Last Friday I listed a few things I believe. This wasn’t a creed for anyone to hold to but the core beliefs of the faith given to me. If it encourages others, then that is great. If anything, I want this to point to the love of God found in Christ. However, here are a few more things I believe.
I believe the Bible shouldn’t be used as a deadly weapon against other Christians or anyone for that matter. Far too often the sacred text is used to slice, dice and pummel those who do not agree with us. It should only be used against the enemy who seeks to devour.
I believe we should be honest with one another. This means leaving any masks we have or any fronts we project at the door. The church should be a place of safety so we can let our guard down, share our failings, celebrate our victories, encourage and challenge one another.
I believe love should outweigh judgment, grace outweigh legalism, hope outweigh fear.
I believe Jesus Christ is our example and should be imitated. This imitation is not in obeying the rules but participating in the life He gives; to walk out a graceful life.
I believe the Sermon on the Mount should be taken seriously as a pattern for Christian living and should not be overlooked or rationalized away to support our American lifestyle.
I believe that all the spiritual gifts function today as they did in Paul’s time. I also believe those grace gifts he listed were not all of them either; the list is open ended. Many believers have gifts that bring encouragement and challenges and build up the church but are not listed by the New Testament writers.
I believe the church holds a special place in the heart of God in Christ. She is the Bride of Christ, the family of God, the dwelling place and temple of the Holy Spirit. Until we grasp that reality, the grace and glory of God is limited in expression.
I believe we should wrestle with God regarding our faith. We shouldn’t accept easy answers when none are provided. We should all be blessed but walk with a limp.
I had an epiphany of sorts the other morning. Maybe more of a realization. My issues with what passes for Christian art and culture is that of cuteness. I’m thinking primarily of the Preciouos Moments kids, to a lesser degree Thomas Kinkade and others who would peddle cuteness in a Christian pseudo-/sub-culture. I would lump in Veggie Tales in there too but that is geared toward kids even though parents enjoy it as well. I still, on occassion get those silly songs stuck in my head. I readily admit guilt on that point. But remember, Bob and Larry are for the kids!
The Precious Moments kids may have passed their high point amongst evangelicals. However, the fact that the company has a park and chapel in Joplin, MO makes me think a certain affinity is still found in evangelical circles. The cuteness of those tear dropped eyed children is hard to miss. I’m not against cuteness per se, it is that cuteness has its ; limits. Those limits are usually childhood and maybe into the early teenage years in their appeal. Eventually you need to grow up. I can’t even imagine such a cute medium to express certain truths found in the Bible. A Precious Moments version of ’Job’ or crucifix, anyone? How about tear drop eyed Paul after receiving 40 lashes? Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Using cuteness to portray the biblical narrative betrays the very reality scripture seeks to present. In so many ways this is the worst sort of lie. It is a deception that sugar coats and white washes the reality of the world and the reality of God. The cross of Christ is beautiful, but to make it cute or gilded is to take away from the roughness of the wood that our Lord hung on.
Likewise, Thomas Kinkade is in similar territory. Self described as the painter of light, his images seek to appeal to simplicity but in some respects are simplistic. The images are familiar, the cabin in the woods with fireplace light shining through the window or the ethereal light of a sunrise/sunset bathing a garden in an other worldly glow. Again, I’m not against portrayals of light or the goodness of creation. My issue is that a world is portrayed that in no way reflects reality. Though not as explicitly cute as Precious Moments, Kinkade panders to such sensibilities to support the ideals of a conservative evangelical pseudo-/sub-culture. At best, his art portrays the dying breaths of a church culture fading away. At worst, such art betrays the radical grace and love of the living God and the wild passion He has for creation and humanity.
Maybe I’ve become jaded the older I get. The continued embrace of cuteness at the expense of not growing up and wrestling with one’s faith will lead to perilous and unintended consequences. We will continue to avoid the goodness of the world and live as if God is not there. We will seek to isolate ourselves from the pain and injustice because it isn’t meeting our standards of holiness. We’ll continue on in our little Christian ghettos with under developed faith because we fear contamination. We need to break out of our holy huddle and love the world God loves. The good news is, we get to.