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 This site is a group of like-minded people sharing their thoughts together on one site. Peruse, join the conversation by comment, and enjoy. 

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Wednesday
Aug222012

Ce n'est pas de l'art

Coldplay is currently touring Europe playing songs from their latest album, Mylo Xyloto. (Coincidentally, they got to that name before an antacid company could snatch it up.) Before I begin attacking the band, let me say I like Coldplay, and I like this album. The songs are well produced, peppy, sometimes nuanced and even introspective. But the thing that interests me is the stage on which these songs are played during their Mylo Xyloto tour. It (the stage) is covered in graffiti. The band’s instruments are also spray-painted with words and images in luminescent neon colors, all in an attempt to celebrate what lead singer Chris Martin called, “Street art, you know, just people making art out of ugly things . . . the turning of something ugly into something beautiful[1]” No doubt, when lead singer Christ Martin said, “something ugly,” he had in mind abandoned nineteenth century brick factories of England’s old industrial north or one of the grimy brick walls lining the train-tracks going in and out of London. At the surface, his vision seems benign and even noble—a generation re-beautifying their crumbling architecture. 

This acceptance of graffiti as an art form follows a cultural trend developed in the last half-century to, as N.T. Wright put it, “Be as unlike Adolph Hitler as possible”[2] Hitler, in 1937 commissioned an exhibit of entartete Kunst or degenerate art, highlighting the kinds of “Bolshevistic, Jewish” art unacceptable to the pure Germans. It condemned “degenerate” and “dangerous” pieces like Vincent Van Gough’s self-portrait and scoffed at modern, cubist and impressionist art forms. In good faith, the post World War II West rejected this narrow-minded approach as art-bigotry, for it was, but began to accept every stroke of the brush (and whatever Yoko Ono does) on any surface you like, as art. It is only natural that those who applaud every stroke of the brush (and whatever Yoko Ono does) should begin to applaud every spray of the can, and Coldplay agrees.

But a deeper question looms beneath this embrace of graffiti as valuable art: What happens when magnificent buildings are tagged? Would a large spray-paint smiley face improve the Washington Monument? Would a red moustache increase the artistic value of Mount Rushmore’s Jefferson? Would Michelangelo’s David benefit from some spray-clothes? (Don’t answer that.) These examples seem comic, but anyone who has visited Europe is only smiling half-heartedly. Graffiti covers thousands of buildings and many monuments of the ancient continent.

On a sunny spring morning I stood next to the statue of the esteemed World War I general, Foch in Brussels, and rather than being uplifted I was disgusted at the lewd and ridiculous French words sprayed on the statue’s pedestal. Is this what Martin meant when he said graffiti is, “turning something ugly into something beautiful?” Somehow I doubt graffitists have the self-discipline to limit themselves to ugly buildings. First, they would have to agree on the definition of “ugly.” In fairness to the trade, there are talented artists using the medium of spray-paint. But it is equally important to recognize that there are those who use spray paint and are merely trouble-making hoodlums.

In a larger sense, is this universal view of art—to use the vogue word—sustainable? If everything is art, the word “art” means literally everything, therefore nothing. Though “art” is an elusive word, it is not an absolutely relative word. There is a difference between vandalism and creative genius.

Though it is a nice sentiment from Coldplay’s album, every siren is not a symphony; likewise, every graffiti-sprayed monument is not a mural.

 

-R. Eric Tippin
In “The Study” on 8th Street

 


[1] Best Buy Exclusive Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k19F80JkOU

[2] Scripture and the Authority of God, Pg. 7

Monday
Aug132012

The Traveler's Tale (An Oil Selection)

The Traveller's Tale
Oil on Canvas, 1896-1939
Fritz Wagner

 

“One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin.
As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality;
A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall,
Now somewhat fallen to decay,
With weather-stains upon the wall,
And stairways worn, and crazy doors,
And creaking and uneven floors,
And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall . . .
But from the parlor of the inn
A pleasant murmur smote the ear,
Like water rushing through a weir;
Oft interrupted by the din
Of laughter and of loud applause,
And, in each intervening pause,
The music of a violin.
The fire-light, shedding over all
The splendor of its ruddy glow,
Filled the whole parlor large and low;
It gleamed on wainscot and on wall . . .
Around the fireside at their ease
There sat a group of friends, entranced
With the delicious melodies;
Who from the far-off noisy town
Had to the wayside inn come down,
To rest beneath its old oak-trees.
The fire-light on their faces glanced,
Their shadows on the wainscot danced,
And, though of different lands and speech,
Each had his tale to tell, and each
Was anxious to be pleased and please . . .”

