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Asking Heretical Questions: A View From Paris: Part II

Where, or What Is The House of God

Clearly, Paris is a city of magnificent buildings: mansions and palaces, museums and government buildings, churches, mosques, synagogues and, of course, cathedrals. Inside these buildings is some of  the most magnificent art in the world, as well as the people: cooks and waiters, government workers and computer programmers, and ... the throngs of tourists. There are also those who enter any one of several hundred different houses of prayer in Paris simply to worship God.


chapel.jpg (269782 bytes)As I stood on the floor of that wonderful sanctuary, Sainte-Chapelle, gazing upwards at all that phenomenal stained glass, I was moved by the wonder not only of the art, but also the technology that could make such a building possible. I also had a sense that even the most beautiful sanctuary has a tendency to coup God up.  It implies that somehow God can be contained within it. How dare we human beings even think that we can construct a "house of God."  Does God need our architects, artists, and construction engineers to provide shelter for the Most High here on earth?  Can the Holy Spirit ever be contained within the walls of any church?  Moreover, think how large an effort, and how much time, money, and other material resources are devoted to the construction and maintenance of religious buildings. Imagine what a great difference it would make, if all of those resources were invested instead in addressing the problems of the poor? Did any of the founders of our great world religions even imagine that such a tremendous effort would have been made in their names to construct buildings?  Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus?  Jesus did not even own a home, and he never instructed any of his followers to build a synagogue, or a sanctuary. In fact, he often spoke of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. And his emphasis was upon relating to God "in spirit and in truth."

Clearly, we have diminished the Creator if we think of God as residing only in churches, mosques, or synagogues, and forget that the Divine One is present everywhere, at all times, unto all people, even right here in cyberspace. That is perhaps the deeper lesson that we celebrate at Easter.  Christ rose from the dead, not to take a place on some throne within a palace in  heaven, but rather to dwell within the hearts and minds of each and every one of us and to infuse this whole creation with the Spirit Divine.

Back to A View From Paris, Part I

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.