I recently read Dan Cruickshank’s Skyscraper, a history of that tall building’s origins in Chicago, Illinois. That a building could have a steel frame and use rivets rather than bolts to keep it standing was a marvel to the late Victorians, to say nothing of the high numbers of floors (and therefore tenants) they possessed. If ever America had its own building style or national architecture, it is the skyscraper. Yet when Chicago hosted the 1893 World Columbia Exposition, better known as the World Fair, the vast panoply of buildings it saw erected were in the beaux arts classical style, with its origins in classical Greece and Rome, via France. When America should have been exhibiting its own achievements, it resorted to the tried and trusted expressions of the older European past. It seems odd that a nation now so comfortable with itself should have shrunk back to the old world when seeking cultural inspiration. The Whitehouse, the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court are all in this foreign style, instead of the New World’s tall, functional and graceful towers.

We Christians, in contrast, are right to look back to an ancient source, the Bible, a third of which dates back to the classical world. Yet when I hear evangelicals quoting popes, medieval saints and eastern mystics, I wonder at the irony. As America had no need to dig up the European past, so we Christians have little need to resort to mouldy tat which the Reformation retired and buried. We should be reaching to the skies, not stooping to the mud. 

Image by Jürgen Polle from Pixabay