the thing about austin

November 13, 2008

As we’ve been getting settled in Austin, I’m trying to learn about the city through its history. While I’ve yet to find a thorough book with the history of the city, I’ve been able to pick up bits and pieces here and there.

Inherent to the culture of Austin is a long rivalry with Houston. It hasn’t been evident in contemporary culture, but it was present in history as the cities vied to be the capitol of Texas. While Houston was emerging as an oil city, Austin decided to emphasize a different product: ideas. This led to the prominence of the university in the city, and the emphasis on ideas still shapes the culture of the city.

I love the idea (pun intended) of a city whose main export is ideas. Of course, I do love ideas…after all this blog is called some strange ideas. Just like Paul brought strange ideas to Athens, I am experiencing this openness to ideas in Austin. (Six ‘ideas’ in one paragraph…get the idea?)

Shortly after we moved here, Bob Carlton told me that it is still okay to talk about what church you are a part of here. I thought he was nuts. General church attendance in Austin is low, and I had seen some of the sentiment against Christianity that existed in the culture.

But in one on one conversations, I’m discovering that Bob is right. The openness to ideas seems to win out over the subtle anti-Christian tone of the city. Even people who have discarded prior experiences with Christianity seem curious, sometimes even intrigued, as I share with them about Austin Mustard Seed.

Perhaps they are being polite; after all, one thing that Austin does share with the rest of Texas is a welcoming spirit. But I think the reality is that a willingness to learn from others on our part, and a general openness to ideas in Austin, has made for some great conversations. I look forward to the next one.

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