Walls                                                December 2018

Over the centuries, there has been a profound shift in how cities, and the houses within them, have changed. Today the American Dream is built upon the value of a freestanding, independent structure called a single-family home. My house, on my lot, not touching anyone else’s house, is the ideal. In fact, the further it is from my neighbors, all the better.

If you go back to the time of Christ, the first house in the village may have looked like one of those single family homes but there were several disadvantages. First, it was an expensive way to build in a society where 90% of folks got everything they ate and everything they earned from subsistence farming. The walls were the difference.

Flash forward to the city of Rome around 78 AD with about 1 million people living there.  Their dependence on each other was critical. If one wanted to build, the construction began with a decision about which existing home’s exterior wall would be the starter wall of the new house or shop. Quite literally, the strength of the neighborhood and all its interconnected walls was built upon the quality of what had been built before. If the neighbor’s house was poorly built then the new house started less structurally sound as well. They also built up, depending on the strength of the house below to support what was constructed above. When Mark wrote about Jesus being the cornerstone, that was a very real and highly personal concept with which the dwellers of these interlocked buildings could identify.

Today we seek independent thought, personal freedom, and detachment from our neighbors.  That is unprecedented in human history. The pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde would have been astonished. The townhouse people of Dublin would see that as indefensible. Row houses in Baltimore would be subject to greater swings in temperature without their shared walls.

Of course more profound is the separation we now experience with dissolved marriages, children scattered to the winds, and parents unnecessarily shoved into assisted living homes. All of this is epidemic and a complete departure from our Judeo Christian cultural roots. Shared walls are symbolic of the strengths presented by who we used to be in unity of faith and purpose. We may seem more free, but we are not safer.

My prayer is that our walls are built as relationship connections to those we know and hold dear from within and that they protect with God’s hand from those without that would do us harm.   “Lord watch over us and our homes.”

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