In our recent search for a neighborhood and place to make home, the term “Safe” has been thrown around quite a bit by others. Those who say it are usually very genuine and well-intending: “Now that you have a baby, you’ll want to make sure you find a safe area of the city,” or “I’m sure you’ll be able to find a nice, safe neighborhood to purchase a home in.” I find it extremely difficult to respond to statements like these because of the layers and layers of underlying assumptions behind them. Let me try and break this down a little bit.
What do they mean by ‘safe?’ I think the most obvious is that they don’t want us living where the feature crime stories on the evening news are located. Physical safety is their obvious concern and there is certainly some validity to that. Unfortunately, our major indicator of ‘safety’ is the evening news, which tends to categorize it’s media in interesting ways, and it continually reinforces our stereotypes. First, the news covers mostly negative stories, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ Second, the news, and people, tend to categorize in ways we understand; so a large geographic area, falls into one categorization (just like a large people group or income level). What you end up with is that ‘safe’ means living anywhere other then the area of town where the poor, and many minorities, have been isolated to.
I guess I would like to start by asking different questions, and having different concerns then ‘safety.’ Shane Claiborne touches on it well:
“People sometimes ask if we are scared of the inner city. I say that I am more scared of the suburbs. Our Jesus warns that we can fear those things which can hurt our bodies or we can fear those things which can destroy our souls, and we should be far more fearful of the latter. Those are the subtle demons of suburbia.
As my mother once told me, “Perhaps there is no more dangerous place for a Christian to be than in safety and comfort, detached from the suffering of others.” I’m scared of apathy and complacency, of detaching myself from the suffering. It’s hard to see until our 20/20 hindsight hits us—but every time we lock someone out, we lock ourselves further in.” [via]
As I am trying to follow, I think the first question in deciding where to live is to ask, “What does Christ call me to?” I think a quick reading of Scripture would make it quite clear we are not first called to physical safety. Christ himself spends time with the poor and the oppressed, the ‘desperate and dangerous’ people of his day. He lives amongst the unsafe and ‘unclean’ and he speaks out to his followers to do the same, addressing injustices along the way.
Finally, as it relates to children, there is a strong lead in the Bible to teach your children to follow the faith. The goal is not to keep your child ‘safe’ above all else, but rather to lead your child to truth. Having children does not mean you forsake your values in an effort to preserve their physical longevity, it means you hold that much more strongly to the truths and convictions that you know to be true, that you might properly serve to point them toward the truth.