The Church Militant (Or Not)

March 5, 2012 — 10 Comments

I was surfing wordpress sites the other day and came across one that linked to a fascinating collection of distinctive church buildings. I’ll include the link at the end of this column (so you don’t get too distracted, and fail to finish reading my impressions).

Many of the edifices are intriguing. Most are unique. A handful are truly inspiring.

One of the “unique” designs is found in the architecture of Saint Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago. For some viewers, the structure suggests minarets. Others see it as a contemporary version of Moscow’s Cathedral of Saint Basil. For me, it evokes a rather more martial memory.

In the early 1990s I was stationed at RAF Greenham Common where we were part of the nuclear deterrence mission. We supported the GLCM (ground launched cruise). We actually accomplished our national goal, in persuading the Soviet Union to mutually disarm through the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That was a significant accomplishment.

As part of the process, NATO and the Soviets dispatched Verification Teams to ensure that each was following through with the reduction and ultimate elimination of the missiles. After all of ours had been removed, I was privileged to serve as a Soviet Escort Officer during one such visit. It was interesting to watch how the highlight for the Soviets was their visit to our base exchange. (They were shocked by the diverse offerings of everyday capitalism and suspected that we depleted other stores to stock this one in a manner that would impress them.)

While they were visiting, they conducted pro forma inspections of all the locations where a missile could be hidden, including under regular manhole covers, as I recall.

Perhaps by now you understand why the Saint Joseph building reminds me of that tour of duty?

I am probably the only person whose first thought upon viewing this building is: what an amazing disguise for missile silos! Of course, one factor for my reaction is the clearly Russian/Ukrainian shape of the entire structure. A peculiar response to the picture, right? And yet . . . without inspecting the tubes, who can say with certainty whether or not my first reaction may have been accurate?

Here’s the link to the 50 Most Extraordinary Churches.

10 responses to The Church Militant (Or Not)

  1. 

    I thought they looked like bullets.

  2. 

    Having grown up in a military community that was considered a good first-strike area by the Soviets, I thought the same thing. Thank you for sharing the photos and reflections.

  3. 

    I saw that possibility immediately when I saw that picture. But I grew up with duck and cover under school desks (although my father quietly told my brother and I that it probably wouldn’t offer much protection – and radiation survival was grim) and the Cuban missile crisis was on the news. Dangerous times. Life has been so easy here for so long….thanks for the link.

    • 

      Sounds like you grew up in Florida. I grew up in Jacksonville during the Cuban Missle Crisis and always wondered what this desk was going to do to protect me from a nuclear bomb landing 2000 yards for our school.

      • 

        My dad was a little more realistic – he said one good thing about living near a big target like the chemical complexes/refineries/ship channel by Houston was that there wouldn’t be any worry about how to cope with radiation sickness after the strike. (But we were told not to tell/scare the other kids in the neighborhood)

    • 

      Not just those great desk for cover drills . . . do you recall the way they taught us we could still eat the foods in our homes by carefully turning them over so we didn’t expose our palates to the radioactive dust, and opening them from the bottom?

      • 

        And did you have those silver metal “dog tags”. Each kid had their name, address, parents’ names and blood type on them and wore them every day…I remember my parents debating whether to go ahead and tell us to wear them – just in case – or if it was too scary for kids to do that. .

      • 

        We had the dog tags. My plan, if I survived, was to exchange mine for that of a few wealthy kids in case they and their families died. I could keep their radiated wealth. Dumb! This was when I decided a quick death was better than survival.

  4. 

    You said: “I am probably the only person whose first thought upon viewing this building is: what an amazing disguise for missile silos!”. No, not at all, I felt same way when seeing the photo. In Finland I have seen an organ in one church which brought to my mind same feeling.

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