Forest Cathedrals

A prominent explanation of the popular “spiritual but not religious” trend goes something like this: I feel much closer to God out in the mountains or by the seashore than I ever did in a church, so I stopped going.
Since God is the greatest of artists, who filled, and continues to fill the world with wonders no human could match, why do we worship in a church where nature is merely imitated in stone and canvas? Given the choice between pillars of stone, and living pillars of a forest cathedral, shouldn’t we always pick the wonder of God’s creation over our own?

There are obvious practical answers to this. Not everyone can stand out in nature and worship God all year round. Sometimes we really do need four walls and a roof. Furthermore, as an artist, I can’t allow the argument to stand.
The refrain of the creation story is “God saw that it was good.” God’s creation is good and beautiful. The strange, backwards creatures known as humans are little images of God running around doing things that God does. If God creates good things out of nothing, the creatures that bare His image must create good things from the matter that God made. We re-purpose, rearrange, and even re-imagine God’s creation because it is in our nature.

When we gather as the people of God, His children, we do what children do; we imitate our Father. In thanksgiving for the world which God made for us to live in, we take the best of it, re-purpose it with all our skill and imagination, and offer it back to him as a house of worship. This act of offering reminds us that everything we have belongs go God. It is good for us to offer our best to God.

But, as I said in my last post, God doesn’t need art. When God became a man, he was born in a stable. Clearly, simple accommodations are not beneath him… well, they are beneath him, but everything is, so it doesn’t matter. It is we humans who need the four walls and the roof, who need to offer our work to God, and who need Truth presented and represented again and again in art. Like most offerings to God, art is also a service to our neighbor. We use the “superabundance of the human being’s inner riches” to teach and lift hearts and minds to God.

So, the “spiritual but not religious” and others may find a place that only God has touched and there bask in the beauty of creation. Such a practice can’t be bad. It is passive and open for receiving grace.

When we offer the perfect form of worship; it is fitting to do so in a building that is the best we could offer. It is fitting that the church should itself be an offering, and a expression of the Truth we seek.

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