Thursday, July 29, 2010

Van Gogh on the Blazing, Majestic, Eternal Love of God

In my last post, I very briefly mentioned that in the book 'The Divine Commodity', I learned that van Gogh used the color yellow to represent Divine Love. After learning a little more than the ear incident about Van Gogh, I will definitely never look at his paintings the same way again. 'Starry Night' was always one of my favorites of his, but now I appreciate it even more. He was one who saw the Divine in nature and tried to convey it though his paintings.

One cannot do better than hold onto the thought of God through everything, under all circumstances, at all places, at all times, and try to acquire more knowledge about Him, which one can do from the Bible as well as from all other things. It is good to continue believing that everything is more miraculous than one can comprehend, for this is truth; it is good to remain sensitive and humble and tender of heart . . . . For what can one learn that is better than what God has given by nature to every human soul -- which is living and loving, hoping, and believing, in the depth of every soul, unless it is wantonly destroyed?
-- Vincent van Gogh

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Dream, A Book, A Thought

Several nights ago I had a very vivid dream. One of those dreams where I can still recall much of the details. In this dream I was at a church. This church was a one stop 'shopping' destination, where there were rows of goods and all the goods were uniform in color - blue and gold. There was also a restaurant, a laundry facility, and a large stage at the front. Many of the members lined the asles and were 'ministering' by happily demonstrating the church's products. At the front there was an elaborate performance going on, and the performers were being treated like royalty. It was a very bizarre scene. Each performer had several people surrounding them; one person holding a microphone, one person holding a camera, and one person standing behind them with water and a towel. This church was a very busy place but there was no mention of the Father, no mention of his beloved Son Jesus, and no mention of the Spirit. Nor any was there any mention of the astounding news of our adoption. Only this frenzy of activity centered around goods, services, and entertainment.
What does such a dream mean? I'm not sure about all the details; for example why were all the products blue and gold? I have no idea. However, I would say that in general it means that in an effort to be relevant to our culture, we have lost the heart of our faith. The dark side of Consumerism in our culture is apparent if you think about it for a minute. Owning particular name brands have become a way to identify or fit in with a particular group. (Think Apple, or Mercedes Benz, or Abercrombie) Often it's all about style over substance, and we buy into the idea of constructing an identity by consuming certain brands. Christian Products? Christian Entertainment? Christian Services? Has Christianity become a brand that you use or wear, rather than a deep relationship purchased by Christ that we walk in day by day?

A while back I did read a book called 'The Divine Commodity' by Skye Jethani. In the book he takes an interesting approach, using some of the works of Vincent Van Gogh as a launching pad to critique both consumerism, and consumer Christianity. A prominent theme in this book, that runs as a counter point to the shallowness of consumerism, is the the relational nature of God and man, and the power of God's Divine Love; Van Gogh would use the color yellow to represent Divine Love, and the sky in many of his paintings would be ablaze with this Divine Love. Sadly our ability to connect to God, and one another has atrophied in this culture. Jethani writes:
In his book Following Christ in a Consumer Culture, John Kavanaugh argues that our lifestyle of guarded isolation is the result of grounding our identities in external possessions. Consumerism has caused our attention to be fixated on the surface and style of our lives so that over time we have lost the ability to nourish our interior life. Kavanaugh says that without a meaninful interior life, a definable sense of self apart from possessions, we also lose the skills necessary to establish meaningful relationships.

The book is a fairly short read, and is definitely worth re-reading so that you can let the message sink in. I definitely recommend it.

The night before I had the dream, I was actually pondering Acts 21 and since we are on the subject of Syncretism, I figured I would share my thoughts about this as well. The details of Pauls arrest might be a bit surprising to those who have entered the fray of the 'Culture Wars'. There is some irony there calling it 'Culture Wars', when consumerism has invaded the church.... but i digress... Anyway, back to Pauls arrest. Do you know the details of what he was doing when he got arrested? Was he stirring up a crowd? Preaching on a street corner? No, in fact he says, "My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city." (Acts 24:12). In fact, he was trying to show that he was still a Jew (who happened to believe the Messiah had come). He was participating (and paying for) a cleansing ritual at the temple as a way to identify with his fellow Jews. He was being conciliatory, but they would have none of that. It's actually quite a different picture than the typical American Christian activist isn't it? My thought? Maybe we fuse some of our American ideals, with our faith. And we don't give it a second thought because America is a Christian Nation right?? Yeah... right...