The inner city and its ministries continue to be a prime conversation starter in today’s theological circles. It is still far from certain whether the megacity is to be a place of constructive “anonymity, freedom, and opportunity” in the future; perhaps it will prove to be the place “where the action is” in a radically demonic and negative manner. There is still some reasonable doubt whether Christianity must, if it is to survive, broadly affirm the emerging norms in our secular and urban world.
The recent trend toward world-acceptance clearly seems to be a reaction against the earlier (and gloomy) stress upon the “alienated man in the asphalt jungle.” It may also be a reaction against certain strains in dialectical theology, with its motif of the ultimate weakness of mere human endeavor and its distrust of any long-range solution to social problems through programs of Christian action. In any case, the newer emphasis is upon identification, participation, and acceptance.
Certain questions emerge from the newer discussions of the city in such works as Gibson Winter’s New Creation as Metropolis and Harvey Cox’s The Secular City. These writers, especially Cox, view the freedom, anonymity, and multiplied opportunities that urban life affords as high on the scale of tomorrow’s values. Now, it may be that the one who has the money, the background, and the sophistication to enjoy these will find them exhilarating; but to the one who is excluded from participating in them, they may prove terrifying. Anonymity, for example, may be of some value to a certain type of person, but if anonymity is imposed by poverty or loneliness, it may lead to the gravest sort of anxiety.
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