It is a hard task to learn to plant roots in a place from which you know you will be uprooted. It is also the task that we, mirroring Israel in Jeremiah 29, are called to do. Through the process of planting gardens, marrying, having children, raising our children, and being planted and watered, we can shadow what our true home is to our neighbors and loved ones.
Look at our priests or bishops now. Do they seem any more advanced in the cure than anybody else? Some do. But so does the guy who took the snow tires off my car last week, and I don’t know if he’s ever darkened the doors of a Church. I just know that he had an air of spiritual freedom about him, such that somebody might think, “I want what he has. I wonder what makes him tick.” There’s a beginning.
People with cosmic self-respect can reconcile themselves with the possibility that there is no conductor, and that after death comes only silence. And they can muster the strength to keep listening for the fragments, to keep imperfectly piecing together the rhythm of the music, and to keep dancing along as best they can with those they love.
Contemplation of God is paying attention to what demands one’s attention—more than information discovered or expression felt. Contemplating art can be a means, a sort of preparatory practice, of contemplating the Beautiful One from which all beauty is derivative.
I have Orthodox friends that find our little chapel concerning, and they are certainly right that a casual use of icons for decorative enhancement is to be avoided. Still, their chief complaint should be directed to the monks of Mount Athos who, infused with God’s flagrant generosity, so recklessly gave their replica icons away.
If such substitution and exchange were genuinely possible, would we agree with Lewis that no gift was more gladly given? Would we too readily assume we could bear another’s burden and so sink ourselves under more than we could carry? Or, would our burdens be lightened by such sharing?
The only thing that can save the world from a lost Christianity is a Cross-centered Christianity. Can Christians take the truths from both Life Is A Miracle and Sophia In Exile to not only reclaim our farms and our science, but to soften our hardened hearts towards the real, living transcendent presence of Christ?
Perhaps activism needs such determined gentleness, illustrated in the pro-life students’ hours of prayer and the work of adoption agencies like my grandmother’s. Activism must be framed by an understanding of common grace, shared depravity, and our implications with each other: our membership, which is “the way we are.”
The question, of course, is not whether some Protestant individuals have under-developed aesthetic sensibilities; the question is whether Protestant principles logically or consistently contribute to an under-developed aesthetic sensibility.