I received a comment asking how my thoughts from my post On Art & God relate to the craftsmen who were endowed in a special way for the construction of the tabernacle.

Exodus 36-39 gives us four chapters of detailed information of what Bezalel and Oholiab did in accordance with all that the Lord commanded them through Moses. While it is true that the frames of the tabernacle are covered in gold and fine tapestries drape over the rods, we must not forget that God also inspired the very dimensions of the tabernacle (Ex 25-27).

In other words, we should not isolate the artists and craftsmen for the tabernacle as though they are the only ones anointed by God’s Spirit to portray the grandeur of God.

This is the rhetoric I so often hear. “God has purposed art to portray his beauty in a special way so that it touches the soul in ways that words cannot.” Surely art does impact us in different ways than syntax and grammar do. Different does not mean preeminent, however.

The beautiful tabernacle is beautiful both in its magnificence of construction as well as its gold-covered rods. Both the construction worker and the artist are needed to scribble the glory of God on earth. By being captivated by light and color, have we failed to plumb the depths of what makes art good? In other words, I can walk around an art gallery and appreciate the art, but without an interpreter as to who the artist was or what the artist intended, I will not be able to embrace the true meaning of what sits on the canvas.

Show me a picture of red and black swirls. I can appreciate the interplay between the colors and my senses can be tickled. But when you tell me that the artist was trying to depict the violence on Calvary, the deep despair and dark night of the soul my soul is captured.

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  1. While I don’t quite agree with your suggestion that we need an interpreter to explain to us what an artist “intended,” I’m very pleased to hear someone speaking out against the glorification of art.

    Several Christian thinkers (Calvin Seerveld and Hans Rookmaaker specifically) have suggest that the Romantic movement of the 1800s, with its emphasis on the artist as a genius, directly contributed to the idea that “art” is somehow transcendent–that it teaches things that are beyond propositional truths. The Romantic view of art is, I believe, dangerous, and seems to have been co-opted by those in the emergent church who have already rejected (to some extent at least) the idea that the Word of God speaks propositionally. Anywho, great post.

    -alan

  2. Why don’t you think there is the need for an interpreter? I am not using the word technically. What I mean is that there needs to be some kind of pre-text for when we come to a work of art – a title, the artist’s name, a grouping with art of similar persuasions, etc.

    How would you say we can understand the artist’s original intent unless there is an interpretation?

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Less Hype. More Humility.

Please. Embedded in our consumeristic culture, there is the assumption that newer is better than older–though I prefer aged beef and cheddar to new. There is the assumption that grand and renovated and powerful is preferable to meek and lowly and weak.

The church often adopts this form of communicating in an effort to gather people into its doors. “God is doing awesome things here at Church _______.” The fact is that God is doing awesome things everyday and everywhere. He’s sustained your life. He’s given you sight and hearing and legs. And if you have none or only one of these, he’s still given you life and a mind to engage the world around you. Truly miraculous. What is more, is God not also doing something in the old, decrepit church that meets faithfully every Sunday? Is God not at work in the mundane? Is the changing of laundry and washing of dishes and working through an argument devoid of God’s presence?

I see so many churches trying to drum up excitement about the latest outreach or project, when what our culture needs is the staying power and sobriety of faithfulness in the ho-hum drudgery of going to a job you hate or a marriage that is contentious. What we need is not more hype, but more humility. More service and less heavy-handedness. We need more gentleness and less power grabs.

If we don’t, what then becomes of the senior citizen who is tired? What becomes of the baby who is sleeping? What becomes of the unemployed and outcast and burdened? They are forgotten. They are seen as less valuable because they aren’t producing the kind of energy requisite for assumed faithfulness to the disciples’ call.

In reality, we need less loud voices and red faces and sweaty brows and more silence and calmness and a deep well of contentment.

The New Economics Will Be People

So I went to a coffee shop this morning and was struck by the utter efficiency they were churning out drinks. In fact the team lead said this much as encouragement to the six other workers behind the counter.

I walked in. Smiled at the barista. Was greeted with a blank stare as he continued to froth the milk and deliver the piping hot skinny latte with extra foam to the drive-thru. I walked to the register and was passed with nary a glance…even when the team lead said “Hello.” No she didn’t look at me, but made sure that her metric of greeting a guest in the first ten seconds was met. A box that is checked. That’s what I was. A large dark roast with no room for cream and sugar. And surely there was no saccharin here. There was utility and efficiency.

In all our pandering for growth our marketing of environment is nothing more than a marketing tool. The timers and grids for efficiency have crowded out the thing that matters. The only thing that matters in products.

You see, the products that are pushed are labeled as though they were made for you. In reality, the products being sold to you have (for the most part) been made for the manufacturer. People have merely become a means to the end of bigger, faster, better.

In the new economy, people will matter more.

They won’t matter because they need to matter to grow the business. Too often companies tell you that you’re important because they want your money. They don’t want to make a difference as much as they want their new car or luxury vacation.

I want to say this loud and clear. In the new economy, people will be the end in themselves. They will no longer be viewed as a metric or a number. In the new economy, mom and pop will be sought after. Because, after all, we all know that the verbiage of how you matter to company x is just verbiage. It’s merely eliciting a response for another end.

In the new economics, people will want to matter. They will flock to the place where they are known by name. And not just to tout the “community” of an establishment. Did you notice the subtlety of that one? No, people will know your name because they know you and you matter. Your name is not known just to brag that you matter and sell the belonging you too can have if you buy your next skinny latte with extra froth…hold the pandering.

We are not there yet because executives are still measuring. Measuring people. Yet, what the new economy will have to embrace is not a spreadsheet or a graph. They will be forced to embrace people. Not to grow their graph. But to grow their own soul.

On Conformity

As much as I hate to admit it, Christians push conformity. Conformity to the wrong things. Being shaped by a group and set of ideals is inherent to being part of a group–be it Christian, straight edge, atheist. But I am speaking about and to my tribe.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being a part of several different denominations and have seen this shadow overtaking much of the piety of its adherents. It wasn’t meant to do so.

Do you homeschool? The correct answer depends on the group you’re talking to. Do you go on mission trips? Do you adopt? Do you run around incessantly from meeting to meeting showing how you are making an impact for the kingdom?

We have steered far off course when we get away from the simplicity of the Gospel. Of a life changed and being changed by the Gospel. That is, before Christ’s ascension, he said to merely teach all that he commanded. Yet. Yet, much of our passing on of information is not what Christ taught. They are various implications and applications of what he taught. And so,

Might I encourage you to be slow in conforming to the standards? Not just of popular culture, but of the popularity of whatever group you find yourself milling about. The shadow looms to block out the sun of joy and hope. It chokes out the simple call to humble obedience to Christ, changing out a yoke that not even the teachers can bear.