We built grand cathedrals. The arches and vaults reached toward heaven. Cathedrals of theology, art, literature, history, music. Cathedrals for the growing of souls.
But the barbarians came with their budget officers, reducing souls to earning power. They took machetes to theological questions, because they mistook faith for blandly arrogant certainty. They mistook music for entertainment, history for antiquity, literature for bedtime stories. They did not know that we are souls created in the image of God. With hubris they thought their concept of reality was the limit of what is true.
So they threw rocks through stained glass windows and pulled down organ pipes. Precious carved stones were chucked out gapping holes in the marble walls, and oaken beams were burned for roasting marshmallows. They hoisted a tin roof to shade the sun, and mosaics disappeared under blowing sand. Cactus and mesquite encroached on what was once nave and cloister.
With walls crumbling, scholars could more easily be shown the door. No more debates. No more uncomfortable questions. No more passion or pathos. Only certainty of a certain kind. No more art, music or story. The barbarians win. The cathedrals of learning crumble.
And we who tried to build souls have been sent away. We who sang and painted, remembered and wrote, spoke and gave Communion, have been dismissed as irrelevant and troublesome.
But we have not forgotten that humans are souls, and souls will not be denied the search for truth. The passion for beauty and goodness cannot be quenched.
We are left clinging to the hope that we taught some cathedral builders along the way. And that the spires will one day rise again.
Bob Ellis is former dean of Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University. This post originally appeared on his personal blog, An Ever-flowing Stream.
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