rediscovering christianity's forgotten, organic ways amidst the modern industrial religious machine

Spiritual Community – No Car Required

Do you remember the outrage that erupted around the world when churches began to be built in a way that logistically required their members to own cars to participate? No? Neither do I.

But this one transition made numerous restorations impossible and it’s time to think again (or maybe for the first time) about what this decision did and is doing to Christian community.

Many sociologists have noted that, during the 20th Century, when communities were built around the needs of the car instead human beings, community was transformed forever. Before the car, people lived in small self-sufficient neighborhoods (both in cities and villages) because all the necessities of life had to be within walking distance. But with the coming of the car it made everything within 15 minute driving distances convenient. Basically everything was made more convenient. Everything that is except living in community.

So when the car came along cities zoned special places for living and other places for commercial use. Now, even if you were to buy 20 acres it would be illegal for you design the community around human needs with homes, businesses and places of worship all mixed together. The only way you can live in a place designed around human flourishing instead of parking is to move to a place designed before 1920. And this may sound extreme but I think every believer who wants to live a holistic Christian life should seriously consider the consequences of not doing this.

Why? Because the following things are so logistically impractical, they never become a regular part of the spiritual life of any parking lot centered community –

  • A daily prayer gathering
  • Regular sharing in meals
  • Shared child-care
  • Shared schooling
  • Spontaneous gathering
  • Bumping into others regularly
  • Depending on small businesses owned by community members
  • Immediate prayer together over urgent matters
  • Lots more

So you might read that list and think you can get all the spiritual sustenance you need on a weekly or biweekly basis by driving to your favorite purveyor of spiritual programming, but please consider what would happen to your walk and to the Christian community if there was a dailyness about it.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Disobeying this direct command and the resulting sin is the real legacy of car-based spiritual community. We won’t drive to a spiritual community daily and so we become increasingly isolated, get hardened by sin and become more like the world. Often the only way our faith can survive in this isolated state is to meld with and becomes some strange hybrid of Christianity and popular American culture. Are we ready to begin accepting the possibility that deep, holistic, regular community may need to come with the tag “no car required”?

(Watch this video! We need to understand the immense impact community design has on our culture.)

New Urbanism is one movement attempting to counteract the endless suburban spawl