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Why Christians Can Raise Kids Anywhere: A Response to Kathy Keller

Why Christians Can Raise Kids Anywhere: A Response to Kathy Keller

Christ calls us not to a particular location but to a particular way of life.

Kathy Keller, writing recently for the City project, is right to remind Christians that it's possible to raise creative, compassionate, confident, and faithful children in cities. I get it: Christians, like many other white Americans, have long fled cities to get away from immigrants and poor people; that was much the impetus behind the Long Island suburbs, where I lived in my high-school years. But city living isn't for every Christian—and if my family's story is any testimony, Christians can learn to engage the world and contribute meaningfully to culture just about anywhere.

My parents, my grandparents, and I were all born and spent our childhoods in New York City; my great-grandparents were immigrants. They were factory workers, horse trainers, personal chefs, nannies, maids, cops. My parents were free to roam the city streets and take the subway; they had friends of every ethnicity, religion, and social class. I grew up measuring the length of things in city blocks, visiting city museums, and taking public transportation. Since high school, I've lived in Philadelphia and Chicago, a town of 200 people in rural California, a small East Coast village, and two very different European university towns.

Of all these places, the place I recommend you raise your kids is—anywhere you are. I'm not sure the place is the point at all.

Take my brother-in-law, Paul, who grew up in rural California and Montana, a state whose population only recently topped 1 million. He and his brother (my husband) built forts and tree houses and learned to hunt, fish, hike, and backpack in rugged conditions, ride horses, chop wood, and generally work very hard.

Maybe they didn't take in a lot of theater or opera or visit many art museums, but if culture is what humans make of the world, you better believe they grew up with a strong sense of their own potential and strength as culture makers. Today they can build houses from scratch, grow food, and repair just about anything. (Paul even taught himself to knit so he could teach his daughter, who wanted to learn.) They stop to help neighbors. And they have that elusive quality of being thoroughly comfortable in their own skin in almost any setting. My husband has a Ph.D. from a top European university; we've lived everywhere from a sketchy studio in Rogers Park, Chicago, to the "home of golf," St. Andrews, Scotland.


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Displaying 1–5 of 31 comments


April 23, 2012  12:50pm

I think it errs on the side of gimmicky to title Kathy's article as such, and then publish a response against it, as if there is a conflict or debate. It's a poor framing of Kathy's article, and her intention behind it, which to me comes through clearly in the article.

Rhys Scott

March 28, 2012  4:25pm

Thanks for your response, Rachel. You commented by tweet that the point in your article is that anywhere we live is good for mission, and that being in a city is not necessary for this. While I agree with you, I think this is only half the truth. Mission involves people, and Christians should therefore consider living in cities, where large groups of unreached people are gathered together. Christians have tended to leave the cities to bring up families in recent decades, and this has significantly impacted the spread of the Gospel in western cities and therefore on prevailing culture. The New Testament shows us the inauguration of the church happened in Jerusalem, and spread to Samaria and Antioch. From there Paul went from city to city to city, to the extent that he claimed he had 'fully proclaimed the gospel' across Asia. While my wife and I might naturally prefer to live in the country, our conviction that we need to see churches planted in cities has shaped our life decisions.


March 27, 2012  1:53pm

I am grateful for this article. And even more so for Kathy Keller's. God has called my family, with three small children, to a city of 5 million in Russia. Kathy's article make my heart glad, with the affirmation that is very lacking for most of us who are called away from the suburban American life into something much denser. When I read Kathy's article, I had no sense of her trying to tell people they were doing something wrong to not live in the city. Rather, it was an encouragement to me who has been called to something different. Thank you, Katelyn Beaty, for your comment (#3) that is so refreshing to hear. Perhaps the title was the reason so many people reacted angrily to Kathy's article. And thank you to the whole This is Our City team for so many articles about what God is doing in and among city-dwellers.

Tim L

March 27, 2012  1:24am

Living here in a poor neighborhood (certainly not among the poorest) of Delhi with my wife and children and grandchildren, it seems that a missing factor in these discussions may be that we are to live for Kingdom calling and purposes wherever we live. If we can pass on that legacy to our children and grandchildren, we will have done well.


March 26, 2012  10:55pm

As a country-boy gone city-dweller gone smallish town-dweller I have to say that I resonate with both articles. I think city-dwellers could stand to get out in the fresh air and experience God there. I also think country people could learn to appreciate the cultural diversity found in the larger cities. I now live in a city of about 50,000 people in Florida where diversity means that there are a lot of old white people and a lot of young white people. I miss my experiences in Chicago and DC where I could be surrounded by five or six different nationalities in a local coffee shop. I also miss my experiences in rural Virginia where I knew every person in my high school. Here I can be in the middle of the swamp in 10 minutes or making Meals on Wheels deliveries in 10 minutes the other direction...and I suspect someday if I move away I'll miss that too.


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