“To privilege dead stones over living faith”

January 25, 2012

A modern church sits atop the traditional site of Peter's house in Capernaum. You can see the ruins through this glass floor.

One complaint about my otherwise AMAZING trip to the Holy Land last year was that the holy places are mostly covered up by churches. For example, you can’t see the cave in which, according to ancient tradition, Jesus was born because there’s a church on top of it. In his fictionalized travelogue to the Holy Land, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus: Reading the Gospels on the Ground, Professor Bruce Fisk shares my frustration but offers this eloquent rejoinder:

As I approached Peter’s house, I was initially annoyed by the modern memorial that, since 1990, has brooded over the ruins like a protective griffon over its nest. It made the ruins harder to see, which made no sense to me. But then I watched a pair of nuns ascend the stairs and disappear inside, which made me realize my attitude was painfully Protestant. Why was I eager to skip over centuries of Christian worship and memory, ready to clear away the layers, inclined to privilege dead stones over living faith? I was nothing if not one more in a long stream of pilgrims, each one on a quest for the grace it takes to remain faithful.

Bruce N. Fisk, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus: Reading the Gospels on the Ground (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 143.

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