Entries Tagged as 'The World We Live In'
Posted on: Tuesday, February 21, 2017
This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in 2013.
For a long time, I’ve had a lot of unanswered questions about art–such as, why is it that Christians, who understand beauty and are intimate with its Source, are typically unable to manufacture it well? Very few Christian artists today are creating work that will stand the test of time.
Americans are a pragmatic people, and as a result we are uncomfortable with the subject of art. When school budgets are tight, we cut music and theater programs long before we touch athletics. We don’t see art as serving a practical purpose, and as a practical people, we don’t really know what to do with it. Believers who are Americans seem even more confused. We tend to think that unless the film or painting or book or song or dance or play is meeting some express objective such as evangelizing someone, it is a waste of time.
“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.”
Albert Camus was born over one hundred years ago in 1913, but his philosophies continue to shape our culture. In order to communicate his ideas, Mr. Camus wrote novels that are still widely read. “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” he explained.
To the believer, beauty–true beauty, that indefinable but universally recognized entity–is the promise of a better reality. As a follower of Christ, I believe that beauty will stretch out for eternity. Beauty is not a tease, but a promise.
But Mr. Camus felt that beauty was nothing more than a taste of something he could never really consume. Like a shipwrecked man on the sea dying of thirst and surrounded by sparkling, unpalatable saltwater, to him beauty was only cruel.
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Albert Camus created enduring art. He was able to communicate his ideas elegantly through the vehicle of fiction, but his philosophy was broken. Christians should be able to create the most beautiful art of all. Yet too often our work is off-putting and heavy-handed.
“A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.”
Does our art reflect the beauty we know in Christ? Does it generate a longing in people for the place where the truth and beauty came from? I don’t think lazy films that preach, or kitschy pictures of cute cottages with Bible verses slapped on the matting, accomplish this goal. This is lazy art…actually, it is just bad art. We tend to sterilize our art because we wish to avoid mention of sin, or we take the other extreme and make our art a filthy bloodbath in order to prove our grit. The Bible is realistic and raw, yet redemptive. It is not gratuitous. It is full of grace.
I do not have the answers, but I think this is something we should be talking about more. Art and beauty matter–they enrich our lives and feed our souls. If everything can be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) we should be individually diligent in praying about how our unique gifts and interests can be used. Americans love Christian athletes because they have a “platform” for their faith. But truly, artists have even more of an opportunity to honor the Lord with their abilities. Filmmakers, painters, singers, writers, dancers, poets: we should be thinking about these things, talking about these things, praying about these things, remembering always that it is not about our work itself, but it is about whether or not the truth and beauty we know in Christ is coming through it.
C.S. Lewis, John Milton, and Flannery O’Connor are three examples of writers of faith I admire. Who are some believers in the arts you look up to?
Posted on: Thursday, July 16, 2015
I studied journalism in college and have worked for a couple of newspapers (you can read some of my clips for The Washington Times here if you’re interested). Because of this, something I’m asked a lot is: How do I read the news?
So, here’s my advice! Hopefully it helps you in your quest to stay informed without going crazy (hashtag relatable).
Posted on: Monday, January 26, 2015
IMAGO DEI IN THE EARLY CHURCH
At the time of the Early Church, society viewed the value of a human life as based on the capacity of that life.
This meant that in the Greco-Roman world, children, the elderly, slaves, the poor, and the mentally and physically handicapped were considered less valuable. Infanticide, especially of baby girls, was common. Eldercide was common. Abortion was a primitive and dangerous procedure, but it was accepted. Widows were devalued. They had no choice but to get remarried. Aristotle promoted race-based slavery because he wrote that some races were too emotional and had no capacity for higher reason.
Into this world, the Christian Church said, “All of human life is valuable because we are all made in the image of God.”
This, the concept of the Imago Dei, this was radical.
It meant that — Christian or not, rich or poor, male or female, slave or free, young or old, healthy or sick — everyone had value. Everyone was worth saving, loving, and sacrificing for. This is what Jesus Christ taught and exhibited. And this is what the early Church exemplified.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
So, baby girls left on the steps of temples to die of exposure or to be adopted by priests to become Temple prostitutes were rescued by Christians. Widows in the church were not forced to get remarried if they didn’t want to; churches committed to financially supporting these women. Rich Christians sold off property to help the poor. Slaves and masters went to church side by side. Men and women were treated equally. People from all kinds of backgrounds found common ground in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Even as believers were being slaughtered by Nero, they lived lives of radical respect, love, and generosity in a dark culture.
IMAGO DEI THROUGH THE AGES
The world eventually adopted Christianity’s view of life. Most of the men who founded America were not Christians, but their minds and worldviews were shaped by Christian values when they wrote, “All men are created equal…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
Thousands of human rights victories have been led by believers, based on the idea of the Imago Dei. This is the view that allowed William Wilberforce to effectively fight for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. This is the view that prompted Charles Dickens to speak out for children’s rights and education in England. This is the view that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to campaign peacefully for civil rights in the 1960’s.
History is filled with thousands of examples — most of them quiet, behind the scenes; individual believers laying down their lives for their society’s “least of these.” Men like George Mueller who devoted his life to caring for and educating thousands of orphans, even as he was despised in his society for raising the poor above their natural stations in life. Women like Amy Carmichael who left her comfortable life in England to rescue female orphans from forced temple prostitution in India. All based on the teachings and the life of Jesus Christ.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
True believers are not to be confused with those who use the name of Christ to their own ends — people Jesus warned us of in the rest of that passage in Matthew 25:41-46, and in Matthew 7:21-23. The true Church has always stood up for the poor and the downtrodden; the false church has always been power-hungry and cruel. True followers of Christ are marked by love (John 13:35). We believe that all human life is sacred and valuable. This is a belief that we have lived and died for time and again since A.D. 30.
