Welcome to Everywhere

Coby Lefkowitz wrote an interesting essay for Medium, asking “why everywhere looks the same.” He documents the way modern housing developments have a particular homogeneity to them. He writes that this cut-and-paste method of building means you can see pretty similar apartment blocks in Tampa or in Fargo.

Lefkowitz summarizes the reasons for the trend of recycling building designs all over the country. He explains that building codes have been transcribed from one municipality to another, as the difficulty of hammering out a policy unique to your locale is more difficult. Thus national and international building codes influence all new developments.

The zoning of land means that there are less places to build and it is often well-funded developers that are best placed to buy and build. Lefkowitz argues that out-of-town investors have little incentive to create something which takes account of the climate, culture, or traditions of the places they build in.

It wasn’t always like this and Lefkowitz hopes to see a return to the olden days. “Before the rise of zoning and consolidation of development, the country was full of special places with wonderful vernacular architecture. These were cities and towns built by many hands. Cities and towns that aged gracefully through generations of stewards iteratively building from the foundations of their predecessors.” Expressed that way, it is understandable that Lefkowitz links the rise of “placeless” places to loneliness and a feeling of dislocation. 

Here we see more ways for Mad Christians to stay weird. While we know that one day, it will all be rolled up as a scroll, we can joyfully seek the good of the place we are in. We can build things to last, even while we look forward to another city who’s builder and maker is God. 

We may not be in a position to affect change on a huge scale, but there are ways to make our communities more like a “place”, practicing hospitality and telling people “He is risen, you are paid for, he won’t be long now.” 

Modern Lies: Chronological Order

“If something is in order, it is better.” 

This is an assumption you will have difficulty parting ways with. It is drilled into us to believe wholeheartedly that chronological order is “more true.”

An example plays out like this: St. John has Jesus cleansing the temple early in his public life, and the synoptic writers have him cleansing it late. The best the last two centuries of Christianity can do with this “perceived inconsistency” is to hem, hah, fight, and muster until we have drawn up battle lines. One side insists that Jesus cleansed the temple twice. The other that the Bible is riddled with errors yet still filled with great metaphorical truths.

Behold, and bow to your lord and savior Chronos! It appears impossible for the modern mind to even consider the option that the “inconsistency” only exists in our heads because of the assumption that chronological order is a primary truth.

It’s still taught in dusty corners that the ancients actually didn’t give a hoot about historical timing when recounting events for posterity. What we would assert to be “lying” they would say is “highlighting the important parts.” If you find yourself naturally disagreeing with “their” take, that is because this assumption that “in chronological order” means “more true” is hard to get away from.

The resulting worldview lives its modern life assuming that anything less than perfectly chronological is therefore “less than true.” After long reflection, I must say that this seems to me to reflect a perilous abandonment of the holy fear of God.Long before the modern “we swear we’re not religious!” “deists” started moralizing so loudly that the rest of the world should put great hope in the utopian capacity of their officially “godless” thinking, nations were trying not to fall, people were trying not to die, and God (or the gods) seemed like the evident, obvious answer.“

But now, things have changed.” That’s the “new” pitch.

In this, “modernism” is not a thesis, but an antithesis. It is not revelation, but an attempt at ultimate alpha privation. It does not add. It takes away, and then has the audacity to call itself a progressive “evolution.”Christianity does not need to reject this. Modernism postures itself as the rejection of Christianity (i.e. the non-necessity of specifics regarding your answer to the question, “Who, after all, is Jesus?”). Christianity need only remember our moorings, and not be dissuaded by all the bluster and hocus pocus. We need only bide our time, watching and expecting the modern experiment to eat itself to death.“But now, things have changed,” promises the freedom of new hope, but in the end it is the birth of endless equivocation, leading only to deeper and deeper toilet bowls of skeptical doubt, rage and despair. “In order” is a matter of perspective, and this can be of great value. But “more true” means “it never really was true to begin with,” and that will not do you any good in the long run.

Reliable truth is never in part, but in whole. Before long, every attempt to become “more true” with partial truths only descends into a hopelessly half-true hall of mirrors in which all your efforts are also the source of your greatest fears, regrets and doubts.

I do not deny alpha privation. I only deny its superiority to revelation. Doubt comes by questioning. Certainty comes by hearing.

Hear about Jesus more.

He is risen. Alleluia to it.

Till angel cry and trumpet sound,
Jonathan Fisk