Architecture + Morality

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Following a link to a critical article about Glenn Beck, I came across a blog called Architecture + Morality. The blog's tagline: "Musings on Architecture, Urbanism, Politics, Economics and Religion." The two co-bloggers are "relieved debtor" -- a Lutheran pastor -- and "corbusier" -- an architect, both based in the DFW metro area.

The mix of topics is fascinating to me, and the directness and depth of thought represented by each entry makes for satisfying reading. Here are a few of their recent entries:

Distillation in Desert Climate: Some observations about Albuquerque and the impact of climate on the built environment.

Are House Churches the Future of American Protestantism? The entry begins, "If you can get everything you spiritually need from a small group, why would you ever attend an established congregation?" But then this question is asked and answered, "So if house churches solve so many problems, why were large congregations ever allowed to exist in the first place?"

Glenn Beck: An Ego in Search of a Message: "Not only does he presume to be a political expert, he is now some sort of preacher of an ambiguous gospel. And why has he adopted this new religious tone?"

"Imagine": Theme Song for the Morally Vague: "The song really is an imagining of a world without human beings that are what they are. Why don't we instead work with the problems of man and aim to fix them? I suppose a song that offered that proposition would not be nearly as appreciated."

Designing for the Apocalypse: why many architects love a crisis: "The issue's inherent demand for greater control over the environment in the hands of an enlightened elite complements well with architects' own (and as yet, unrealized) ambitions of becoming the major shapers of the built environment. Idealistic architects ultimately want to transcend the rough-and-tumble, at times crass, reality of the free market, and if the global warming issue makes this possible they will quickly jump on the bandwagon." This is a sweeping piece that covers the history, from Vitruvius to the present, of what is an architect's mission.

Why Conservatism is So Counterintuitive and Ideologues are Lazy, Part 2

Why do people relinquish control over their own money, their own property, or even their own way of life? The only answer that makes sense to me is that when conservatism is explained in policy terms, when its shortcomings are highlighted, a bleak picture of it can be, and is, painted. A system without the proper controls, a system with loopholes, a system that leaves the most vulnerable without guarantees...these are the results of the free market. To support such a system, then, could hardly be considered moral. Every time something goes wrong in a free society, the lack of central control is an easy explanation, even if inaccurate. It's an easy solution to a complex problem. It's intuitive, even if false.

People need to know, it seems, that someone is at the switch. Someone needs to be in charge of providing housing, someone needs to be in charge of food, someone needs to be in charge of jobs and healthcare. And when the natural business cycle (and/or government regulation) results in high prices or inavailability, the market is the scapegoat. There aren't enough controls and we need someone who can guarantee me what I need. That need for control is so intuitive, its practically biological. So when conservatism refuses to answer the question of who will provide food/shelter/healthcare/etc. with anything more than a shrug, it is considered morally delinquent. In truth, it trusts that someone will provide the service needed. That service may be provided imperfectly, but it always does so more perfectly than a central planner.

The most recent entry is about a music video from Tulsa's own Church on the Move, called "Dad Life," and what it says about the megachurch movement.

... the celebration and appreciation of the middle class lifestyle has to be one of the primary reasons the megachurch appeals to suburban middle class.

They should think twice about this approach. The entire gospel is on the line when this kind of pandering takes place in the Church. It delegitimizes those of us that hold fast to transcendent traditions and it forces the church into a marketplace it has no business being in. It openly creates competition between congregations because they take credit for being the Church when they are not.

Perhaps nothing epitomizes this more than the above viral video. The video is a simple celebration of suburban fatherhood, seen by about 5 million people on YouTube and a product of the Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. I can relate to it. I have a daughter. I have an SUV. I spent lots of time doing yardwork. I don't buy gas station sunglasses, however; I find the far better deal is the dollar store.

But what is missing? The gospel! There is no mention of God, Jesus, the cross, or even a shameless plug for their own congregation. (Isn't Sunday worship, even at a megachurch, part of "the dad life"? I guess not.) Why should this video kick off a sermon series at a church? Wouldn't it be more appropriate at a PTA meeting or sports team parents get together?

The video and the blogger's comments bring to mind why (20 years ago) we left a non-denominational Bible church that seemed too focused on the lifestyles of the upwardly mobile middle class and went searching for (and found) a church focused on sound doctrine, missionary outreach (in Tulsa and abroad), and God-centered worship.

Architecture + Morality is not often updated, but every entry is worth pondering.

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2 Comments

corbusier said:

Thanks for your considerate and kind words about our blog! I'm glad you noticed our efforts in trying to present a deep discussion about all sorts of topics, even as we find it increasingly difficult to find time to write in our very busy lives. If you continue to browse even further back in our postings, you will find a series of audio podcasts that you may find interesting. There's five years' worth of content on the blog, so I encourage your readers to explore A+M.

Tasha said:

I especially appreciate this quote:

"It delegitimizes those of us that hold fast to transcendent traditions and it forces the church into a marketplace it has no business being in."

This was our main complaint as my husband and I searched for a church here in town for nearly five years. I grew up largely unchurched, and my husband came from a deeply rooted Southern Baptist tradition, and though we both felt that finding and joining a church was important, we always had trouble telling whether we'd just been to a worship service, to a used car dealership or to a headliner concert when we attended services at mega-churches.

I understand why these churches feel like they need to be in the marketing and branding and entertainment rat races. But I wish we could find more appropriate, soul-relevant, personal ways to appeal to today's church-goers, both current and potential, and ditch the flashing lights, million-dollar sound systems and smoke machines.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 4, 2010 11:46 PM.

Higher re-education: OSU sponsors liberal proselytizing on sexual morality was the previous entry in this blog.

John Eagleton for District Judge is the next entry in this blog.

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