The Concrete Warehouse Church and Its Opposite
It has been far too long, my dearest God and Pen reader. Hopefully this drought of post and good witted humor will be replaced with a torrential hurricane of post and humor, though I can’t promise too much of either.
I was awoken from my blogosphere slumber by Facebook. That is not usually the thing that wakes people up, but alas, you all ought to know by now that “usual” is not worth much around “here.” Facebook tends to turn folks into drooling monsters, jumping around flailing their computers, and mocking every other goon that runs into their loony dustbin of a wall. But I, oh great that I am, do not have such friends. I’m sorry to gloat, but I must. My friends are the übermensch of men (and women). They are sensible, and downright funny. Their sensibility and humor is only outmatched by my own esteemed nobility, remarkable rationality, and notorious tomfoolery (and haberdashery for good measure). I’m sorry, my friends, but honesty is the only way to do good philosophy (and to be friendless). Think of Socrates; that guy was killed for being so awesome. So, um, I think I’ll die for awesomeness too.
Where was I? I do believe I took a misstep somewhere. Ah, yes! I know where I was. I was describing my friends and the reason for this post. I’ll get back to that. So I ‘shared’ a wonderful Facebook picture (I can’t find it now).
The picture is just to say that the “dark” ages weren’t so dim, and our modern period is not the poster child of solar illumination. The reason to say something like that? Churches. It’s always churches with me anymore. Either I’m complaining about the skeletal corpse that is our modern warehouse church, or singing the praises of the liturgical eucharistic tradition of high towers and deep chants. Churches were once high and excellent. They were once a proper meeting place between the Divine and the human. Church used to be less of a social institution and more of the place wherein the mystical Body of Christ becomes present at the Eucharist. So it was incredibly important, with this belief in mind, that one ornament the Church as if it were in some sense present before Christ, before the Heavenly Host.
“But wait you” so say my friends, “hold on a minute, Mr. Basil Eucharist-pants.” (that was not funny) “What about the poor? What about the downtrodden? Why throw the gold of our coffers into the bottomless invoice of church architecture? Think of the children, Basil, think of the tears that pour from their sickly eyes!”
This is an incredibly important objection. I’m reminded now of Peter Singer. Oughtn’t we to save a drowning child if it is in our ability to do so? And isn’t saving drowning children more important than building big hunks of shapely stone? Old Churches are certainly beautiful, but these are stacked stone and will fall, but men are eternal, and their wellbeing is more important than the frills of a building.
Saving drowning children is indeed more important than ornamenting pretty things, but that is not to say that ornament and beauty is unimportant. But there are drowning children, and starving children, and lost children. There are a countless array of fools like us that suffer and die alone, without love and without hope. Does not such a confession require that man live the most simplest kind of life, that his churches be skeletal shells?
I do not think it does. This is so because man is a certain kind of thing. Man is both a thing that requires food and a thing that requires God, requires beauty.
It will do no good to go saving man from drowning if the world you save him to is not suited to fulfill his deepest desires. Save every drowning man, that is man’s duty, but build a magnificent sacred space, that is also man’s duty. The two are not contradictory. And if you do think they are, then live on oats, banish all art and ornament, all celebration and beauty––save a man to a world of grey nothingness. The rest of us will acknowledge the entirety of man, a man that survives and a man that lives.