Church in the WildPosted: March 23, 2015
What’s a mob to a king?
What’s a king to a god?
What’s a god to a non-believer?
I am not a fan of Kanye West, except for a brief love affair with the album that the song “No Church in the Wild” is on, but those particular lyrics have always stuck with me. They’re catchy, provocative, and get to a very central element of the human experience: what are we without articles of faith?
I’ve been thinking about faith on and off in this space. My family, and many of my friends, are people of very strong faith. I myself was a very strong believer, and a core inspiration for me has always been Joan of Arc, a woman literally clothed in faith. She was a peasant girl who somehow had the ability to out-fence contemporaries with far greater strength and reach. This is truly remarkable. In addition, a famously lecherous military companion of hers described her as stunningly beautiful, with “perfect breasts” (nudity in a military camp is unavoidable), yet he felt no trace of sexual desire towards her.* I used the word clothed by faith very intentionally in the sentence above.
She is a fascinating figure and at one time I believed I had her as a near-constant spiritual companion. Perhaps I did. I am very accepting of clouds of unknowing. I’ve been thinking a lot about her since the Alchemist shared the image I’ve put in this article. It’s been my background image, and while I almost never minimize windows to desktop, I’ve found myself compelled to meditate on this picture. It also makes me recall that, over Christmas, in a sacred place of almost incredible power**, I spotted this beautiful statue in the otherwise horrifying gift shop:
I’m happy to have moved beyond my faith then, but finding myself attracted to her once more, I wonder – what part of my faith am I trying to recover?
In modern times, we’re well trained to be skeptical of religious callings. I have no church, nor ever wish to have one. The divine and the sacred can’t be contained in a human institution, especially not any that claim to have a monopoly on perfect truth. I have faith, but it’s a faith that’s more mystery than any positive experience. I have my lovely wife and kids. And I have Joan of Arc, the long-deceased woman who I once called my spiritual wife, seemingly finding a way to re-enter my life.
How am I called to be clothed in faith? I don’t think I will ever have a carved-in-stone-tablets answer. If I have a mission, it seems to me it’s to be a good father and husband. To create a place where the human being in my circle of influence can flourish. To work on my own flourishing. To leave the world a better place than I found it. This is no less than the calling of all humans, to my mind. It is the central article of faith so many of us are missing, and to which so much of the anti-consumerism of the ER community, but even more so the long-term vision of those in the permaculture movement really speaks.
What the words ‘flourishing’ and ‘better’ mean, of course, is part of the delicious mystery. Join me, fellow travelers.
*Regine Pernoud, Joan of Arc in Her Own Words, which is an edited and annotated version of her trial for heresy, and contains fascinating testimony from her and her contemporaries. Note: see also comment from Mindful Riot and my response below.
**The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Specifically the side chapels and lower church in the crypt level. I was almost bowled over with the power in this place and can’t wait to visit it again. A quiet, thrumming, sacred power.