Let’s be brief: Urban America is running the show. Said another way, the suburbs and the exurbs, inhabited by a diminishing conservative activist base, cannot govern the American people because the people do not know who they are, and what they know of them is shaped by a hostile media. They have no one to blame but themselves.
The differences in America are not quite as simple as the city class versus the country class. Christendom has retreated from society and ceded the cities to a self-interested and incompetent activist class. One hesitates to refer to the leftist intellectuals who have taken over the cities as “elites.” That would imply that they are deserving of their enhanced status due to superior merit rather than to superior politicking. Many positions taken by Americans are consciously left-wing; they are, in fact, the default position as many Americans with alternative points of view have become cultural hermits.
Christianity cannot form the organizing principle of a community when Christians abandon the city center.
The Christian phrase “light under a bushel” comes to mind. This is beyond politics. It is about caring and showing that you are a part of the community. When any group of people withdraws from the cultural center of a community, it loses the esteem of the community.
While Christians led the great cultural and technological movements of the 18th and 19th centuries, they were noticeably absent from the rapid digitization of society in last generation. When one thinks of conservative celebrity, it is usually related to talk radio or talking heads. There’s not a Steve Jobs in the bunch. There’s also clearly a retreat of churchmen from the arts.
Do the cities naturally belong to the urban left? Not necessarily. The word pagan was used to contrast the rural population of the Roman Empire, which clung to the polytheistic cults of the Hellenic world, with the Christians of the empire, who predominated in the cities. The pagans were considered backward rustics. Looking back at those times, one may wonder if Christians have become the 21st century’s pagans. It is easy for conservatives to detect something sinister in this outcome, but that is pushing it. In fairness to the left, it is easy to capture something when your opponent runs away.
If Christians want to be relevant in America, they have to treat the concerns of urban America with the seriousness they deserve. Christian charity is a good place to start. Surely we can all agree that the cities and the urban poor in particular could use more of it. It’s time to go downtown.