You Live in an Urbanized World
You can run but you can’t hide. These are the words I used in my first Urban Current February,
2005. I told of sitting in an outdoor café in Kyrgyzstan with pounding beat accompanying the
rhythm and rhyme of 50 Cent, American rap star. The decibels took the whole intersection by
storm. Urbanization has taken the world by storm.
To the people who have fled cities as well as those who haven’t lived in a city, declaring they
never will, I have an announcement: “You Live In An Urbanized World!”
Cities represent the worst humanity has to offer is the protest of the anti-urban crowd. They
speak of the crime. They bemoan the corruption. They shake their heads at the jammed
expressways and the gridlocked intersections. They frown with disapproval at the poorly
performing schools. They “tsk tsk” over the gay political muscle centered in cities. “Dangerous,
dirty, and completely undesirable,” grimacing city-shunners say. Okay. Maybe that’s all true.
And, maybe there is even more bad stuff you don’t know about.
In America, billions have been spent trying to escape the city. Ironically, all over the world,
several billion people have risked everything to move to cities. Why? To these hopeful masses
the city represents opportunity, a better life, maybe a new life.
Cities also showcase people at their best and most noble. Cities are centers of technological
wonder, medical miracles, architectural splendor. Majestic and moving visual and performing
arts. Heart-stopping, crowd-pleasing sports, and some of the best educational institutions known
to man. There is much to ooh and ahh over.
In the city, everything is magnified, multiplied, and intensified – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Urban towers stretch into the sky. Streets run for miles. Our hospitals are bigger. Our school
systems larger. Budgets are ridiculous. Our jails are vast. Our attractions are more numerous.
Our problems and challenges innumerable. Our stuff is bigger. We have more of everything. We
tend to have more of everything in less space. Cities have more sinners per square inch, so cities
have more sin per square inch.
Urban centers are seas of humanity; centers of human activity, pursuits, experiences and yes, sin.
They are whirlpools of business, entertainment, media and politics. They are swimming pools
for the rich, famous, powerful and colorful. They are wading pools for the young, the hopeful,
the explorer and the experimenter. They are reflecting pools of academia, literature, art and
religion. They are cesspools of hubris, envy, greed, lust, hate and hurt . . . and did I mention,
more opportunity for sin.
Cities are incubators. Cities are amplifiers. Cities are distribution engines. What the city thinks
today, the rest of the world ponders tomorrow. What the city does has the rest of the world
reacting and interacting. What the city produces, the rest of the world consumes. Think President
Obama, Lady GaGa, Prince Harry, 50 Cent.
Come to find out, it’s not about geography. The city can be made to live within its limits.
However, its life, ideas, dynamic, and influence, cannot be contained. Here are a few random
headlines I pulled out of my file.
- The Myth of Rural Safety, Associated Press, January 26, 2000
- Chicago Gangs Find New Turf in Rural South. Chicago Tribune, June 1, 2004
- UNDER THE SUN – A NEW WAVE OF IMMIGRANTS IS TRANSFORMING
- COMMUNITIES NOWHERE NEAR THE BORDER. U.S. News & World
- Report, June 20, 2005
- Hip Hop Nation After 20 years – How It’s Changed America. Time, Feb. 8, 1999
A little over half the world lives in cities, the other half lives under their influence.
Just because you don’t live in Manhattan doesn’t mean you don’t deal with urbanization on a
Urbanization shows up in a variety of ways outside city limits. Everything is magnified,
multiplied, & intensified with a few more trees and a little more grass, . . . maybe with a little
less of political corruption. Witness the density of many suburban regions with accompanying
traffic jams. See the toxic clouds of porn and gambling seeping from the cities, contaminating
the land. The welfare state and the entitlement mentality, handcrafted and finely tuned in
center cities, now burdens the whole country. Homosexual political clout began in cities. Now
everybody everywhere contends with it. The media, centered in cities, pumps out its agenda-
driven flow, coloring and influencing thought and action coast-to-coast. AIDS clinics in rural
Mississippi. I have relatives living in small towns among corn fields whose lives are as harried
as any urbanite.
Jesus’ command to His disciples was never “run”. It was always “go”. To the people still trying
to escape “the city” and urbanization, I simply beckon with Jesus’ words: “follow Me.” Just as
surely as God prepared the 1st century world for evangelism, He has prepared the 21st century
world. How does God expect us to marshal and maximize the opportunities urbanization affords?
You may not live in a city – you do live in an urbanized world.
Charles W. Lyons, Senior Pastor
Armitage Baptist Church
2451 N. Kedzie Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60647