Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Just Architecture!

In research class this morning, our instructor, Paulette Moore, showed the class this excellent video she and a fellow student worked on last year, while she was completing coursework at the CJP.  It's called "Pillars of Justice" and it explores the psychological impact of architecture in court rooms in West Virginia.  The video is 23 minutes long, but it's very well-done: good music and good transitions, and atmosphere.  Even humor!  There are volume level issues that slipped through editing, but it was for a class project and not national TV, so this isn't a deal-breaker for me in the least.  It's worth the time invested because it looks at something soooo many people take for granted, and challenges assumptions; something I love!

Pillars of Justice from Paulette Moore on Vimeo.

So what hath this to do with theology?  Well, not much, perhaps.  This video speaks to how our institutions and processes are informed by so many different things that we often take for granted.  Architecture, for instance.  There is a marvelous quote in this video from one of their interview subjects that "architecture is in the mind," and he even extends it to not being just physical space, but also process architecture.  The machinery of justice, in this case: courtrooms.

But then there is an implication to theology, perhaps.  Theology is a process with a particular architecture in a certain arena.  I've heard theology in the academic arena described in very exclusivist and competitive terms.  Who's "winning," who's in and who's out.  If this is true, does it reflect the Christian values that we're trying to embody?  Is it a fight for airtime we're after?

If my impressions of academic theology are correct, then it sounds like a game I'm really not interested in playing, despite my academic study at seminary being rooted there.  I'd rather see theology played out in the public square, much like the reflections and learning that seems to come out of this video on architecture and justice.  I'm not a total anarchist, I do believe in the value of wise subject matter experts, but I'd rather see those experts interacting with the public, churched and unchurched, than having them fight it out with each other, essentially, behind closed doors.

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