Sunday, November 26, 2023

Our brief attention spans. . .

We look around us and see the evidence of our short attention spans and our devotion to the utilitarian especially in the buildings we create or, rather, the lack of grand structures born of our own generation to take their place with the noble works of past generations.  Nowhere is this more true than with church buildings.  Ours is an age in which the symbol of our conviction and our dedication is a warehouse style structure that shouts temporary instead of the mighty sanctuaries that once marked Christian church structures.  It is a combination of two ills.  One is our lack of real conviction that would require sacrifice and the dedication of more than a few years.  The other is our brief attention spans that too quickly grow tired of an idea that we might not be able to see through to fruition in our own time.  Both are epidemic problems for more than just buildings.

German poet Heinrich Heine understood this.  Europe is dotted with grand cathedrals and other churches which required generations of effort to see through to the finish.  In our age, the next generation stewards of the dream would quickly abandon the project and tear down what others labored to create.  Who among us would dare to begin a cathedral that would take more than half a millenium to finish?  I dare say none of us.

We lack conviction.  Sure, we have many opinions but which of our opinions would we sacrifice to defend or devote our blood, sweat, and tears to see through to completion?  Where are the deeply held convictions and beliefs that would under gird a project that would demand the attention of more than 25 generations?  Watch our polls and you see that we change our minds, surrender our historic values, and embrace contradictions to our truth in a few decades or less.  Where is our commitment to bring to fruition what our forefathers had begun?  You will not find it in Christendom.  The doctrine of the apostles handed down through Scripture and confession are easily surrendered in the face of modern ideas that have no sanction or stature before God.  Neither would such a building project endure past a few short years before we turn to something not so boring and something more our own.

We also lack the attention span to see such things through.  How many cities have had neighborhoods and streets of character and history replaced by concrete and glass and steel only to be replaced by the something else a few years down the road?  We say we love vintage but it is a nostalgia for which we are seldom willing to sacrifice something of the present or future.  We really love only the idea of it all as much as we disdain the duty and obligation such a monumental structure would demand of us.  It is less a problem in Europe than it is here but it is a problem everywhere.  If it costs us something significant and we will not see it through to the end, we have little stomach for such an endeavor -- whether in church or state, in buildings or ideas.  It is no wonder that pews are empty and we have decided that it is better to fill our lives with the moment rather than wait for the promise of the eternal.  I guess somethings are just important enough to us.

Stated in collect form, the Church prayed not so long ago:

O God, the protector of all who trust in You, have mercy on us that with You as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

1 comment:

William Tighe said...

It appears that a portion of the original collect was omitted from the translated version that you provided. Was the omission deliberate? Here is the original:

Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam, ut, te rectore, te duce, sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus æterna. Per Dominum...

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.