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The liturgy of sharing the road

The liturgy of sharing the road

Cycling is growing in popularity across the United States, and not just for recreation but as a means of transportation for everyday needs.  But if you live in one of those places where cycling has grown fastest, then you will know that it also brings along debates about the equitable share of road-space, as well as antagonism between drivers and cyclists that occasionally flares into violent confrontations.

For many people perhaps, the road network isn’t an obvious place to elicit theological reflection (some prayers and curses maybe) but blogger Eric Jacobsen thinks that it is and that we should be more aware of the spiritual costs and benefits of how we get around.  Writing at Christ & Cascadia, he offers;

As a pastoral observer of these heated debates, I want to propose something that may, at first, seem rather odd. I want to propose that Christians view these driving vs. cycling debates through an alternative lens—a liturgical lens.

I want to argue that the daily acts of both driving and biking are daily rituals that have a massive impact on our hearts, lives, and culture

Jacobsen’s perspective is that driving reinforces a cultural paradigm of modernity (unlimited power over nature, individualism and mass uniformity) that work against the gospel imperatives of community, stewardship and compassion but that riding serves as a s kind of corrective.

When riding a bike, I am much more aware of the fact that I am living in a community of other people. I am much more inclined to smile and even wave to other pedestrians or cyclists when I am riding. This sense of connection to others works to some extent with people who are like me as well as people who are quite different from me culturally or socioeconomically.

As a Christian I interpret my experience of riding my bike through a theological lens. I see these activities of making me more aware of God’s creation and other humans that are made in His image. It also humbles me and reminds me that I am dependent upon God for more ways that I sometimes imagine.

In what ways do other lifestyle choices support or undermine our witness as Christians?  Is the built environment a less than obvious, but still powerful influence on how modern America understands christianity?


posted by Jon White



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Ann Fontaine

The choices one makes driving a car can affect one’s spiritual life. When I take the non-interstate roads -I see things about communities that can’t otherwise be seen. In our area where many bicycle – choosing to drive more slowly around bicyclists calms me. I drive to work over 20 miles Hwy 101 – it is very scenic – drivers can choose to remember that and the experience of others or they can get angry, speed and pass dangerously. Choices can build up community or tear it down. Martin Bell (Way of the Wolf and other books) says the demonic takes away self and destroys community, messiah gives back self and build community — both have to happen.

David Murray

Actually Charles, I agreed with you. However, there is a hint of Luddite occurring in the writing. I quite agree with you. Driving as a method of transport is likely to change with the passage of time. Like horse and buggy, I can see the time coming that cars may well pass into the past.

Charles Scheid

Come on you two, saying that one technology is bad isn’t exactly the same thing as saying that all technology is bad. Driving is simply a bad technology, for a lot of reasons.
I discovered the isolation the driving entails a couple of years ago. I gave up driving for Lent and took public transportation. The change was amazing. It’s a whole different world when you are rubbing elbows with people.

David Murray

‘individualism and mass uniformity’

A rather odd thing I think. Perhaps, if we also gave up the advance of medicine we would also be more spiritual too. The issue is that a community is strengthen when we remember that we share. This is what we living today face; there are many and requires all of us to understand that we all need to find the way to share the commons. It the need for balance.

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