“Ruralpolitans:” When Yuppies Turn Farmer
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Briefcase. Notebook computer. Power tie. Pitchfork.
This could well be the wardrobe of a growing group of Americans casually referred to as “ruralpolitans,” folks who are increasingly abandoning city life for the quiet of the country.
In the wake of recent economic downturns, “ruralpolitanism” represents the new trend for younger couples to gravitate toward country and farm living.
The reasons are simple.
- Less city, more fresh air. Suburbanites are eager to exchange the hectic cityscape for a peaceful landscape.
- Investment. In today’s economy, some feel the best place to keep your money, is in the ground itself. The open land of the country is a great place to do just that. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the 76 million-strong baby boomers eyeing retirement represent the largest ‘Ruralpolitan’ segment, they’re being joined by a growing contingent of 20-to-early-40-somethings freshly imprinted by this recession’s pain.”
- Green thinking, green thumb. The more adventurous will actually try farming in order to raise their own organically grown produce.
According to a recent article, rural real estate brokers are reporting that about 15% – one out of seven – of their clients are in their 20s and 30s. What’s more, some research is suggesting that in the next 10 years, the rural population of those aged 55 and older will increase by nearly a third.
Though not exactly the same phenomenon, even in my own backyard, I see new families moving into rurally-located developments while commuting to jobs in the city.
IMPLICATIONS FOR LIFE, COMMUNITY AND THE CHURCH
In many ways the ruralpolitan movement may be self-regulating; if solitude is part of the appeal then this appeal diminishes as more families move into the neighborhood.
Still, this dramatic increase does raise some interesting questions.
Those who live in the country yet maintain city jobs may soon find themselves divided between their home and work life, and long commutes can quickly take their toll on the individual and their family.
Additionally, this type of lifestyle presents at least the potential for fragmentary community, where work, home and church can be located in radically different places. Let me explain by giving two distinct scenarios:
- The commuter attends church near their office. This means that they live apart from their church community.
- The commuter attends church near their home. This may create the impression that the workplace is in some way removed from the realm of faith, and certainly limits the ability of the church family to make an impact on the city where one works.
It was Alfred Tennyson who said, “I am a part of all I have met.”
We are a part of one another. We cannot avoid that. A point that Randy Frazee points out in his book, The Connecting Church, is that community demands proximity. Frazee recommends that one’s home, work and church be in the same geographic proximity to one another, so that one can most fully integrate these spheres of one’s life into a whole.
I will call this “topological community,” (from the Greek topos, meaning “place”) as we must not ignore the impact of geography on our ability to interact with one another.
Which means that abandoning our cities may not be the wisest route. In Jeremiah 29, there are a group of people reluctant to enter the pagan world of Babylon for fear of becoming entangled in the vices of a pagan culture. But God commands them not to retreat, but to enter into this world for His redemptive purpose:
Jeremiah 29:4-7 4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
I am hardly suggesting that the city is the only place that matters. What I argue is to be mindful of your own topological community. Where do you live? Where do you work? With whom do you associate? Where do you attend church? If the distance between these elements of your life is so great that it inhibits your ability for interaction, your topological community may need re-evaluating.
Some general suggestions:
- Shorten your commute. It saves time, gas, and it keeps you in proximity to your occupational community.
- Attend church near your home. I don’t mean choose church solely based on geographic distance, but make an effort to attend a church that allows your faith community to get to know your home and work life.
- Get involved in local stuff. And by “stuff” I mean…anything and everything. Practice real presence in local restaurants, libraries and charity events. Get to know the heartbeat of the places around you, so that you may be a more effective missionary to those around you. For those with children, this may mean assisting them in their involvement in school or local programs so that you can effectively disciple your children to be missionaries in their own context.
SALT AND LIGHT
Jesus calls us to be both “the salt and light” to this world. Author Mike Metzger says:
“Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold both truths in tension, you invariably become useless and separated from the world God loves. For example, if you only practice purity apart from proximity to culture, you inevitably become pietistic, separatistic and conceited. If you live in close proximity to the culture without also living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from fallen culture and useless in God’s kingdom.”
Where to begin?
It starts just outside your door.
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.