musings

the cultivated church cynic

i’m a big fan of alliteration. and improving my storytelling skills.

here’s a working introduction for a paper i’m writing for my art, spirituality, and transformation class. by wednesday it will be complete (*fingers crossed*):

“Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman. Believing what he read made him mad.” This quote from George Bernard Shaw is the most recent entry into my wisdom journal, a collection of clever quotations and poignant truths I hear in the midst of any day. Shaw’s quote caught my attention on a day marked with burnout and cynicism. In the course of a hectic graduate school schedule, I often question if the things I read and discuss are providing me with more clarity to my spiritual journey or conversely sanctioning more chaos in my life. Nothing could be truer for Guy Montag.

I was reintroduced to Montag a few months ago on a quest to recover the classic works of American literature. The central character in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) encounters a radical transformation from embarking on a journey of literature. Devoting his life to extinguishing “fires” of knowledge and scholarship made him a respected member of society, but it was in reading that Montag found Shaw’s aforementioned madness. Fahrenheit ends at the outbreak of war, and Montag is charged with remembering his past moments of enlightenment. Specifically, he is encouraged to be the voice reciting the book of Ecclesiastes. His new task in rebuilding the city post-war is a task of remembering. Montag’s leader, Granger, tells him “we’re going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them” (164).

Montag’s transformation is not unlike my own, except my personal turning point came through worship services. Growing up in a church was commonplace for me. It was expected that I engage in church leadership and discipleship at an early age. My response to such inundation, however, was one of cynicism. I began to resent the monotony and dogmatic approach to God. The shift in my spiritual transformation happened, though, when I began to take seriously the role of music in transformation. Music became the mirror by which I saw God’s impact in my life more clearly. Through the use of spiritual practices—particularly the dark night of the soul—my journey as a seasoned churchgoer and worship participant has moved from chaos about Christianity and toward clarity of my relationship with God…

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