Church in the Wild

What’s a mob to a king?

What’s a king to a god?

What’s a god to a non-believer?

joan_of_arc_by_michael_c_hayes-d3669mj

Artist: Michael C. Hayes, via deviantart

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:

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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.

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10 Comments on “Church in the Wild”

  1. Mr. 1500 says:

    “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.”

    Wow and right on. Pretty much my thoughts exactly.

  2. Mindful Riot says:

    So….basically the Joan of Arc story has been adopted to communicate that hot young women won’t get raped if they are pious enough?

    • David says:

      Whoa. Okay.

      I can see how you can get this from the literal text, but that was not my intent at all. I was using that as an ‘in addition to’ example along with the fencing (far more remarkable, really) to illustrate how Joan was accompanied by something sacred, beyond our human understanding. To use a lot of loaded words that can easily be twisted, it was as if she was consumed, possessed, or transubstantiated.

      I’ve had some mystic experiences with sacred power akin to this, but never more than a few minutes or an hour. Imagining someone with a fire like this 24/7…I suppose it’s a small part of why I’ve always been attracted to her. I couldn’t even comprehend – not that the sacred IS something for rational comprehension – living with power like that at all times.

      Your response makes me regret sharing this post.

      • Sheena says:

        David,

        Thank you for sharing this post and your unique perspective on the divine. As someone who has major issues with “organized religion” but who considers themselves very spiritual – your post articulated a lot of those “fuzzy” feelings that are hard to explain when someone asks “yeah, what do you believe in?”

        I guess I am struggling too with the question of “what part of my faith am I trying to recover?” As someone who has been raised as a Christian and seen the distortion of religion to fit a desired culture, worked in a Muslim all-girls school in Turkey, seen first hand the decadence and callousness of the Catholic church in Rome, the only thing I know for certain is the truth I am looking for is not going to be found in an organized religion or brick and mortar church.

        I love love love this: “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.”

        Thank you for sharing and please don’t let any negative responses make you regret it. Not every post is going to resonate with everyone and remember that it is not about you or what you say, people will take what you write and view it through their own lens and apply their own filter.

      • David says:

        Thanks for commenting Sheena. Your experience sounds fascinating – have you written about it anywhere?

      • Sheena says:

        Thanks, David.

        Not as of yet, for all the writing I do, it isn’t something I have been able to really process into words yet – which is why I found your post so great. Maybe one day I’ll get it all written down 🙂

      • Mindful Riot says:

        Yikes, I just caught up on your other journal and realized you were talking about me — I’m so sorry. I posted this quickly on my way to work and didn’t have time to check back for a few days.

        My comment didn’t come off the way I intended at all. I have zero interest, experience or belief in religion, mysticism, spirituality, etc – just how I was raised. I never write about this stuff myself because I know I am coming from such a different place than most everyone else. I’d be too alienating and I try to remain aware of that. However I have always thought Joan of Arc was brave and amazing, and I appreciate that she’s an important symbol to you.

        I really just meant that as a quick throw-away remark on how religion historically finds a way to control women, that’s all. You’ve made comments in the past that you’ve stepped back from the church, so I just assumed you’d receive this in the spirit it was intended, which was a criticism of the lecherous military companion and the fact that his quote was noted and recorded for history’s sake. Being a young woman in a military camp would be a very dangerous place to be, back then — I just took issue with the idea that she was “safe” because she was so pious, which implies that women who ARE raped are to blame.

        But I didn’t mean this as a criticism of what you wrote about her as your spiritual wife or religious callings or any of the larger ideas here, and I appreciate that you write about this stuff so honestly. Cheddar is right, my comment was extremely misplaced, and I’m sorry.

      • David says:

        MR – thanks for taking the time to respond and clarify. Whew – that clarification jives a lot more with how I’ve understood you via your blog and journal.

        I have zero interest, experience or belief in religion, mysticism, spirituality, etc – just how I was raised. I never write about this stuff myself because I know I am coming from such a different place than most everyone else. I’d be too alienating and I try to remain aware of that. However I have always thought Joan of Arc was brave and amazing, and I appreciate that she’s an important symbol to you.

        No matter how alienating you think it might be, I’d be totally interested in hearing your take if you wanted to share. Email or PM me. I feel quite alienated most times because I’m in this really weird place where I’m spiritual yet have no interest in organized religion. I know that can be quite the cliche these days, but it’s quite true in my case.

        I really hate that I’ve had to agree to have my kids brought up in the Church, but that argument has closed for now. Except for the fact that I’m not atheist, I’ve been highly tempted to read the book “Coming out Atheist”.

        I really just meant that as a quick throw-away remark on how religion historically finds a way to control women, that’s all. You’ve made comments in the past that you’ve stepped back from the church, so I just assumed you’d receive this in the spirit it was intended, which was a criticism of the lecherous military companion and the fact that his quote was noted and recorded for history’s sake.

        I totally understand where your comment was coming from now. It’s definitely a nice counterpoint to the way I’ve thought about that whole exchange. Thanks for providing it 🙂

    • Cheddar Stacker says:

      They also need to carry a sword, that’s the real deterrent. Why is it that rape gets brought up so much in the FIRE community?

      Chief, no regrets. First, I enjoyed the post and was glad to read it. Second, never forget you are writing for an audience of one. Your opinion is all that should matter to you. Third and lastly, I kinda sorta see why mindful interpreted it that way, but it seems extremely misplaced. It has nothing to do with the beautiful piece. It’s one person’s interpretation of it, and I think it’s a view that’s projecting from some other feeling/place/experience from their life.

      Thank you for posting.


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