Where we live–Bazaar or Cathedral?

Do you live in a bazaar or a cathedral?

The bazaar, as described by Kwok Pui Lan*, is a place of constant connection and sense saturation. It’s 10+ internet tabs, involvement in 5 different ministries/humanitarian causes, and having hundreds of close fb friends. Splitting at the seams with stimuli, it has too much information to internalize, which is fine because you can always just go back (ie, google search). The more vendors, people, connections, and relationships, the better the bazaar.

Lan describes the cathedral, on the other hand, as a place of liberating  silence, and wisdom that can only be developed through years of patience and focus.  It is a space that enables one to shake off the multiple layers of distraction in order to plumb the depths of one’s mind, as well as search the depths of God’s. Even its architecture is designed to simultaneously inspire us with visionary thinking while also pondering our own personal mortality and relative insignificance.

Here’s the trouble with binary questions (either/or): where does life ever actually break down into two simple categories? As such, my introductory question was (intentionally) misleading. The question to ask ourselves isn’t “Which do we live in?” But, “Does my experience in the one inform/improve my life in the other?”

Billy goats can romanticize whatever is across the bridge, but we are called to more.  Let’s not pretend that the bazaar is exclusively superficial and the cathedral never leads to isolation.


We need to learn to swim against our internet culture and cultivate a cathedral mindset. We also need to engage the world around us, taking advantage of the multiple, myriad opportunities the bazaar presents.   We need space for prayer, study, and worship (more than singing). We need to pause long enough that if God were to speak to us in a whisper, we would be quiet enough to hear. We also need to admit that our own operating systems have in many ways been wired by the technological revolution…and that nothing is wrong with that.

Nurturing healthy habits and life rhythms doesn’t mean we’re called to be someone we are not. Truly understanding that there is no ‘sacred-secular’ divide, helps us realize that while the cathedral is ESSENTIAL to our spiritual well-being, it is no more spiritual than the bazaar.

Leaving us with this:

Does your life in the bazaar and cathedral effectively bear the Image and bring the Kingdom?

* A free copy of her article in Yale’s Reflections can be ordered here (Fall 2011)


About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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