I think it was Henry Kissinger (but maybe it was one of his girlfriends, or maybe I’m all wet) who said “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Modulate that up a few steps and I’ve experienced it recently.
I sing in a very good amateur chorus. Our Fall program, for which we’re in final rehearsals, is Verdi’s magnificent Requiem. Our own forces are not large enough to do justice to things like the Dies Irae, so we’re joining forces with the choir from Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, to which we travelled Sunday for our first combined rehearsal.
If you’ve traveled Meridian Street in Indianapolis North from Monument Circle to I-465, you’ve passed it, and unless you’re oblivious, you’ve noticed it. But if you’ve never been inside, you “don’t know the half of it.” We entered last night into the northernmost part, quite a bit lower than the sanctuary to the south. It felt like the lobby of a luxury hotel, complete with a glass elevator — until you looked up and saw the interior of a great stone cathedral. “Aha! This is the sanctuary they outgrew,” I thought. “No,” someone nearby replied. The cornerstone says 2007.
Yes, this apparently was built in 2007, and was not an adaptive re-use. They just built it that way because they could, and it blends with the rest of the building. I will see the sanctuary at tomorrow’s rehearsal. There wasn’t time. This place is hundreds of thousands of square feet, by feel at least.
Wandering around at break revealed an utterly gracious, very upscale operation in every way. The cleanliness would put Disney World to shame. There were no crudely hand-printed notices; everything appeared professionally prepared. This is, if memory serves, the Church of which former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut was Pastor before he was Mayor. I believe Governor Mitch Daniels is a member there, though I’m much less confident of that.
In any event, this is a Church with influence! Power!
It is seductive — disconcertingly so.
I left the Protestant world 13 years ago in favor of ancient, Eastern, Orthodoxy. On every point of disagreement — and there are very many — I believe what the Orthodox Church believes and rejects what the Presbyterians believe. It would require an act of what amounts to apostasy (for me, at least; I can speak for nobody else) to affiliate with Second Presbyterian.
But … but … but, it’s so beautiful. The lure of being in an institution so influential is sooo strong. And they do good stuff, like the Verdi Requiem, and spending 21% of their budget for “missions.”
My point isn’t that evil can be seductive. I have no particular reason to think that “Second” (as they call themselves for short) is evil. But the message running through my head was more like “Holy Smokes! How cool is this?!” than “Glory to Jesus Christ!”
The point, which is uncomfortably close to the bone, is that this Intellectualoid is not immune to the powers of great packaging.
Second Presbyterian has terrific packaging. Its kind of soft Calvinism is a powerful component of our Civil Religion. Does doctrine really matter that much? Apostolic succession? The sacraments in their fullness? The Faith in it’s fullness? Can’t you just “bracket” that stuff?
(The Sirens Sing so sweetly and subliminally: “Think of all the good you could do with that ring, Frodo!”)
I guess it’s healthy to get smacked up in the side of the head periodically with reminders that I haven’t arrived at sanctity yet. Yesterday (figuratively speaking), it’s an attractive, vulnerable woman who captures my imagination momentarily and reminds me that lust (or worse) has not yet utterly fled from this aging body. Today, it’s handsome “Second,” reminding me that lust for power and respectability — a manifestation of pride, the deadliest of the deadly sins, may retain more power over me than plain old lusty lust.
And I’m not, superficially at least, a power-hungry guy. But … WHAM!
“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”