That FLDS compound in Texas is back in the news today. What a strange place. I'm sure those who built the thing saw it as a refuge of sorts as a safe haven. Like Noah's ark, it was made to keep those inside away from a world awash with sin. But more and more, it resembles a prison, a concentration camp.
In days of yore, we built forts to keep animals, rival armies and the weather at bay. But the Texas outpost was made to keep people in, not to keep bad things out. And walling people away from reality will always be a fool's errand.
Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I was struck by the way thousands of people could crunch so close together without feeling a sense of claustrophobia. A friend explained that the Japanese have a knack for finding solitude within themselves. They go down inside to escape the world.
True or not, it seemed to me a good approach for "getting away." Instead of building fortresses to keep us from the world, what if we all learned to go down inside ourselves for our sanctity and peace of mind? I've wondered if that's what Jesus did when he was brought before Pilate. He was quiet, distant almost as if he were somewhere else. Had he retreated to his "inner temple" to worship and wait?
I remember interviewing Anthony Lawlor, author of the book "The Temple in the House." He said people often designed their homes to mirror their internal souls. There's a path that leads us to the door (the path of prayer, perhaps?). Then we pass through the doorway and enter a new realm a new place where things are comfortable and familiar. Usually each living area will have one object that's the focus. He called that "the altar" and he said it symbolized the "altar of the heart" that rests at the center of our souls the most important thing inside of us.
Going into a home was a metaphor for down into our hearts.
Aren't our churches like that? Don't we go into them looking to unburden ourselves and find the joy, light and warmth at the core of ourselves?
In the past, creating sturdy compounds and fortresses to shield people from the world probably made sense. Brigham Young brought the Saints to Utah to try and pull them away from the ugliness of life. But today, there is no escape. Walled retreats are pretty much useless when it comes to keeping society at bay. When shepherd boys in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia can drop by "Internet cafes" and watch the Dallas Cowboys play football, you know the era of isolation is closing fast.
Soon, the only escape left will be that escape into our inner sanctuary.
Even science is onboard with that. More and more they talk of the "god spot," an area of the brain where people go when they want to commune with the infinite and find spiritual enlightenment.
And as events in Texas have shown, the "temple of the heart" may soon be the only place left where we can flee the confusion of the world and find solace.The key, I think, is we all better make sure we know how to find that place when we need it.