Before I started my internship this summer, I had been seriously considering leaving the church and denying my faith. Personally citing that I could no longer live with the inconsistencies that I believed were integral to the Church.
This summer however was a summer of growth, and as I read, and listened in my meditation I discovered that while I was in fact running counter to what the Church has been teaching for the past 1500 years, I was not necessarily wrong. Orthodoxy, while its definition includes “right,” “correct,” and “true,” is not synonymous with truth. Orthodoxy is merely the acceptance of current, mainstream, ideological thought; it is acceptance of the norm. It is the “recognized standard” it is “conventional” it is conformation to ideology processed and handed down to us by men hundreds of years dead.
This is not religion, this is not faith; this is conformity, stagnation, and in fact antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy is the dominant story of Christianity in our society, and I realized that what I had issues with was not the teachings of Jesus Christ, but the stringent application of orthodoxy in our lives.
Rejecting orthodoxy is in my opinion, the only way that we will save the Church. While many people might claim that the only reason the Church is still alive and well today is because of its strict adherence to the orthodox mentality, I would dare posit that it has more to do with the political power the church acquired during the growth of an empire. I would suggest that the church garnered its power through fear and conquest (the inquisition; forced conversion of native peoples; etc) rather than through the loving reality of the message of Christ, and I would attribute all of these faults to orthodoxy.
How can we say we are a religion that espouses peace when we pay little attention to the people, when we listen so poorly to the realities of the world, when we fail to empathize with our brothers and sisters? How can we grow if all we do is repeat what our teachers have taught us, as the ideology of Apostolic Succession has conditioned us? The Gnostics firmly believed, as Elaine Pagels writes, that “original creative invention [was] the mark of anyone who becomes spiritually alive… [w]hoever merely repeated his teacher’s words was considered immature”.
I stand in concurrence with the Valentinian Gnostics on this point. If we follow the God of creation, a God that exists in all and everything, and if we are to follow Jesus Christ, who taught us to be more like God, how do we expect to do so if we do not create? If we do not share in this blessed creation, by protecting, serving, and crafting something new?
- Friend: He was like a renaissance man.
- Me: Yeah?
- Friend: Yeah....
- Friend: He knew mad shit about mad shit.
Conservators recently restored “Diana,” the best-known work of the most celebrated sculptor of the Gilded Age, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. After an extensive study of the artist’s methods and several phases of technical preparation, they made much-needed structural repairs to the sculpture and applied 180 square feet of gold leaf to restore its original shine. To see how much work went into the process, check out here.
Conservators Andrew Lins, Alisa Vignalo, and Adam Jenkins apply gold leaf to “Diana” in the Great Stair Hall.