 

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, selections from "Prelude: The Wayside Inn" 

For more items of this nature please visit our Oil section here but not here

Saturday
Aug112012

Pray Like Lincoln

 

An edited version of Stuart's piece is being played this weekend on WORLD Magazine's radio show, The World and Everything in It. To download or listen to that segment click here but not here or here. Or to listen to the segment on this page, click play below.

 

In the present day political upheaval, followers of Christ seem to be at a loss of how to respond to government. Should Christians become activists supporting biblical candidates? Should Christians avoid activism so as not to diminish their evangelistic work? Should Christians retreat into their church communities removing church influence from government completely? Amidst political bouts over healthcare, class warfare, and economic stagnancy, the voices of Biblically driven Christians seems to be suppressed; it’s as if American politics does not want or need a Christian regiment to stand and fight for the truths of God’s word.

President Lincoln’s August 12th proclamation was the first of three requests during the Civil War for the American people not only to pray, but to humbly turn from their sins. Like Madison, Adams, and the Continental Congress before him, Lincoln was guided by II Chronicles 7:14 in which God lays out the blueprint for healing a nation. While handing God a to-do list is the easiest approach to individual, national, and global problems, Lincoln understood the need for repentant humility that deals with individual and communal transgressions. He writes:

"Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisement, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action…"

During the unprecedented turmoil of the Civil War, Lincoln stopped and asked American citizens to turn from their sin in order that God might here their cries for peace.

Today America does not face military conquest as Lincoln, Madison, Adams, and the Continental Congress, but the danger is every bit as perilous. The biblical values held since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth are now in the crosshairs of extreme liberal ideology. Over the last few decades, subtle shots have been fired at bedrocks of biblical truth such as the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage, but these tactics have been discarded for the direct artillery of recent government action. Slowly and subtly the biblical foundation supporting our country has been eroded presenting an ever growing reality that followers of the Bible will be suppressed as surely as the Bible has been suppressed. It was in dangerous times such as these that America’s greatest leaders asked the people of America to humbly repent of their wrongs and ask God to heal their land. Today, more than ever, Christian should bend their knees in the model of II Chronicles and Lincoln’s proclamation; Christians should not complain to each other concerning the political upheaval but ask God for personal forgiveness of sin; Christians should not speak despairingly over lost freedoms but cry out together for God to forgive the transgressions of their country; Christians should not sit together twiddling their thumbs but join together in fasting, repentance, and prayer. Although written in 1861, Lincoln’s proclamation calls Americans in every time period, including the twenty-first century, to humbly fall on their knees in biblically aligned prayer for our great nation. 

 

Stuart Busenitz
August 11, 2012

 

Painting:
"Abraham Lincoln" 
Oil on Canvas, 1869
George Peter Alexander Healy 

Saturday
Jul282012

Cowboy Christianity

  At first listen, Christianity seems to have an ally in modern country music. Brad Paisley occasionally throws an old-time hymn into one of his albums; Carrie Underwood asks Jesus to “take the wheel” in a cute driving metaphor; Chris Young’s “The Man I Want to Be” is a late night desperate prayer from a sinful man. Every other song on the six or seven Country radio stations in my part of Kansas seems to invoke the name of God or praise the country tradition of strong faith and happy families. 

But carry on a song or two more and something puzzling and even sinister happens. Suddenly Brad Paisley is no longer “In the Garden” with his savior but at a wet t-shirt contest on Daytona Beach, and loving it. Carrie Underwood has obviously taken the wheel back from Jesus, because she “Got a little crazy . . . and I don’t even know his last name.” What about Chris Young and his desperate sinner’s prayer? Well, he has decided that sexual purity can wait until “tomorrow” in his song, “Tomorrow.” Continue listening and the songs go from contradictory to blasphemous. Miranda Lambert, in the song “Heart Like Mine” justifies her over-drinking and other nasty habits by invoking Jesus’ wine consumption.

These are just a few examples of the multifarious and paradoxical world of what Paul Washer calls Cowboy Christianity--the down-home, two-faced theological system that assures its followers, “Hey! You can be a God-fearing, Bible-toting believer and get a little crazy on the weekends. You can worship cold beer and Jesus! You can be faithful to your wife, but appreciate tight jeans on other women.” Basically, you can have your cornbread and chicken, and eat them too. But where is Scripture in all of this? Where is the glorious beauty of chastity, the shocking joy of temperance, the satisfaction of unsoiled speech? In short, where is the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power in the life of the Christian?  The truth is, though one may hear the hot-button words of the faith in various songs and in various ways, there is little Biblical Christianity in country music today.

