I’ve been reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope for several months now (with my internship, my research project, plus school and work, it’s been a slow process). In one section he discusses an idea of the “theology of space.” His discussion mostly revolves around whether or not churches should continue to have buildings.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about church buildings, personally. I was sexually abused in a church nursery as a child, so for most of my life just walking into a church building has had me fighting off literal panic attacks. Zoloft helped that, but church buildings still aren’t my favorite place in the world.
On the other hand, when Abe and I decided we were going to get married, we knew immediately where we wanted that to happen. A little church building in Toledo with a chicken coop out front that has become the closest thing to a church “home” that I’ve had since high school.
N.T. Wright seems to affirm a diversity of beliefs here, while encouraging people not to completely discount church buildings. But he also call us to think about what space means to us, in light of the idea of resurrection.
He talks about the Celtic idea of thin spaces: “places where the curtain between heaven and earth seems almost transparent.”
I like this idea of thin spaces.
I actually want to take this idea of thin spaces in a different direction than N.T. Wright. Even though Lent is over (if you’re a new reader, I committed to learning to love my body for Lent), I’ve still been thinking about my theology in terms of my biology. I’d be interested to learn what my readers’ own “theologies of space” are, but in light of my recent Lenten adventures, here’s mine…
We are thin places.
We often think about the spaces that we are at. I think sometimes we need to stop and think about the spaces that we are.
Our bodies. The part of us that takes up space.
I’ve shared this quote from Sarah Sentilles’ wonderful book A Church of Her Own before on this blog, and I’d like to share it again (emphasis mine):
We don’t know what to do with bodies in most forms of Christianity. The body–and in particular the female body–has been denigrated, feared, understood as sinful, shameful, something to be covered up, tamed, and mastered. There is something ferocious about our fear of bodies in churches. And yet, at the heart of Christianity are stories about incarnation, about a God that dwells in a human body, a God that makes bodies and breathes life into them.
A God that dwells in a human body. A God that joined in solidarity with humanity, even to the point of death.
God with us.
Not only that, but a church that is called over and over again in Christian theology the body of Christ. Bodies that make up a body.
Maybe churches are thin spaces because bodies meet in them, because churches bear the marks of bodies, the histories of bodies, the proof that bodies were here.
And maybe those who have profound spiritual experiences outside of the church are not “doing it wrong” either. Maybe the divine really doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands. Maybe we don’t have to go look for thin spaces.
What if our bodies, and by extension our brains that produce the very consciousness by which we can even imagine the existence of sacredness or divinity, are thin spaces by themselves?
If heaven really is joined with earth, and if we really can glimpse it in certain spaces, why not start with our own bodies? After all, according to Christian theology at least, God became a body.
Our bodies are temples. They are thin spaces. They are sacred and beautiful and they are holy ground.
Lent is over, but I’m going to keep celebrating bodies, because God is with us.What do you think about this idea of a “theology of space” that starts with bodies? And what are some of your “thin spaces?”