Milton Wright was a Bishop in the Church of the Brethren, traveling throughout his denomination until his death in 1917. He is reported to have said that if God intended human beings to fly, he would have given us wings. We know from history that his sons, Orville and Wilbur, thought otherwise.
At times, I find myself thinking this way. I think that if God intended us to have this or that new technology, surely God would have provided it. For example, I care little for cell phones, and only own one jointly with Gayle. If God intended us to talk anywhere, any time, surely we’d have “blue tooth” phones fitted to our ears when we were born. And I find myself thinking this way when it comes to oil and coal. I figure that if God intended us to put carbon into the air, then God surely would not have taken so long and worked so hard to fold these materials deep into the earth. I wonder if God really wants them to be taken from the bowels of the earth and used as we use them.
There I go, thinking like Bishop Wright again.
Actually, my concern is with what the church used to call “poiesis.” It is one of those Greek words, meaning “making.” We get our word “poet” from it. Poiesis is the human endeavor of making things for the world—including art, music, machines, and countless other things.
For the longest time, we have believed that what humans construct or invent is religiously neutral, that all that matters is how we use it. I am no longer so sure. I am wondering these days about ways to recover the religious significance of our “stuff” and of our daily labors. What we do and make must surely be considered in light of truth, goodness, and beauty.
My daughter Margaret attended Millsaps College down in Jackson, Mississippi. There is an unbelievably ugly building on the campus—a relatively new one, built in the 1970’s when people mystifyingly thought that concrete is pretty. It is the “Fine Arts” building.
Let us encourage one another.