Wilfred McClay on the relationship between our souls and our built environments:
Even with all our prosperity and freedom, there is much that is amiss in the ways we live today—not only in our individual lives, but in the larger patterns of habitation that we have devised for ourselves. The built environment matters, not only for our bodies but for our souls, and the souls of our brothers and sisters and neighbors.
Somehow we all know this to be the case. And yet Christians, as Christians, seem to have had very little that is useful or insightful to say about these matters. This represents a serious failure on our part. It means we have fallen short in the fundamental Christian responsibility to attend to the careful and reverent stewardship of creation. It may mean that in our zeal to speak of final things we have forgotten first things—and one of the first things to know about Christianity is that it is an incarnational faith which celebrates the goodness of the created order, in which God became man, in which the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in which the promised vision of the end of time is not a world of disembodied spirits, but of the flesh, resurrected and perfected. If you fully take in that thought, you will soon realize that, whatever else it may be, the physical world cannot be thought of as a mere moral obstacle course that we run on the way to eternity.
Even without such religious assumptions in our minds, we should be able to see that there are, as we say these days, feedback effects of our physical environments, ways in which the rooms and corridors and buildings and streets and landscapes and skyscapes through which we move have their effects upon us, and end up influencing us, often in very profound ways. Hence the choices we make about the places where we choose to situate ourselves—keeping always in mind that there are many things that we cannot choose about our lives—are of great moment.