The Building of Booths
At the moment of the Transfiguration, Peter poured forth his desire to erect booths for Jesus, Moses and Abraham.
At that moment of blinding light, when the visible glory of God embraced Jesus and two of the greatest figures of the ages, Peter turned his attention to matters of construction.
At that moment of supreme revelation, Peter determined to build.
Lacking any other means to capture the moment, he sought to create a shrine.
But at the instant that he proclaimed his desire, the vision vanished.
Jesus and his followers were needed elsewhere.
So the great moment had passed, and more pedestrian needs had usurped it’s place.
Not to be so easily thwarted, some of the followers of Jesus picked up Peter’s mantle.
Thus began centuries and millennia of booth-building.
I do not speak of booth-building with reference to church architecture, whether those booths be great cathedrals or modern megachurches.
I speak of the intellectual frameworks that we have created in the name of theology.
I speak of the great medieval system builders, including Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
While shuddering at the linkage, I speak also of the contemporary writers who would present us with meditation schemes of ten, twenty, thirty or more steps toward A Better Christian You.
We have created massive edifices of thought and prayer that are determined to capture the essence of God.
With the inherited mind of Peter, we have come to believe that projects are needed in order to give due honor to God.
Turning the edifice-building impulse on ourselves, we seek complex paths toward spiritual realization and spiritual “formation”.
But in scaffolding our walk and our talk, in trellising our vines to a complex latticework of belief, we may have missed the point.
The “pedestrian needs” are the point.
Accordingly, Jesus moves on.
And we are left behind, having reduced ourselves to espalier or bonsai, having tortured ourselves into a shape that best celebrates his absence.
In speaking of Christianity in my last article, I lamented that we have made such a rocket science of it.
I am not anti-intellectual. There are so many fields of inquiry that are rocket science.
At this time of year, I celebrate the return of teachers and students to the classroom.
But how much education, prior or on-going, is required in order to be a Christian?
How much intellectual scaffolding does it take to understand our central commission, as it is expressed in the two commandments of Jesus? And does not that undertaking take up most, if not all of our time?
It is not that we should disengage from intellectual speculation about God, much less surrender such speculation into the hands of a privileged few.
But does our commission require a constant cudgeling of our minds with ideas and beliefs?
Should the capstone of our week be yet another dose of principles?
After years of speculative writing and study, Thomas Aquinas is reputed to have said: “It’s all dross.”
After years of system-building, Augustine is reputed to have said: “Love God and do what you will.”
While shuddering again at yet another linkage, I am reminded of David Mamet’s advice to actors.
Stop studying about it.
If you want to act, then act.
“Stay out of school.”*
I fear that my lack of interest in complex systems will alienate some of my sisters and brothers who also pursue an interest in Mary Magdalene.
If I am not enthralled with Christian systems, I am even less engaged with neo-pagan beliefs, which would seek to resurrect a labyrinth of Egyptian paths to eternal life, or with Gnostic beliefs, which are mind-boggling in their complex journeys to wisdom.
While I will have more to say about Mary Magdalene, and about Magdalene Christianity, I do not wish to create or participate in yet another system.
Perhaps that is why I would rather write these articles in bullets, rather than in brick-like paragraphs that would purport to build an edifice of thought.
No frameworks for me, please; no latticework, no systems of thought nor sermons in stone.
Just a few anchors.
A few pegs for my tent, as it were.
So I can pick up and go.
He moves on.
I post new articles twice-monthly in "Author's Corner".
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion or prayer, please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to read or respond to all other correspondence.
True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor, First Vintage Books Edition, Random House, 1999.
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for sixteen years. In his home tradition, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.