I’m partial to the Middle Ages. Not that I would necessarily have wanted to live then, but it is not because it was the “dark ages.” I prefer modern health care, technology, and prosperity. It makes life more comfortable.
But what I prefer today over the Middle Ages is not necessarily something we, as moderns, can take credit for; it is the result of knowledge and understanding building on itself and progressing through each generation to bring us to this point scientifically and technologically. We have the generations that came before us to thank for that.
The disciplines of architecture and art are a more even playing field when comparing the Middle Ages with today. With regard to architecture, advances in engineering allow us to do certain things with buildings we could not do with buildings 1,000 years ago, and, as a result, if anything the moderns have an advantage.
That should also be true of art in architecture. There are things we can do now we couldn’t do 1,000 years ago that give today’s artist or architect more creative tools to work with. So, all things being equal, what we can do with virtually unlimited funds today in say, building a church, should far exceed in beauty and creativity what man created 1,000 years ago, particularly if 1,000 years ago was a “dark ages.”
So, I picked a church, not just any church, but Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. A church I used to attend. A beautiful church. One of the largest churches in America (85,000 members). A church with more money than Croesus. A church that could build essentially any church it wanted, and it did. In 1980s, it built the structure you see above. I was proud to attend Second Baptist Church. It was the most beautiful church around.
I like thoughtful movies. I long ago lost any desire for two-hour chase scenes and mind-numbing shoot-em-ups. I like movies with a message, supported by symbols and images to assist in conveying the message. I even enjoy movies with the wrong message. The Coen brothers and Woody Allen are my favorites, and I almost never agree with their message. But sometimes the message is so misguided it pollutes the whole movie. Such is the case with Nomadland.
Frances McDormand is Fern (presumably because a fern will grow almost anywhere), a widow, who, after her husband dies and the recession destroys the town where she lived, puts everything in a storage facility and sets off into the American West in a van, where she will live, stopping for a season at an RV park or national park.
For the first half of the movie we feel sorry for Fern, even though some of the sympathy is lost when she turns down the opportunity for help from the Baptists homeless ministry, subtly signaling she doesn’t really need help.
In one scene, she gathers around at an RV park site with other nomads while a more experienced woman teaches all present the finer points of defecating into a bucket because when you live in a van where else are you going to scat, in the glove box? It was at this point The Wife pulled the rip chord and told me she had had enough. I hung in there though because I knew I hadn’t got the message yet; this was not just a film about the plight of the homeless. There was something else going on here.
Well, I am now fully vaccinated and past my 14 day waiting period.
Last week was my first week back in a live church service since the pandemic began. I was asked to preach at a church in a different city on the subject of work, which I was happy to do. But before I agreed, I asked if they were following best practices regarding the pandemic; I didn’t want to be part of encouraging a super-spreader event. Fortunately, they were doing it right, requiring masks, social distancing, and operating at a reduced attendance capacity.
Today, I return to a live church service at my church for the first time since the pandemic began. I am proud to say my church has done it right, conducting services solely on line for months and then starting back with live services at a reduced capacity, with temperature checks, social distancing, and masking requirements, while still maintaining the service online for those not vaccinated or comfortable yet to return.
What my church has done during the pandemic has been governed by consultation with a medical advisory team made up of physicians and medical professionals, application of CDC guidelines and best practices, and prayer. I believe it has been a Spirit-empowered approach. Here’s what I mean.
I just finished reading an excellent biography of Cato, not Inspector Clouseau’s Cato but Rome’s Marcus Porcius Cato a/k/a Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C.). Cato was known for his integrity in a time of intense political corruption and polarization in Rome that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Republic when Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C..
Cato stood against both political parties, the populares (Democrats) and the optimates (Republicans), in favor of the Republic and doing what was right. As a result, Cato was highly respected, and sometimes also despised, by both sides. That is the price of speaking the truth. Even the 1st century Christians held Cato up as an example of integrity in the midst of corruption.
The current U.S. political climate bears similarities to the Rome of Cato’s time. Political opponents today are demonized. There is no rational discussion by which consensus is reached. There is no middle ground. The reason for the polarization is that people are being brainwashed by the media. But before my friends on the right say, “Amen,” read on, because for polarization to occur there must be two poles, not one.
I ask this question seriously and not rhetorically.
Maybe it’s the pandemic. Actually, I am sure it’s the pandemic. But the pandemic is merely the context not the cause. I’m talking about what I’m hearing my Christian friends say, what they text me, and what they post on Facebook, specifically about wearing masks.
You see, I live in Texas, and our governor, one birthed from my noble profession, a former lawyer and judge, one who should know better, has lifted the mask-wearing mandate in Texas. Some of my Christian friends are thrilled because they think masks don’t mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and actually do more harm than good (“breathing too much of your own CO2, bro”). They’ve obtained these opinions from politicians, not from health care professionals, and that, to me folks, is C . . . R . . . A . . . Z . . . Y.
I mean who among us goes to the doctor because they notice blood in their urine, and when the doctor gives his diagnoses says, “Doc, no offense, but I think I will get a second opinion from my politician”?