Watching something that took centuries to develop, something that can never entirely be recreated, disappear in the comparative blink of an eye — that, in slow motion, is going to be the dominant feeling of the 21st century. Only instead of buildings: glaciers, forests, species.David Roberts, Vox.com
That is one of many things I’ve been reading and thinking about, that contrasts the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to the burning of Mother Earth.
I am saddened by the damage done by the fire. I’ve read how many feel a spiritual presence when they are there. I have what must be similar feelings when I am at my local Quaker meeting, Bear Creek Friends, in the countryside north of Earlham, Iowa. Many other Friends and visitors have spoken about that effect themselves.
I would feel badly if our meetinghouse was damaged or destroyed by fire or storms. But that would not affect the spiritual essence of our Quaker community. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20. I believe most Quaker meetings began with Friends gathering in each others homes. A physical structure is not needed. When meetinghouses are built, they have a simple design, and are unadorned with steeples, crosses, stained glass windows, or other religious art. Many in the past were built in rural areas because many of the members were involved in farming. Being in a rural setting helps us feel close to nature, connected to Mother Earth. Those that are in rural areas also benefit from the quiet, which is at the heart of our meetings for worship.
Native people don’t even have separate buildings for their spiritual practices, because every moment of everyday, wherever they are, is spiritual.
The natural world is my cathedral, and that of millions of others. No building can compare to the majesty of the mountains, valleys and plains. Or at least that used to be the case before greedy men destroyed much of that with extractive resource practices. I still can’t begin to understand the idea of mountaintop removal.
From a young age I was always troubled by the vast amount of money and resources it took to build these great cathedrals. It seems so unjust to have these enormous buildings filled with organs, gold plated relics and symbols, and stained glass windows in the midst of so many who live in poverty.
I know the argument is such buildings last for centuries, and help with the parishioner’s spiritual lives. Part of my problem with such buildings is “who are the parishioners”? They tend to be wealthy and of the ruling class. I know this is less so for the churches in smaller towns because there aren’t that many of the ruling class there. But I can’t help but see these large cathedrals as concrete symbols of dominant cultures. Too often the clergy were involved in the politics of that dominant culture. And these days the news is filled with stories of sexual assault by clergy. And the news of the extent the church hierarchy has gone to protect the offenders.
So it has been so painful to me to see the outpouring of grief, and the immediate monetary response to the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in juxtaposition to the utter lack of response to the burning of Mother Earth, our very home.
And it has been both painful and enraging to see how surprised many people seem to be by the devastating, ongoing flooding here in the Midwest. The span of my life of trying to help others see these things were going to happen is nothing compared to the centuries indigenous people have been doing that.
And yet, even as people are beginning to realize no one is immune to the climate catastrophes that will continue, they fail to understand how our capitalistic system itself, based on resource extraction, has to change now if there is any hope for however few generations may survive.