The Departure of the Glory “Then we are living in a place abandoned by God,” I (Adso) said, disheartened.
“Have you found any places where God would have felt at home?” William asked…
–Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

The implications of a quote like this are, to my mind, simply staggering. Indeed, where among us would God feel at home? In our churches, where we deceive ourselves by crying “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD” (as in Jeremiah 7)? In the United States of “God Bless” America, where 1 in 6 children live in poverty and where thousands – millions! – are living tonight without heat, without electricity, without warm clothes, without food or water? Would God feel at home in our “shining city on a hill?” If the Shekinah has departed and forsaken these lands, who are we to blame him? Is Adso right? And if he is, is William’s remark any consolation?

When I reflect on this I’m led back to where Jesus of Nazareth chose to live, to earn his keep and pay his rent. He didn’t choose the Holy City of Jerusalem, the dwelling place of The Presence. He didn’t choose Rome, the residence of the Powers and Principalities. He didn’t choose Athens, the home of sophia, and he didn’t choose Alexandria, the scientific capital of the Mediterranean. No, it was the bad neighborhoods where he earned his stripes; it was the unsavory nature of the company he kept, choosing to eat with those who could barely cull a meal of any sort together, let alone a kosher one, and refusing to cast the first stone against those who, by the definitions of the day, deserved it. (He’d have needed a LOT of rocks.)

May God help us. Where should we look to find him today? Mars Hill? In Purpose-Driven churches? In Postmodern Parishes? In the Religious Right? In Pat Robertson’s “diet shake” labs? Or maybe in our Christian schools and universities, our yeshivot and our madrasas?

Maybe we need to start in our bad neighborhoods, the places where we would least expect to find him. For some of us, that may very well mean with ourselves. If the Kingdom of God is here and now, as our Gospels proclaim, I fear that we’ve been looking for it in the wrong places for too long.