A Spiritual Health Hazard: White Picket Fences and Two Car Garages

The author of Death by Suburb

Your article "Suburban Spirituality" was a cover story for CT. How did you expand that into a book?

The real question is how I turned a book into an article. InterVarsity Press originally gave me a contract in 1996. I had been thinking about this topic for some time. I had come from a rural culture, even though I went to Denver Seminary and served in a church there as a youth pastor. I was still living in almost a rural part of Denver.

I gave this book proposal to IVP and wrote the first three chapters, but after I started working on an MBA at DePaul, I stopped writing. In 2001 or 2002, I went back to IVP, sent the three chapters and added another chapter. 

I got back the raw comments from a senior marketing guy, and it was blistering. It was humiliating, actually. So I said to myself, I'm not going to write this book.

Then I pitched CT the article. In reworking those chapters, I realized that my whole perspective had changed from somebody who is kind of critical to someone who has been absorbed by the suburbs. I had started my business. I was absorbed trying to get things off the ground. My kids were in school.

I realized that there are these suburban toxins that affect you. I was struck by this when I realized my kid's education was not about learning but about winning.

I remember reading with my daughter. I would help out at school in the afternoons. You would take kids out of class and read. I pulled my daughter out first. I read with her, and I thought, She's so advanced for her age. I'm so proud of her.

The very next student that came out was reading at a fourth grade level. I realized where my child was in relation to someone else's child. I could sense the emotion in me when I thought, This kid is better than mine. ...

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