This is the third Olasky book I’ve read. Though they are very different books, all three have been terrific reads.
The Tragedy of American Compassion is the book that Olasky is best known for. Even though it was published thirty years ago, it stands up very well.
A compelling case is made that the prior ways of understanding compassion and therefore dispensing aid are superior to our modern policies and programs. By “prior ways,” we are talking about the nineteenth century.
Books like this can so easily fall prey to trotting out an endless stream of statistics. Numbers matter to be sure, but they don’t tell a story. W.E.B. DuBois learned that lesson in a graphic way when he realized that his fascination with numbers could not adequately convey seeing “the barbecued parts of a lynched man.”
Olasky peppers his seminal book with loads of stories that help us better understand what true compassion entails. In other words, Olasky appropriately moves both our minds and affections to consider a wiser approach.
I love the emphasis of getting Christians to consider the importance of living out the gospel in the city. I love big cities. I have spent much time in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. Overseas I have enjoyed Paris, London, Belgrade, Vienna, Zagreb, Venice, and Salzburg. Growing up, I spent many happy days in Detroit.
My confession of sorts is that I also love rural America. In fact, I have been privileged these past three years to serve as an interim pastor at a terrific, rural church.
The push toward planting churches in cities is a wonderful thing indeed, but I wonder if it is now getting too much attention. All this made me both excited and somewhat reluctant to read Why Cities Matter? by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard. Would this “big city” pastor duo be imbalanced in their love for the city, or would they help me navigate this issue more intelligently? To my delight, I found the latter.
Why Cities Matter? is not a long read at about 150 pages (not including the notes which are worth reading!) It is more than I expected: solid research mixed with accessibility, engaging writing style, and lots of stuff to stew over. I recommend it highly.
As somewhat of a “book cover snob,” let my add my kudos on the design. It is simple, elegant, and creative. Well done Mr. or Mrs. Graphic Designer!