1. Galadriel says:

    Our churches don’t resemble temples so much as lecture halls or convention centers. Big, white boxes with lots of chairs and a premium audiovisual system. Instead of cathedrals, we have “campuses.”

    I’ve been having that exact thought ever since returning from a spring break trip to London. Having seen Westminster Abbey, St George’s Cathedral in Windsor–even the small Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, where C.S. Lewis is buried–modern churches seem so much less. To quote my essay I wrote for a class:
    I think back to the churches I’ve regularly attended (….)  Three churches from three denominations in three separate states, but the building have a certain sameness, like Old Country Buffet or Pizza Hut; different layouts, same content. After all, we worship the same God–why confuse people by making his houses different?
    Of course, if a cathedral was built today, people would (rightly?) decry the huge expense as self-glorification instead of caring for the poor. But our God is a god of beauty and wonder–why are his houses so ugly?

    • Fred Warren says:

      Wow, that’s a trip I’d love to take some day.

      There are plenty of practical considerations that factor into the construction of any given church building, and, of course, what actually goes on inside (and outside) the building is far more important than the niceties of its design.

      I’m not advocating a return to medieval European architecture, though a lot of it is awe-inspiring and I think there are some things we could re-learn from it about blending beauty, function, and symbolism. My point here is to provide an example of yet another icon that delivers an unspoken message about how we approach God and what is important to us, an icon that could stand a little more prayerful thought and consideration.

      It’s easy to say, “The Church is people, not a building,” and forget that the places we build to gather the Church tell a story of their own, both to us and to the outside world. Have we built to encourage an atmosphere of worship, or to facilitate something else? Does our worship space inspire us to take out our pencils, start a mosh pit, order a cappuchino, or fall on our knees? I think that’s a question worth asking. The answers will vary.

      Just about anything churches spend money on will at some time be played against the poor, as if it’s an either-or proposition: Build a church, or help the poor. Pay the pastor, or help the poor. Run the furnace, or help the poor. It’s a false dilemma. As to cost, I don’t think it costs any more to exercise additional care in this area and add a little meaningful beauty than to ignore it, and both poor and rich benefit.

  2. Kaci says:

    Fred said: Maybe, but I think it’s probably more about being  hacked off that the kids are having chocolate cake for breakfast instead of something more nutritious. Our sense of aesthetic justice is offended.

    And that’s about how I feel on that subject.

    From the character’s point-of-view, I don’t see this happening very often. Characters are mostly trying to just live their life, or survive to see another sunrise. Their personal growth is something they don’t realize until near the end of their story, though that journey is visible to the reader and part of what keeps us engaged.

    And, as you said, characters aren’t necessarily good, which means when they become an icon, said icon is not necessarily suggesting anything positive.  I don’t consider Odysseus,  Romeo & Juliet, Han Solo, Rhett Butler, or Indiana Jones especially positive.  

    Of course, if a cathedral was built today, people would (rightly?) decry the huge expense as self-glorification instead of caring for the poor. But our God is a god of beauty and wonder–why are his houses so ugly?

    I don’t know about “rightly.” I think motives can be pure even when decorating the house. Oddly, a friend and I were talking about that on Sunday, discussing how we’re both a bit mixed emotionally when it comes to coffee shops and bookstores in church. She said, really, in the end, her primary hesitation is when she sees business meetings clearly going on 15 minutes before service starts.

  3. One thing, really quick:

    Fred, you’re a storm trooper. I absolutely loved the breakdown you did of art in the eye of the beholder. Great stuff. 

  4. […] likely wrap up this series next week. Here, I’ll reply to Fred’s Tuesday column, with his comments indented. It seems like we’re closing in on a Grand Theory of Fiction […]

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