After posting my thoughts on the new artwork gracing the long-vacant cathedral pediment and inviting the Cathedral Dean, the Very Rev. Jep Streit, to do likewise, the whole issue has gone a bit viral.
First, The American Conservative's Rod Deher tried to stir up some controversy in true Fox News fashion with an article titled Episcopalians & The Way of the Seashell. His most offensive, vaguely racist comment was:
Sounds like the inside of a Twinkie has a more solid core than the cathedral community’s theology, though it’s probably not as white.
Surprisingly some of the 50 online comments that followed were actually balanced and a few were even in favor of the nautilus.
Jim Naughton of The Episcopal Cafe posted quotes from and links to both of our responses and also saw the value of open, honest disagreement in "One man's beauty is another man's fish house."
Two people of good faith are having a respectful disagreement, and I find this such a refreshing development in our church that I feel obliged to call attention to it.
The usually balanced Religion News Service posted this comment under the headline "The old rugged seashell"
Favorite story of the day:St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedralin Boston has finally filled in the triangle-shaped pediment on its facade with … wait for it … a giant nautilus shell that’s lit up at night like a Vegas show girl.
Real Clear Religion (whatever that is) tips their thoughts in the headline "Episcopalians Trade Paul for a Seashell." The good news? They didn't refer to us as "Episcopals."
First Things went with the neutral "The Nautilus on the Cathedral."
The key takeaway in all this? Religious symbols are powerful and elicit strong emotional responses. I'm still convinced the Church must first stand up and embrace its own Christian identity -- that's at the heart of this conversation for me. We can and must embody an inclusivity that flows directly from the foot of the cross out into the world. Much of Jesus' ministry involved shattering the barriers that divide us one from another. The Good News of Christ's gospel still has the power to do just this.