Friday, January 8, 2010

City of Man

I recently read a Newsweek article titled “Red Mind, Blue Mind” which makes the case that personality and other psychological factors influence political ideology. The article attempts to explain why people take the positions they do on issues such as health care reform and global warming as a result of personality factors such as openness to new experiences and emotional stability.

The article brought to mind for me the differences in the cultural divide between rural regions and the cities. This divide is illustrated in the maps showing which counties voted Democrat or Republican in the last presidential election. Why is it that cities are a hot bed for liberals and the rural regions the domain of conservatives?

Cities bring people together to achieve great things. They are centers for culture, trade and usually provide more opportunities for jobs than is possible in rural areas. The critical mass cities provide enable people to be more anonymous yet be associated with something greater than themselves.

Cities are effectively monuments to the achievements of mankind. New York City is the epitome of what all that cities aspire to be. With buildings and pavement everywhere, Central Park is an accommodation to nature and an exception to what NYC is all about. In such a city, it is normal to be surrounded by the creations of men and thus easier to not even consider the creation of God.

In the country, people are much more aware that mankind’s role in creation is insignificant and dependant on God. When you are surrounded by things only God could create, it is much easier to remember that He created us as well. And rural jobs usually make it more clear that one’s livelihood is dependant to God’s help than a city job “working for the man.”

Babylon was the first classic City of Man. Genesis 11:1-9 tells us what happened with this first big city mankind built… “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4, NKJ). God had to intervene there because the people were thwarting His will for mankind to populate the whole earth and their collective achievements were driving people from a relationship with Him.

At Babel, God limited the degree to which mankind could pursue collective efforts as an alternative to working with Him by forcing them to speak to each other in multiple languages. After Babel, people could only easily associate with those who spoke their language so the resulting parted ways with each other. This is why we have racial differences today, because certain dominant genes emerged among the various gene-pool subsets of people who inter-bred.

Today, the world is hard at work undoing the Babel effect. English has become the universal second language for the world since it has been established as the common language of commerce, technology, culture, and communications via the Internet. Cities are the centers for people coming together to do great things with no thought for God. So naturally it is the people in metropolitan areas who tend to be the most aligned with a world view that has no need for God.

People are drawn to cities for good reason. But we shouldn’t confuse what we long for with the weak substitute mankind builds in this world. Our Creator has made it a part of our psyche to long for the City of God. Revelation Chapter 21 describes the New Jerusalem that God is building as our eternal home. It is the city where God will reside with us and where God will fulfill all our desires that can not be satisfied in this world.

I agree with the Newsweek article that there definitely are different personality and psychological factors associated with political ideology. But is this a cause or an effect? I think a bigger factor is a person’s worldview based on how they regard the God of the Bible. Fortunately, a person’s world view can change from finding their salvation in the City of Man to the City of God.

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