Over the weekend, my husband and I took a quick trip to Chattanooga in celebration of our 17th wedding anniversary! I highly recommend a visit to the city especially if you came from California. We loved the hustle and bustle and were so impressed by the beautiful architecture of the historic Chattanooga train station. (My husband was especially thankful there wasn’t urine all over the place as was our experience in so many of the major cities we visited in California.)
Someone recently commented that Chattanooga is a “cleaned up Portland.” I can say with certainty, it’s not just cleaned up in the literal sense (meaning less human urine), it’s cleaned up in a moral sense, especially when it comes to the family. I can’t tell you how many husbands and wives we saw – some on date nights, some out with their kids, many with their grandkids! Family is big in Tennessee and that’s one of the many reasons we love it here. But, it does seem in Chattanooga there is a progressive push and it got me thinking about the why and how behind the ways progressivism destroys.
Chattanooga, like many places surrounded by values consistent with Christianity, has been protected by so much destruction. Ideas like: the nuclear family is important or history matters or hard work is a gift, are things that beautify a place. These ideas promote human flourishing because their results are faithfulness, orderliness and excellence.
The fruit of progressivism is quite different. Chaos, confusion and trauma are the natural results when we idolize things like human emotion over time tested values. Children choosing their own gender, no fault divorce, incentivizing fatherlessness…these things hurt a city.
I haven’t been married nearly as long as many couples (especially couples out here in Tennessee!) but I have learned a few things over our 17 years. Marriage, like a bustling city, will constantly be challenged both from within and without. These three simple truths can help stabilize a couple to last over the long haul and, I believe, these same principles can secure a city from the dangers of progressivism.
Progressivism loves to pretend there are no things which are sacred. Every little nook and cranny of culture from personal expression to familial relationships is up for grabs in a progressive’s view. Everything should be questioned. Everything should be rewritten and undone and, many times, abandoned entirely. And this may be true, for some things. But, a thinking person does what G.K. Chesterton recommended…
There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”GK Chesterton, The Thing
Honoring things that should be honored is vital both to the health of a marriage and a city. Choosing not to honor what should be honored is a decision to destroy.
2. Facts Over Feelings
How many families and cities have been destroyed because someone elevated their feelings over facts? Recently, I heard a comedian say he had divorced his wife and afterward realized he was just “hangry”. A bit of an overgeneralization I’m sure, but we can see how facts – like staying married to the mother of his two sweet children, is better for him, his children and society at large than abandoning his wife because of a fleeting emotion.
(By the way, if you’re feeling hangry, I highly recommend Easy Bistro & Bar in Chattanooga! Best service, delicious food…)
3. Personal Responsibility & Excellence
The biblical admonition to remove the log in our own eye before attempting to remove the speck in our brother’s is helpful not only to the health of a marriage but also to the health of a city. Progressivism is always looking outside. What else can we destroy? What else can we call into question? But, faithfulness looks at what God has set right before us. How can I create true progress right here, in this city, in this home, in this marriage?
The idea is not “What can I upend entirely?” but rather “What can I leave better than I found?”
One of the things we are continually impressed by in Tennessee is the cleanliness and pride of ownership we see wherever we go. Rock City Gardens in Lookout Mountain is the perfect example. Beautiful trail with a beautiful story of two missionaries. So peaceful and inspiring. I highly recommend!
Chattanooga is indeed a “cleaned up Portland” and honestly, I pray it stays that way. I loved the big city feel and being able to walk everywhere and sip a coffee without worrying if I was safe. But, there’s a reason my husband and I were able to sip and chat as we meandered through the streets. There are ideas that have protected this space and kept it clean and safe in more ways than one. True progress would be to look at what those ideas are and get to work spreading them in our own hearts and in whatever cities God has us planted in right now.