Spiraling out of control!

029-22_zps0b57abb4Response to the Cathedral nautilus conversation has been, well, spiraling out of control. This is an apt metaphor for the chambered nautilus so perhaps this shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the “all publicity is good publicity” department, the Cathedral of St. Paul in Boston is thriving. Granted not all the responses have been positive and some have even been malicious but, hey, people are talking about the Episcopal Church so there’s that.

After posting my thoughts on the new artwork gracing the long-vacant cathedral pediment and inviting the Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Jep Streit, to do likewise, the whole issue has gone a bit viral.

First, The American Conservative’s Rod Deher tried to stir up some controversy in true Fox News fashion with an article titled Episcopalians & The Way of the Seashell. His most offensive, vaguely racist comment was:

Sounds like the inside of a Twinkie has a more solid core than the cathedral community’s theology, though it’s probably not as white.

Surprisingly some of the 50 online comments that followed were actually balanced and a few were even in favor of the nautilus.

Jim Naughton of The Episcopal Cafe posted quotes from and links to both of our responses and also saw the value of open, honest disagreement in “One man’s beauty is another man’s fish house.”

Two people of good faith are having a respectful disagreement, and I find this such a refreshing development in our church that I feel obliged to call attention to it.

The usually balanced Religion News Service posted this comment under the headline “The old rugged seashell

Favorite story of the day:St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedralin Boston has finally filled in the triangle-shaped pediment on its facade with … wait for it … a giant nautilus shell that’s lit up at night like a Vegas show girl.

Real Clear Religion (whatever that is) tips their thoughts in the headline “Episcopalians Trade Paul for a Seashell.” The good news? They didn’t refer to us as “Episcopals.”

First Things went with the neutral “The Nautilus on the Cathedral.”

The key takeaway in all this? Religious symbols are powerful and elicit strong emotional responses. I’m still convinced the Church must first stand up and embrace its own Christian identity — that’s at the heart of this conversation for me. We can and must embody an inclusivity that flows directly from the foot of the cross out into the world. Much of Jesus’ ministry involved shattering the barriers that divide us one from another. The Good News of Christ’s gospel still has the power to do just this.

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5 Comments on “Spiraling out of control!”

  1. Relling says:

    I do applaud your dialogue on this issue. I think you are more sensitive to the power of art and tradition than the dean, who believes that you can just make up a symbol without reference to its aesthetic and traditional qualities.
    Hey, what about a rectangle to put on our fingers to show that we are married? Four is the number of perfection, and we didn’t always use rings anyway.

  2. Jay Croft says:

    “Real Clear Religion” is an excellent source of articles on religion, from many viewpoints. They have a morning and an afternoon edition, plus one on weekends. I usually read 3-4 articles each day.

    That’s what it is.

  3. Father Tim says:

    Thanks, Jay. I lead a sheltered existence.

  4. Carol Plummer says:

    Generally I am amazingly in agreement with you, and I really like the Nautilus. Too many people have confided their total unwillingness to set foot in a Christian church or hear a word of healing or comfort because of their anger or fear resulting from varied experiences (traumata).

    What if such a someone saw the Nautilus, decided to come in, sit down, and breathe in the sacred energy, while thinking (or not) of the Golden Mean? What if, then refreshed, he/she looked around the pew, saw a card, filled it out, and, thereafter, learned that Christianity doesn’t need to be “like that?” What if another soul finds joy, community, and snark, when all that seemed so out of reach?

    The Divine finds a way. Sometimes it is more convoluted. The Nautilus is posed in an ideal location to invite those in pain or confusion to rest in the Christos without forcing them to accept grace unending until that appears plausible.

    Blessed be….

  5. Woodstock Churchlady says:

    The next time I’m in Boston, I am going to see the Nautilus, go in the Cathedral and stay for a service if one is available. Debate is wonderful, but we don’t want to forget that such things as pediments are “details” and maybe even “stuff”.


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