Over the next months Comment explores the meaning of the city—its social and architectural design, its politics, its arts, its relation to the church—and compares it to country and agriculture. Readers and writers alike may invest in this dialogue, and perhaps gain better understanding of the proper place of both city and country in human lives lived well.
Choosing space over place, and privacy over community, hampers a healthy public life. It's a condition driven by having too much in our private worlds. Where we live affects how we live. And consequently, how we live greatly affects who we and our children are. Decisions thought to amplify life often suck up our freedom and our energy to respond to the responsibilities of citizen, neighbour and fellow human being.
Is New Urbanism a pale facsimile of North America's paleo-urban communities in Toronto, New York City, Montreal, or elsewhere? Is New Urbanism merely "gentrification" by another name? Or, are New Urbanists recovering something lost when high-density, urban communities built on the grid with a tuck and milk stop on the corner were abandoned for gently curving crescents, sweeping lawns, and concrete pads leading to double garages of suburbia?
It took a fierce group of 1930s journalists to show the world a new standard for truth, and how much truth should matter in personal and public life. The New York intellectuals insisted, in their ideas and their business, on both the continuing quest for truth, and the importance of living in the light of that truth. Whether or not their beliefs—tinged by Marxism and Modernism—were right, it's the ferocity of the intellectuals that makes them significant—and charming.
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere . . . So go the lyrics of Fred Ebb and John Kander's anthem to "the city that never sleeps"—New York City. New Yorker Katherine Leary offers a wake-up call for Christians about how this city in shapes culture, and how Christians can shape the shaper.
In a world that is already too shocking by half, shock art seems all too trite. Makoto Fujimura asks how artists should make art in the city—particularly in a city like New York—after an event like 9/11? And, how does art connect city and country . . . if at all?
How can modern art—from advertising to architecture, painting to PR—be a language of healing insight, if Christian artists themselves cannot distinguish their art as Spirit-lit, collaborative, and patient?
Late, long-time U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil thought "all politics is local." David Koyzis doesn't think either urban or rural life is normative, but points to how cities could be nurtured to become more livable and sustainable over the long-term.
What have bus purchases, or garbage collection, or zoning laws, got to do with lofty principles like justice? Just give me a bit more efficiency and I'll go quietly. Issues of efficiency can't be neatly cordoned off from issues of distribution, of access, of sustainability, of opportunity, of security, and of voice. It's all about ordering the urban public realm justly, and it's more relevant than most people think.
The 2006 election may prove to be the beginning of a political realignment, making a decisive shift away from what the authors term the "pan-Canadian consensus," which has governed Canada since the 1960s. Ray Pennings and Michael Van Pelt propose a most interesting theory: revisiting "the very idea of a 'Canadian consensus' and 'Canadian values,' and asking whether there really is a homogeneous mainstream that represents, whether with a right or left emphasis, a clear path on which to govern."
In this issue, Comment explores the meaning of the city: its social and architectural design, its politics, its provision of a space for the arts, and its relation to the church. We look forward to the conversations that this exploration will provoke, and hope that the dialogue will help us understand better the proper place of both city and country in human lives lived well.