Archives for posts with tag: Urban Millennium

I know that I’m supposed to, I know that I want to, but treatment of the Urban Millennium I promised a few weeks ago will need to wait.  Maybe I’ll get to it this New Year’s Day weekend.  But here’s something that at least obliquely addresses Urban Millennium.

Last month the New York Times featured Emily Badger’s article on the American rural vote in our recent election.  You will also find interesting bits such as “in 1920, for the first time, the Census Bureau counted more people living in urbanized America than in the countryside. This hasn’t been a rural nation ever since.”  This gives an idea of what is meant by the Urban Millennium.

There’s more great bits of information about urbanized America in the context of what some see as a frustrating election cycle that minimized voting power of urban Americans.  Check it out.

populous states subsidize less populous ones, which receive more resources than the tax dollars they send to Washington”


my view on Fairbanks one rainy Chicago day a few years ago


Yesterday morning several Salvation Army leaders gathered in the first floor front room of 2753 Arsenal.  For Gail and me, that’s a two minute walk from our home.  For others it meant a few hours of driving from Peoria, Chicago, Kansas City.

Urbana Temple Houses

This is vintage (2009).  The first promo material put together by Steve Diaz and John Aho.  Temple Houses have grown and developed but it all started with this.

We came together to share about the experience of life together in the missional community we call Temple Houses.  TH is one part of the Urban Mission Center based in St Louis.  The Center prepares missional leaders for the Urban Millennium.  This takes place in opportunities for formation here in our St Louis Benton Park West neighborhood.  Gail and Sara are also part of a team developing the distance-learning component for Olivet Nazarene University‘s urban ministry program.

Yesterday inaugurated the Center’s first innovators forum.  We expected five or six individuals.  17 came together for six hours of presentation and discussion.

With coffee and John’s Donuts Sara started with a virtual tour of Benton Park West neighborhood. She used the six postures for missional living, a model Jon Huckins has taught us and found in his book Thin Places.  Then, questions about the nuts and bolts of creating and sustaining our particular Temple House community.  Sara did a fine job of leading us through the day, and feeding us; she makes a great chili.

Gail and I walked home and talked.  What next?  We agreed that it will be seen in Peoria, Chicago, Kansas City and other cities as God’s people find innovative ways to join His mission in this amazing Urban Millennium.

So, what is the Urban Millennium?

“Now, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Beijing the center of a new supercity of 130 million people.”

The New York Times reports on the proposed Jing-Jin-Ji.  It’s population of six times the size of New York City will cover an area the size of Kansas.

imageChina has been pushing an aggressive agenda of massing its people into new urban configurations.  But as it pushes its primarily rural peasant population to move into cities, it’s created upheaval.


Move, change, upheaval.  Is this unique?  Not entirely.  This brings to mind America’s urban story.  Our cities grew as 19th and early 20th century European immigrants arrived.  African-Americans moved northward to Chicago and Detroit when their factory workers went off to 20th century world wars.  Since the late 20th century gentrification has been changing the face of many neighborhoods.  Resulting in increasing diversity in the suburbs.

But unique to China is the formal, controlled and massive way it’s taking place.

Will Chinese economic-social goals be achieved in this forced-march?  Or will the cost to its humanity outweigh benefits to China’s business?

Do people tend to live in neighborhoods with those like themselves?


But we may not realize that this tendency creates other dynamics. For instance, the economic segregation of Americans.

The Washington Post reports on a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto showing that the wealthy increasingly “isolate and wall themselves off from the less well-to-do’ in America’s cities.  Which cities are at the top of this self isolation-by-income category?

The least economically segregated cities?

Here is the full article by Emily Badger on the work of Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander.

Florida and Mellander note one particular result of this urban economic segregation –

While there have always been affluent neighborhoods, gated enclaves, and fabled bastions of wealth like Newport, East Hampton, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, and Grosse Pointe, the people who cut the lawns, cooked and served the meals, and fixed the plumbing in their big houses used to live nearby—close enough to vote for the same councilors, judges, aldermen, and members of the board of education. That is less and less the case today.

There is a new distance being created between urban dwellers in our largest cities.  Not only physical but in the socio-political worlds.  It means less sharing.  It must also certainly mean a lessened sense of a common good.

What we are now seeing more and more in the Urban Millennium are urban dwellers “experiencing the very same city in very different ways.”

The Urban Millennium is characterized by dramatic changes in density,
diversity and wealth disparity.  And one indication that the UM has arrived
in these United States is seen in recent statistics from the National
Center for Education Statistics.

White students of non-Hispanic descent have for over a century accounted for the majority in public elementary schools.  This has changed.  Now non-white students comprise the majority.

Story from the Associated Press.

I am feeling like one of those squirrels running around here before the snow falls.  This morning I looked to my left as I ran on Argonne in Kirkwood.  Seven squirrels in one front yard.  That’s a lot of squirrels.

Running, but also because as I clean email tonight I am finding what I’ve saved.  Not acorns but articles.  Such as 5 Key Themes Emerging From the ‘New Science of Cities’, in The Atlantic’s Citylab of September 19.  What is recent research revealing about “the dynamic behavior of cities”?  The research is based on Jane Jacob‘s insights of over 50 years ago how understanding “the emerging sciences of ‘organized complexity'” could help urban planning.

