Sunday, February 26, 2006

A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. This weekend I went to see a gospel chorale perform at the Broadway Presbyterian Church. It was wonderful all the way down the line. The church is beautiful, with big oak beams and leaded glass and a magnificent pipe organ, which was employed for the first number. (A good choir under a pipe organ is sublime: the sweet voices under the rumble and thrill of the pipes are like a rainbow under a great waterfall.) I was surrounded by churched people who were extremely nice, and the music and preaching washed me warmly and sanctifyingly.

Regular readers will know that I don't have much good to say about such religion as appears in our nation's political life, and my default position is always that funny bit about the last tyrant and the entrails of the last priest. (Or is it the other way around?) But though I may have slipped through the fingers of Religion, Inc., I am not beyond the reach of the godly.

Religion as I experienced it this weekend I count a fine thing. Whether I would find it an equally fine thing far from the Upper West Side, when it is dispensed by megachurchmen and snake-handlers, is a matter best left for experience to tell, and it may be that the essential godlessness of the City in which I live made the experience I did have seem more like an opportunity for the heart's comfort than an oppression of the heart's desire. That is, I didn't walk out of the church into South Dakota, where sharia is in the offing, but into New York, where free will is still part of the program.

Who knows but that the children of God among whom I briefly stood might, in other circumstances, feel encouraged to raid my library, cordon my abortion clinic, and go all Fifth Monarchist on my ass? But it is encouraging to have some evidence that it need not be so.

UPDATE. I forgot to mention it last night, but this sort of experience is why I don't get too upset when the ACLU goes after religious displays on public property. In this imperfect world, as we have seen, great religions, like great crime organizations, do not disdain to boost their membership numbers by fear and intimidation, and while that might be good for their shareholders, it is awful for humanity. As far as salvation goes, I prefer to live in a buyer's market. Three cheers for the Naked Public Square!

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