Cathedral of the One Percent

by cathrynbauer

My first view of the National Cathedral.

Headed up to Washington, D.C. on a snowy, rainy Monday.  Weather couldn’t make up its mind which it was.  Excursions like this are a good idea.  They give me a better feel for the roads and where things are when I don’t have the pressure of having to get to a job.  Having to deal with inclement weather made it an even better exercise.

I think the National Cathedral is worth seeing, but it did not move me in any way.  I had hoped it would be something like Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, a wonderful, welcoming place that strives to be a San Francisco community church and does so much good.  This wasn’t the case.  It is indeed magnificent.  I think the stained glass and intricate stone carvings are the 20th-century equivalent of Chartres or Notre Dame.  One of the flying buttresses had a carving of a whale in the sea!  There are numerous chapels and bays, tiny chapels meant for private reflection, swelling outward from the main walls with really striking stained glass windows.  I was particularly charmed by the Children’s Chapel.  I read it was designed to be comfortable for a six-year-old child.  The images were of Jesus with children, and all of the kneelers had needlepoint images of baby animals.  There is a lounge-library area in the crypt for rest and reflection.  But why a “national” cathedral where the images are exclusively Christian?  I recognize that some such impressive space is necessary for nationally-important occasions such as the lying-in-state of a deceased president or ex-president.  But, hello, we are not all Christian in this country.  Unlike Grace, there was no place that was nonsectarian, nothing that made the non-Christian welcome or that even acknowledged that we exist.   I saw several if not many names on the walls of wealthy, well-known people and groups whose record has not been unambiguous in the moral sense: Eli Lilly, for one.   I found myself wondering what they found here and what they were really buying with their hefty donations.  And then I wondered about the tables being turned: they might well say the same thing about me and my views on them.  We both believe we are moving the world along to a better place by living and working the way that we do.  How do any of us really know that we are doing any good?  It was rather a depressing thought.  Part of building a new life is finding places that inspire me like I did back in the SF Bay Area.  I’m glad I went, but the National Cathedral is not one of those places. The phrase that really sticks in my mind is, “Cathedral of the One Percent.”

So far, batting absolutely zero on finding people and places that inspire me.  But I joined the Potomac Valley Scottish Fiddlers; signed up for a workshop at the Celtic Festival, also got concert tickets; signed up to go to an Imbolc ceremony (I just hope they remember to send me the address); and may go to a full moon gathering the night before.  Just keep moving on out.  Sigh.