Fighting for the unborn is just one example of being pro-life. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life; the resurrection and the life; the man who came to give us life and life abundant. Because life matters to Him, it matters to us.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, preached on this:
[W]hat would [this church] look like as a community? Here’s what it would look like: what if we took the image of God seriously? First of all, regardless of what the law of the land says, we would know abortion, except to save the life of a mother, is a violation of the image of God. Number one.
Number two, the women who have had abortions, and the men who have helped them have abortions, would not feel like scum, because James 3:9 says you don’t disdain, you don’t demonize, you don’t curse, you offer grace to everybody. You see, if we believed in the image of God and say abortion is wrong, we wouldn’t make women who have had abortions feel terrible, like scum or something. And we wouldn’t be single issue people, we would be for all of the poor and all of the weak and all of the marginal.
A few words as we think about Sanctity of Life Sunday (yesterday) and moving forward:
- It’s not enough to vote. We have to give our money and our lives for the cause of life. Remember, every single mom in your church and your community made a choice: She chose life. Are you supporting her in that choice, or are you only pro-life until the baby is born and then you don’t care? Do single moms feel welcome in your church? Are they being cared for spiritually, physically, and emotionally? Also, if abortion is outlawed, we are going to need to step up even more in serving and loving the poor and the disadvantaged of society. Women who choose to raise their babies alone will need support. More babies will need homes. Are you ready to support the cause of life by opening your wallet and giving your time?
- We must understand the nuances of this issue. We must never demonize women (every baby has a father, he just doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy unless he chooses to). We must protect women’s rights and dignity at every step. For example, there need to be laws in place assuring a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant that she has legal protection from the father claiming any stake in that child’s life. Believe it or not, some states don’t have these laws. This might cause a woman to choose abortion over having to deal with her rapist or exposing her child to his influence.
- Men must be sensitive and humble in talking about abortion. I wrote a few months ago to pro-life guys. They need to understand the historical sins of absent fathers — sins that make abortion a painful and explosive topic for women today. We need to teach our sons and brothers to be responsible. Are there men in your church who are absentee fathers? This is not OK; call them out (1 Timothy 5:8). Stop teaching men that they are helpless in the face of lust. Stop telling women that they are responsible for male sin. The Bible does not teach this at all.
Christians have always fought for the most devalued members of society. We have always been pro-life , because we believe in the Imago Dei. And we have always been mocked by the cultural elite, which has argued at various times in history that the poor, the black, the brown, the woman, the girl, the widow, the slave, the prostitute, the prisoner, the sick, the disabled, and now the unborn, are not worthy of saving. Christians have always been despised and looked at with suspicion because we choose to align ourselves with society’s most marginalized. This is nothing new. Life is worth it.
Posted on: Tuesday, December 2, 2014
“Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.”
— Rachel Wolchin
Somewhere between the Victorian age when no one said anything to the Internet age when everyone says everything, we may have lost sight of our priorities in interacting with others.
A white girl born in a wealthy family told me, “There is no such thing as racism in America today.” I think she honestly believed what she said. When privileged people in liberal California talk to each other, this may be a logical conclusion — I don’t know of anyone who I would describe as racist. But then, we Californians could probably also convince each other that there is no such thing as humidity or frostbite.
Invalidating someone else’s experience because of disassociation or unfamiliarity is arrogant. Pride by nature is cold, unsympathetic, quick to tell another they are wrong. Humility is eager to learn.
Something I’ve noticed lately — something that has begun to really grieve me — is the way Christians talk online. Since when is the major virtue of Christianity to win arguments?
The gospel is a hill to die on. The inerrancy of Scripture is a truth we must never compromise. But telling someone that their human experiences are invalid? To, as a white person, tell minorities that there is no such thing as racism? To tell a woman that you, a man, do not believe sexism exists? These are not beneficial Facebook posts. They serve none but our own egos.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
…If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
James 1:19-20, 26
Later in his letter, James uses this same picture of a bridle again (James 3:3). I’ve ridden some horses that cowboys describe as tough-mouthed, meaning they are very hard to direct because their mouths are so callused that they no longer feel the directions of their rider through the bit. They have lost their ability to be led, their sensitivity. When we become enamored with our own words — developing a habit of speaking before thinking and arguing belligerently at every chance we get — I think we lose something too. We become less sensitive to the will of God and the needs of others. We become stubborn and hard and haughty and argumentative. We lose our ability to be winsome and gentle and meek. We are far from Christ-like.
…the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:5, 9-10
Our indignation does not bring about justice. In a noisy world, it is more impressive to be a man or woman who listens, considers, and thinks before she speaks than it is to shoot one’s mouth off eloquently. More importantly, this attitude is more reflective of Christ’s.
There is nothing wrong with being informed and having convictions. There is a time to discuss and a time to debate. But I think the events of Ferguson, for example, are an opportunity for Caucasian American believers to listen and learn. Winning an argument is not as important as loving others in all humility and selflessness. When it comes to hearing what our brothers and sisters have to say about their experiences and trials and struggles, our political beliefs should take a backseat and our first question should be how we can best serve them and show them honor. We should err on the side of being taking advantage of or being too giving and generous, as opposed to fighting tooth and nail to win a debate. After all, this is what our Savior did (1 Peter 2:23).
Just some thoughts for the age we live in.