gates of our cities in Christ’s face and have sent him away as a pariah and an outcast from the outset.
As Christians, we need to bring Jesus back into the city. Anti-Christian liberal dominance of cities is unhealthy for all of American society. The suburbs have provided only temporary safety from the persecutions that are to come if we stay on the present course. The public institutions of government bureaucracy, news media, academia, publishing, music, entertainment, and sports are all located in cities. By controlling our cities, liberals have overwhelming control in the shaping of public opinion and of our culture–and that culture is increasingly hostile towards Christians and will only grow worse if we do nothing.
If America is to have a future as the “City on a Hill” that was envisioned by some of the first settlers on these shores, we need to save our cities. Cities are the defining attribute of civilization itself. If we allow our cities to decline into decadence and depravity, then America is doomed to barbarism. God has always smiled on the American experiment in self-government and ordered liberty, but if we cast out God from our society, we invite a divine wrath which is just as terrible and powerful as the divine providence which we have enjoyed thus far.
It is a cliché to say that faithful Christians are now counter-cultural. We have known this for a while now, but the pace of events is accelerating. It is against our nature, but we must study and learn from the counter-cultural movements of the past. Our faith is deeply rooted in tradition and conservation of our spiritual and cultural patrimony, but the life of Jesus Christ is also timeless. We must remember that in the early centuries, Christianity was a radical and revolutionary movement. We have been persecuted before and suffered greatly, but we prevailed because ours is truly a message of love and of life. The time is not far off when we will have to make great sacrifices for our faith, but we must keep these things in mind so that we may once again triumphantly enter into the city with hosannas on our lips.