Last month, the Washington National Cathedral removed all of its pews for several days for what was billed as a special and unique event--"Seeing Deeper". The event was promoted by as:
Seeing Deeper builds upon and visibly brings to life many facets of the Cathedral’s core mission. By juxtaposing the spiritual and the artistic, practice and hearing, silence and song, the Cathedral opens the doors of this landmark and national treasure to be experienced in new ways while fulfilling our calling to be a spiritual home for the nation. As a place known for its art and iconography and its setting for musical performance, this week of introspection, reflection, and transcendence transforms the Cathedral’s living stones for thousands of worshipers, concert-goers, pilgrims, and visitors.
Washington National Cathedral's long-time Music Director Michael McCarthy explained emptying the nave to allow visitors to experience the worship space in solitude and silence as well as offering a couple of free classical concerts by the Cathedral Choir.
All of this religious rhetoric sounds very noble project for the world's sixth largest Cathedral, which also doubles as the Episcopal Church's Washington Cathedral. But the execution of Seeing Deeper along with some comments that it engendered may shock some sensibilities of religiously centered Christians.
To aid in Seeing Deeper, the Washington National Cathedral promised to have "prayer mats, yoga mats, zafu meditation cushions and mandalas to draw and color available as reflection tools. So a nominally Christian Cathedral opens itself to zafu meditation for Hindus worshiping thousands of gods or Buddhist mandala meditation to no god. While religious liberty should be prized in America as well as religious tolerance, it is questionable to open the Cathedral doors and facilitate worship of other deities in the Lord's house.
What was more shocking was the quip by the new Rector of Washington National Cathedral, Reverend Gary Hall. Hall quipped: "I want to skateboard down it — or have a paper airplane contest," as he watched about 100 people practice tai chi in open nave."
Hall believes that not enough was being done with Washington National Cathedral, so Seeing Deeper would get the place back to its roots. However, Rector Hall conscientiously would not proselytize. "If I get people together and say, ‘Let's talk about God,' we'll get an argument. But if I say, ‘Let's all pray together and experience the divine together in our own way,' people can enter that in a much more creative and less-judgmental way." That is pretty weak tea for proclaiming the Gospel . However joking about playing with paper airplanes or skateboarding down the nave truly impeaches Hall's reverence and piety towards a sacred space of which he is rector.
Opening the doors of Washington National Cathedral to celebrate faith may be well intentioned but misguided for a Christian sanctuary, but when a rector's lack of reverence is revealed by wanting to play in the sanctuary of his own Cathedral Church underlines why Dr. Scott Hahn is so committed to the New Evangelization as society has become notably de-Christianized