Art Carden in a post entitled The Most Bourgeois Place on Earth? writes about a recent visit that he paid to the Mall of America near Minneapolis-St. Paul; (I correct the quotation to rid it of what appears to be a formatting error):
As an undergrad, I took an interesting introductory American Studies course. During one lecture, the Professor lamented the fact that elderly men now gather at shopping malls where elderly men of previous generations would gather in front of the courthouse. I think this is a sign of progress. As symbolic spaces go, courthouses are emblems of conflict. Malls are emblems of cooperation. That modern life’s dominant public space is a house of commerce rather than a house of conflict is something to be celebrated, not lamented.
h/t: Cafe Hayek.
When I spoke at Acton last week I mentioned in passing, and to the surprise of some, that I like WalMart. Having been been rather less well off economically than middle class–or even at times, working class–I think stores like WalMart are of great benefit to the vast majority of the poor and working class.
And like the author of the above quote, I rather prefer shopping malls to court houses for the reason he gives. Whatever their shortcomings, malls are symbols of cooperation. Often when I’m stuck for a sermon idea, I’ll dress in civvies and go to the mall.
Yes, malls can be havens of materialism and are often overrun by tweens, teens and the elderly and other with no place else to go. But to whom else are we to bring the Gospel but those without a place or direction in life? Aimless and board are just other ways of saying lost.
So while mindful of their faults, let us thank God for the contemporary agora.