“Cowboy Christianity” may not line up with real Christian Orthodoxy, but it sings the praises of another religion, almost perfectly, without even knowing it. It may be the most wide-spread and under-recognized religion in America: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or MTD. Haven’t heard of it? Here are its five tenants:

1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.

2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

3. The central goal in life is to be happy and to feel good about yourself.

4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

5. Good people (or possibly all people) go to heaven when they die. [1]

Isn’t that much easier to believe than those complicated doctrines of “Original sin,” “The incarnation” and “Propitiation?” MTD provides many (not all) country music song writers a comfortable belief system that allows them to have “fun” and be religious too.

 These singers may have felt the satisfaction of a hard day's work, but they are terribly ignorant of the deep refreshment and fulfilment found in a hard day's work by the Spirit of God in the heart and mind of the believer. They are like one who praises the merits of water for health and vigor, but always chooses to drink Coke. Their love for morality is built on some countryfied nostalgia not the work of Jesus. This is what Paul was speaking of when he wrote to Timothy of those, “having a form of Godliness but denying its power.” The power of Godliness is found in the Holy Spirit’s work to change lives and sanctify sinners. Cowboy Christianity and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism can only offer weak words and ultimately, a weak savior. 

 

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study" on 8th Street
July 28, 2012

Painting:
"Jerked Down"
Oil on Canvas, 1911
Charles Russell 

[1] Dr. James P. Eckman, Grace University, http://graceuniversity.edu/iip/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2012_0414-0415.pdf

Tuesday
Jul242012

Harbinger of Hope

I remember having read, and noted, that a few months back someone had made an archaeologic find that was immediately identified as having to do with the early Christian church. This certainty was established based on the inscription which when translated states:"I shall walk uprightly." The phrase refers to the Christian's hope of resurrection because of the hope in Christ's own resurrection. Reportedly this was a phrase used as something like a greeting or "calling card" between followers of Christ. What a wonderful concept; not new but, it seems, lost.

In at least two incidences over the last week I have sorely wished we had something similar in the Church today. A phrase which, not used as code or as a means of secrecy between Christians, but a way of communicating shared beliefs and identity in a brief encounter with another. Something not cursory or blithe but that which speaks to the very foundation of our shared hope. When I meet another Christian, it is such a joy to find out they follow Christ and are a brother or sister in Him. However, often it is difficult to communicate this joy or truth with one another in such passing instances. Usually the interaction ends with finding out which church they "go to," music they like, school they send their kids to, etc. All of these miss the point completely of the wonderful nature of finding one-another in this dark world. Sometimes there is a reasonable explanation for this trivial talk. Often, simply, time is not sufficient to go into all of the details of what we hold in common (or a fear that begun is worse than half done), but, still, I desire to encourage that person in the community of Christ as we follow Him together.
 
I don't want to, and in fact greatly fear, conversing with trite statements, about nonessentials of worship preferences, or on current events/trends in that brief time I will probably ever get with that person. In that moment the desire is to harken to our great God and Father who allowed two of His children to meet in unexpected circumstances. Though we do not face the persecution found in many other cultures or a need for any secrecy in practicing our faith, sill the prince of this world has great power in darkening this valley and, so, even in our supposed freedom the value of unity in and encouragement from the body is not diminished in the least as we walk through the valley of death. Oh, to find another traveler!

I know a phrase can quickly become meaningless if used too much or flippantly (ex. wwJd, how are you? "fine," a fish on the bumper, or a cross around a neck), but maybe this has something to do with a saying/slogan becoming culturally marketable and not just Familialy relevant. If a phrase, like "we will walk uprightly," only has meaning in the context of the Body of Christ and our hope in Him, maybe a culture opposed to or complacent about that hope would not consider adopting it and the phrase would retain its meaning and value as a greeting and harbinger of hope. 

Another phrase in this vein comes to mind. Not too many hundreds of years ago and now at each Easter celebration this concept is again employed with "He is risen; He is risen indeed!" This again is exactly what I desire to be mutually understood as representing our core beliefs in something brief I could say and respond to with the guy at the coffee shop, the lady cutting my hair, or the patient in my chair. How in the world could this be accomplished in the privitizationalized culture in which we live (See "The Call" by Os Guinness)? I have no idea. Usually communications like this, it seems, flow out of persecution or hardship but ours is often a deceptive "persecution of distraction" giving all the more reason and need for a grounding phrase and communication between the body of Christ in every sphere.
     
Getting an idea or concept to catch-on or going today is normally a click on Kickstarter, a re-tweet, or IPO away, but we are not of this world. In it. Any ideas?

Phillip Tippin
Roeland Park, KS
In and around our home


Painting:
The Two Disciples at the Tomb
Oil on Canvas, c. 1906
Henry Ossawa Tanner