Jane Jacobs

For instance, the wealth of a city grows from its ‘small change’:  when humans are able to connect in the most unassuming of encounters on sidewalks and other public spaces.  And cities underperform when people are excluded, isolated or restricted.

Worth the quick read.  Check it out.

I am riding northbound on I-55 to my next destination. Got some time on this Monday afternoon.

Last Friday official approval was given for the Urban Mission Center in St Louis. As it is with any process demanding careful planning and count-the-cost questions, it took time. But enough planning and answering has taken place. Gail now is excited.

Gail gives oversight for the UMC. Sara Johnson serves as UMC Director of Program and Recruitment. Gail, what’s your title?

She grinned. She’s not sure. Maybe Director of “find the money”. Gail’s driving. I’m riding. I-55 northbound.

September 5-6 will be the Design Days for the UMC. A group of design-type people (I get to be part of it) will gather in the Temple Corps building on Arsenal Street. Two presenters from Leadership Network, Alan Roxburgh and Craig Van Gelder, will lead us in two days of design.

The drive north today is remarkably comfortable. My window’s open. Upper 70s and dry air. Feels good. Summer in St Louis, where is thy humidity? Where is thy heat?

September may not be too hot, humid. It may be a good month to listen, talk, think. Design a center for urban mission. For Salvation Army people and others who want to be of use in this yet fresh Urban Millennium.


Here is Alan Ehrenhalt’s NY Times review of Charles Montgomery’s Happy City.

people have been shown to be happier when they live a connected life, establishing casual but regular relationships with the people they meet through simple residential proximity. In Montgomery’s opinion, casual friendship is a necessary corrective to the intensity of nuclear family life, and urban design choices are absolutely essential to it. ‘The power of scale and design to open or close the doors of sociability,’ he writes, ‘is undeniable.’ ”

“What you’re seeing in that moment,” he said in an interview last week, “is not a human being.”Sean O'Callaghan

This is the thing I’ve thought much about for several years.  But not quite in above quote’s context.

Sean O’Callaghan’s observation was made watching scenes of this month’s terrorist attack in a Nairobi mall.  Gunmen in the mall.  Shooting people.  But what they see, if Mr. O’Callaghan is correct, are not humans.  He shares this insight from his own experience as an Irish Republican Army gunman in the 1970s.  As a killer.

“A culture of authority and obedience that supplants individual moral responsibility with loyalty to a larger mission helps loosen the moral inhibition against murder, social psychologists say. So does a routinization of violence, as well as injustice or economic hardship that allows the killer to see himself as the true victim.”

Let me take a short leap here.

When I see drivers on crowded city roads during rush hour, I am not so certain that they are seeing humans so much as objects, and obstructions.

There.  I believe you are now seeing what I mean.

The idea I’ve been playing with is that technology creates distance, and that the result is a diminishing of others’ human identity.  Sure, technology can create closeness.   Social media.  Sure.

“But perhaps the most important ingredient is the dehumanization of the victims, said David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England and author of ‘Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others.'”


Technology has brought much benefit, and it isn’t going so far to say well-being, to humans and humanity.  But put a human in a tank on a WWII battlefield, peering through a slit or a periscope at figures scuttling across the land.  A young person seated at a control desk directing from a great distance a drone over a dark land far away.  A driver seated in an automobile surrounded by hundreds of other autos in which other drivers are obscured by the tinted glass.

It may be that the great challenge for humans in an increasingly urbanized world is distance.  The paradox is that as we more densely populate the places of this world, the great cities, that we find ourselves distanced via technology.  And in the case of the Kenyan terrorists, IRA of the 1970s, Germany of the 1930s?  Increasing degrees of efficient hatred have been brought about by technological advance.

This is a type of distance made possible by technology.  Perhaps even as reaction to increasing density.  My question:  how do we then serve in this world which God so loves?

One of the big theological concepts is that of reconciliation.  Things made right between others and persons brought together.  This theological impulse runs counter to hatred.

On the crowded city street during rush hour.  I need to change lanes.  Traffic is bumper to bumper and very slow.  I turn my head.  Make eye contact.  Smile.  A friendly wave.  I become human.  I merge.  Another wave of the hand.  Of gratitude.  I have become human.  And so has the other.

So then, how do we work reconciliation in this Urban Millennium?

urban future 4It wasn’t long ago that people were guessing an end to public libraries.  My observation:  not true.  I’ve seen beautiful, efficient new libraries where I’ve lived.  Arlington Heights.  Oak Park.  Farmington Hills.  Chicago, the exception.

Now there’s a new book I want to pick up.  Perhaps at a library in my six week old hometown, St Louis.  Perhaps I’ll need to again request a library to order it.

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times writes in an op-ed piece of Bruce Katz’ and Jennifer Bradley’s new book The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy”.urban future 2

Katz and Bradley say that the time has now come where local governments are the place to address challenges and opportunities, that federal and state governments are now essentially frozen because of “hyperpartisanship”.  Cities no longer are considered ‘children’ to the federal/state ‘adult’.  Cities now lead the way in “experimenting, taking risks, making hard choices.”

One exception is noted: Detroit.  Why?  “an extreme case … a perfect storm”.  Read more in I Want To Be A Mayor.

And check out the readers’ comments following Friedman’s column. As always NY Times readers offer up a range of educated perspectives.urban future 7

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