This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Toward an organic expression of religious life

There is no normative form of religious expression, but only that which accords with the doctrine bequeathed to a civilization and proper to the men who are participating in it. The revelation is objective, and if its principles are respected and retained, its secondary adaptations may be culturally numerous. This does not mean that any arrangement can adequately express the faith, for it does not originate in the subjective, but only that any number of arrangements can do so.

The church as a dedicated worship structure is appropriate only to those civilizations whose spiritual capital is such that it brings these out naturally, of its own accord. In secularized times, church buildings become not only artificial but misleading to both believers and non-believers. It is hard enough to discern the reality of our situation without millions of believers, stumbling-drunk on Marx’s opiate-religiosity, arguing to the contrary, congratulating themselves on their ‘Christian nation’, just because it allows them to go about their secular business with a good conscience.

We ought to recoil in disgust from the rising mega-church because, perceiving the absence of sufficient spiritual capital in our cultural substrate, we sense that its growth is unnatural.

Every church building in America is an anachronism. They ought to please only the antiquarian. To everyone else they should appear strange and even repellent. The fact that they are not recognized as such is evidence, not of some remnant of spiritual vigor, but of an unprecedented capacity for self-deception on the part of the American people.

This is why it would perhaps be the healthiest of possible catastrophes if somehow or another all the churches were razed to the ground. The believer would suffer, to be sure, just as the alcoholic suffers when his bottle is taken from him. But perhaps without his church walls to blind him, the believer would finally have to face with courage the cold discomfort of his world as it is. A spiritual wasteland.

Then and only then could he hope to conquer the real problems that oppress him; only then could he build something real and proper to himself, because only then will he have truly been “re-connected with reality.” He will have escaped the religion of Marx and re-discovered the religion of Christ. Perhaps then, by returning to the beginning, he could embark on a path that ends with the construction of a Cathedral. But the point is that whatever he does will be congruous with an actual spiritual reality—and it will be alive with his life.

In sum, we can say that Churches only enter the historical scene after Constantine converted. So it is no exaggeration to say that the political presence of Christianity preceded its architectural presence. This order of things, however, is incomprehensible to an era which imagines that Church buildings can and should exist within society but “outside politics,” and that the former will somehow influence the latter by some sort of emanation of righteousness. Each new Church built in America is an insult to the faith, an example of Christian delusion, an act of imaginary activism and vanity. They serve the same function for society at large that the window garden serves for the average man’s home: they give his wife a place to vent her sentiments, while he goes about his business. Churches are the window gardens of a secular civilization. Anachronistic ornaments which look good and make certain individuals feel good, but they only imitate the function of the institution they have tried to copy.

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