The latest tweet I read this afternoon: “Anyone else outraged by the cathedrals all over Europe, mere feet away from where thousands were torn to pieces by Christian extremists?”
It was posted by ESQPolitics, and I found it via American Papist’s tweets in my feed. To be honest, I’m not sure what events this tweet refers to. But my first response is to wonder whether I, as a Christian, should be “outraged” by the Colosseum, were Christians were literally “torn to pieces” by starving animals and died many other unpleasant deaths? Should I, perhaps, insist that the Italians tear the Colosseum down because of this? Even if I were not a Christian, how many thousands of people have died because of this building, because of the values and attitudes of the culture it represents, a culture that enjoyed violence as a pastime? Is it not an outrage?
Actually, I rather like the Colosseum. I think should be preserved, appreciated, and admired. Why? Because it is a significant cultural and historical landmark, not to mention a thing of beauty. Because the Romans were a remarkable civilization, and you can’t remove them from history without having a huge gaping hole in the world as we know it. Because they did some nasty things, and also some amazing things.
Cathedrals are not exactly the same thing as the Colosseum. For one thing, they don’t represent a single culture or period in history, but many. They do represent one religion, of course; and all religions (like all civilizations), being composed of human beings, have a history attached to them of the horrible things that human beings are capable of doing to each other. If the tweeter of ESQPolitics is offended by cathedrals, surely he should be happy that the Swiss banned minarets, seeing as Muslims have also torn their fair share of people to pieces? Not in Switzerland, but that is beside the point: if the attitude behind this tweet is correct and a religion’s architecture is an outrage because members of that religion have performed gruesome acts, minarets ought to go.
But minarets–and cathedrals–aside from having value as representations of a religion’s cultural identity, have a cultural value beyond belonging to the religion’s members. I’m thinking of Notre Dame, of the Cologne Cathedral, of Chartes, of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, all of which are incredible examples of architecture and craftsmanship, many of which have been named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The cultural, historical, and aesthetic value of these buildings is inestimable.
And if the Colosseum was used for the worst in Roman culture, cathedrals are surely monuments to the best of Christianity: to the beauty that flourishes within it, to the heights that humanity can reach because of it.
I could go on, particularly about the Church and her hospitals, her contributions to art and science, etc. If anything is outrageous, it is ESQPolitic’s tweets, not cathedrals. I don’t know of any balanced people who walk around Europe getting angry every time they see a church.
Unless they’re just trying to make waves. Cheap waves.