Because I am the master of shameless self-promotion, I have no qualms about sharing with you my latest post over at Life in Mordor, the blog of Mike F. where I sometimes appear as a guest contributor. This piece is entitled “Tolkien, Williams, and Opposite Views of the City“.
I have recently been exposed to the work of Charles Williams. Williams was a contemporary of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis at Oxford, though he never finished school there. Tolkien did not know him well, and lamented the influence he would have on Lewis.
If you read The Lord of the Rings, you can pick up on the fact that Tolkien seemed to have a strong distrust of technology and urbanization. Cities were at best a necessary evil (Minas Tirith), and at worst an incarnation of the demonic (Minas Morgul).
Williams had an opposite view of things. To him, the city has a special place in God’s economy. Living in cities is the cause of humanity’s best impulses (this is where we get our word “civilization”; to Williams the only alternatives to civilization are savagery and barbarism). Christian discipleship is a community endeavor and city life forces upon us the realization that we live in community, whether we like it or not. In the city human energies are collected and submitted to the process of exchange–our best work in exchange for the best work of others.