Monday, March 24, 2008

Cathedral Building

In the Middle Ages, the Church, in it's desire to glorify God, went on a sort of building spree. Today, as much as a thousand years later, we can still see the results, in the form of the beautiful cathedrals that are scattered throughout Europe. Most of them took a century or more to complete. The finest craftsmen, along with the most innovative architectural minds, were put to work, some for their entire lives, to create these edifices. New technology was created on the spot, as needed, for earth-moving, stone cutting and lifting, along with improved design elements to allow the buildings to soar higher without sacrificing strength. While the progress may have appeared slow to the casual observer, tremendous technological advances were made behind the scenes that laid the groundwork, and are still referred to today, for the building of skyscrapers.

Recently, Ray Pierrehumbert, professor of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, equated the lifestyle changes and technological innovations required to be good stewards of our environment as equivalent to that era of cathedral-building. He said, "Changing our personal carbon emissions is almost an act of devotion. It's like putting a brick in a cathedral. We're working on a spiritual edifice we are leaving for the future."

Now, he made these remarks to students at Lutheran Theological School. He did not mean to imply by them that we are to worship the created world, any more than we would worship a cathedral. What he meant by them was that we must be willing to tackle a huge, seemingly impossible task, that we may not yet fully understand how to do, in order to leave something God-glorifying for the next 1,ooo years, just as the cathedral builders did.

We may not know how to do it, but we must start anyway.

His encouragement to the students, who are not scientists, is to start with your own life: how you transport yourself, how you manage your home, how you treat the surrounding wild lands and farmlands, what you send (or don't send) to the landfill. Every Christian must start someplace, to build this "cathedral" for our descendants: a sustainable, livable, beautiful earth to live on, to serve God on.

So, from time to time, I will tell you a little something about what I'm doing to add bricks to the cathedral. I'm not going to do that to toot my own horn; I will do it to keep myself accountable, and perhaps to encourage someone else to try something for themselves. I may not live to see the finished product, but, if we all help, I'm sure it will be glorious.


C. Marie Byars said...

Thanks for visiting. I'm finally gonna make good on linking other people's site to mine, so yours should be up on "CNP" relatively soon. BTW: what's your background? I thought maybe "fundamentalist", but the "stand up, sit down" comment from Easter is often used to describe Lutheran liturgy. Also, you're in the Chicago area, one of the places my husband tags, "Land of Many Lutherans"!!

Joyce said...

Actually I live in Champaign, IL, and I am American Baptist. We don't consider ourselves fundamentalist, simply evagelical. I did live briefly in the Chicago area years ago, as you may have gathered from my post about my son's bithday.
Thanks for the link! It's nice to know there are so many others of like persuasion at there in the blogosphere!

Jim Swindle said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope to read more of yours. Your post on cathedrals and environment makes an interesting comparison. I'm very suspicious of some of the professional environmental activists, but am convinced that as stewards, we should avoid damage and waste of environmental resources. The resources are given by God for us to use, but not for us to squander. Little actions make a difference.

Joyce said...

Hi, Jim! Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you. For me this is not about politics or fear-mongering at all. It's simply a matter of thinking through the consequences of our actions for future generations, who are, arguably, at our mercy.