Because Deneen cannot wring meaning from big-box stores and six-lane roads, we are meant to assume that no one can. But this elision of any distinction between personal aesthetic preferences and objective universal laws is as empirically false as it is politically problematic. As a happy son of the suburban Midwest, I can personally attest that plenty of good people have little difficulty finding much to worship and be thankful for, no matter what they drive or where their kids’ toys were constructed.
Erudite, comfortable people are always so bemused that middle-income Americans could possibly opt for a suburban life of cars, backyards, and affordable goods. The alternative, of course, is an urban life spent waiting for buses and watching the erudite, comfortable people enjoy boutique brunches that they will never be able to sample. For millions of our brothers and sisters without PhDs, the parking lots and mini-malls that Deneen dismisses are sites of real grace and meaning. They are places where paychecks are earned, conversations are shared, and the sanctification of even mundane work can transpire.
To fret that the architecture of suburban life somehow blots out the light of creation is to put far too little trust in the source of that light. Faith transcends time and place. Its light and warmth can radiate into all circumstances and scenarios. It is not some fragile phenomenon exclusively available to Wendell Berry wannabes.