Guest / Limited Access /

From Thoreau's description of men who lead "lives of quiet desperation" to James Howard Kuntsler's recent castigation of our landscape as a "geography of nowhere" to critics such as Russell Kirk, John Lukacs, and Wendell Berry, dissidents have argued that the American suburban experiment is toxic to the human soul. Joining this tradition is David Goetz.

Raised on a windswept prairie of North Dakota—Goetz once thought he would take over his grandfather's farm only to be told that his grandfather would not "wish that on you"—Goetz ended up in Wheaton, by reputation that most evangelical of suburbs, and his wife's hometown. In his telling, suburban life revolves around competing for what Goetz calls "immortality symbols"—"the four-bedroom home with the Pottery Barn colors, the L.L. Bean underwear and outerwear, the fuel-guzzling truck, the purebred dog, the family pilgrimage to Disney World, and the athletic and scholarship-bedecked college-bound freshman."

For Goetz, the defining ethos of suburbia is catering to "the overindulged self" in an "environment of security, efficiency, and opportunities," all of which create a faux spirituality among Christians who live there. According to Goetz, their faith is really little more than busy avoidance of reality. The false image of the "good life" offered by the suburbs creates what Goetz calls a "bloated, tiny soul." Goetz's harsh judgment is tempered by his admission of his own acute sensitivity to what others think of him and his guilty joy in finally getting that SUV.

In the swamp with us, Goetz offers several spiritual disciplines to fight back—including solitude, repentance, commitment, rest, service, and friendship—all starting with "the simple admission ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Do It for the Children
Opposing same-sex marriage is actually the enlightened policy.
Recommended
Subscriber Access Only Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift'
Influential megachurch moves away from seeker-sensitive services.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickThere’s No Crying on Social Media!
There’s No Crying on Social Media!
Young adults are desperate not to let peers see any signs of weakness or failure.
Christianity Today
Grand Illusions
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.