Where the world comes to study the Bible

United Nations Buildings

The United Nations complex sits on sixteen acres of New York City’s choicest real estate, bordering the East River and Manhattan. The lean, immense Secretariat building rises into the sky, the sun reflecting off its window walls. Bright flags of the nations of the world fly in the breezes off the river; the most prominent is the blue and white UN flag, its two white reeds of olive branches surrounding the world. A visitor is immediately struck by the grandeur of the building, stirred by the sight of dignitaries stepping out of black limousines to cross the massive plaza. He realizes that if this place represents the powers of the world, one might well want to see the place of worship, where the nations bow before the One under whose rule they govern.

The information personnel are bemused. “The chapel. We don’t have a chapel. If there is one, I believe it’s across the street. “The visitor darts across the thoroughfare, dodging New York’s taxis, and successfully arrives at the opposite building’s security-clearance desk. “Well, there’s a chapel here,” responds the officer, “But it’s not associated with the UN.” He thumbs through a directory. “Oh, I see, all right, here it is. It’s across the street—and tell them you’re looking for the mediation room.

“Again the visitor dashes across the pavement. An attendant tells him that the room is not open to the public; it’s a “nonessential area,” and there has been a personnel cutback. But a security guard will escort the visitor through long, crowded hallways and swinging glass doors. Again, there is the pervasive sense of weighty matters being discussed in the noble pursuit of world peace. The guide pauses at an unmarked door. He unlocks it and gingerly pushes it open. The small room is devoid of people or decoration. The walls are stark white. There are no windows. A few wicker stools surround a large square rock at the center of the room. It is very quiet. But there is no altar, rug, vase, candle, or symbol of any type of religious worship. Ceiling lights create bright spots of illumination on the front wall. One focuses on a piece of modern art: steel squares and ovals. Beyond the abstract shapes, there is nothing in those bright circles of light. They are focused on a void. And it is in that void that the visitor suddenly sees the soul of the brave new world.

Chuck Colson, Kingdoms in Conflict, pp. 182-3