Two-Dimensional Living in a Three-Dimensional World
Dear Cathedral Family,
I watch a lot of college football, and I’ve done so during this weird COVID football season no less than any other. The play on the field is no different than in prior years. What is very different is the crowd. Due to the pandemic, where just a year ago stadiums were packed with fifty, sixty, one hundred thousand fans, this year’s playoff semi-final between Ohio State and Clemson in New Orleans included only three thousand fans in a Superdome that seats seventy-four thousand. Going to a football game these days is necessarily similar to the socially-distanced experience of going to church.
Some sports franchises have compensated by piping in crowd noises through the loudspeakers and simulating attendance by filling the stands with two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of people. As a substitute for a crowded sporting event, this is, perhaps, an ingenious solution. As a metaphor for human interaction in our present day, it is an uncannily apt metaphor.
In that regard, I’m not talking about coronavirus-required social distancing. Rather, I’m talking about the ways in which, long before the emergence of COVID-19, we had ceased to regard our fellows as fully-fleshed, three-dimensional, psychically and emotionally cavernous human beings and instead cast them as two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. This is, at the end of the day, the root of our social disease and the key to its cure. Whether politically right or left, theologically progressive or conservative; regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation; when we consider those who differ from us two-dimensionally — when we define them by a label, an opinion, or even by a single action — they are as easy to knock down and disregard as a cardboard cutout blown over by the wind. We begin to consider them as unreal, and the things they say strike us as artificial and ungenuine, like the fabricated sounds pumped through a stadium loudspeaker.
How might our lived experience of those around us change if, instead, we granted one another the fullness of our humanity? What if, beyond even that, we granted one another what Genesis 1 claims, that each of us is created in the very image of God, or more faithfully interpreted, that only all together are any of us created in God’s image? If each time we find ourselves, in a knee-jerk manner, about to dismiss someone else with a sneer, shrug, or head shake, we instead imagine the depth of pain or yearning hope that motivates her, the flatness of the cardboard cutout will begin to round and fill. The encounter will then become infinitely more challenging, but it will also begin, if we are faithful to it, to include fathomless grace.
Let me end this first meditation of 2021 with a bit of practical advice on where to begin: Read. Author and Episcopal priest Reagan Satterfield points out that “people who read literary fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t.” Good fiction invites us into the interior lives of a story’s characters. It grants us a privileged window into the psychic and emotional fullness of other people. And once we’ve ventured into that interior world in fiction, we can better, and more empathically, imagine the struggles, wounds, and victories that characterize the people we meet in the real world. If you are looking for a place to start in this new year, I recommend Abraham Vergehese’s Cutting For Stone, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, or anything by Wendell Berry.
I look forward to being with you in all three dimensions in 2021. As soon as you are able, get vaccinated! Happy Epiphany.
Grace and peace,
The Very Reverend Barkley Thompson
Every Member Canvass
There is still time to make your pledge for 2021! The Every Member Canvass is our annual opportunity to pledge financial support to Christ Church Cathedral for the coming calendar year, a true investment in future mission and ministry. As we live in a time unlike any other, the need is great, and we hope that all will make their pledge through trust in God who casts out our fear, and out of the joy we know when we meet God in this place.
Ways to make your pledge:
- Pledging online is easy.
- Return the pledge card you received by mail to 1117 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002.
- Make a pledge over the phone at 713-590-3338 or by email by contacting Karen Kraycirik, minister for stewardship.
Ways to pay your pledge:
- Go online to make an electronic payment via credit or debit card. You can also set up recurring payments via this form.
- Donate using PayPal via the Cathedral’s website: christchurchcathedral.org/give/
- Text the word “Give” to 888-998-1634
- Send a check to the Cathedral address: 1117 Texas Street, Houston, TX, 77002.
- Make a gift of stock or securities, using our stock donation instructions.
Learn more about this year's EMC at: christchurchcathedral.org/emc