Spiritual Words

1 Corinthians discusses something that may be of interest to writers, words and rhetoric. Any you may not particularly like what it says.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

1 Corinthians 1:17 NRSV

It is not the power of words, but the power of God that is important. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but how can it be mightier than the Almighty God? 

See, I think that I just used rhetoric right there. Is it the wrong approach when proclaiming the Gospel?

One of the reasons, I think that some people have a difficult time “believing into God” is because God is so unlike anything else. Much of the time, we use words to enhance things that may or may not be that great in reality. This is the business of advertising; as well as it is creative writing, music, accounting, etc. But God is so different from all these things because we can’t exaggerate Him. We can really only understate His magnificence.

So should we be like the Puritans and ban all creative ways of spreading the Word? I do not believe so. Why would He have given us all different talents and passions if he wanted us all to do the exact same things?

But the question still lingers: how do we reconcile the Lord with art? Or at least, the question lingers in my mind. The answer, I believe, is faith. 

Faith? Isn’t that vague and simplistic? What does that really mean?

Well, faith would ensure that we are using the implements of this world as a means to an end, rather than an end unto themselves.

Faith is faith in God, that He will speak through us, rather than us speaking through our work. 

But maybe there is something to be said about simplicity as well:

1 Corinthians 1:27

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

Matthew 18:3

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

So the walk with God is, in worldly terms, a regressive one. We are renouncing our old beliefs, our old perrogatives, maybe forsaking centuries of “advancements” that have led us into the modern era. We are going back in time, not forward, traveling perhaps over land and sea to the very place where Christ was crucified.

I’m sorry if this wasn’t literal enough for your tastes 🙂

And apparently, this journey may be a lonely one.

1 Corinthians 2:15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

“No one else’s” scrutiny? Not even the scrutiny of other believers?

I must note this verse sounds more depressing in the Recovery Version. The word “scrutiny” used here can have a negative connotation, so maybe we don’t want to be scrutinized. But I suppose I brought it up because 1. I don’t understand it, so it must be important. Maybe some “spiritual words” that I am not equipped to understand at this time. 2. Because I myself feel misunderstood all the time. 3. Because maybe it’s okay to be misunderstood. Where words will not save me, the flesh of Christ will. 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Problem of Literature

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Since I am on spring break, I feel an obligation to do some pleasure reading. Lately I’ve been reading almost entirely for my humanities class at school, and before that, I knocked out some of the classics. Right now, I want to give contemporary literature a chance, especially after reading a book called “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver. I have been trying to seek out Christian fiction like this. So far, to no avail.

It’s possible that good Christian YA fiction exists. But who can tell what is good and what isn’t? Especially with lots of sappy book tittles and summaries that contain things like, “Jodie Morrow has just married for love…”

I am not the first critic of Christian fiction. If you are really interested, you should read this article like I did yesterday. It inspired me to keep pushing towards my goal of producing good Christian fiction.

What concerns me is this “problem of literature.” Not vastly different from “the problem of pain.” Why do secular artists seem to have an easier time than us? History is filled with beautiful poems, plays, novels, and films, which are, more often than not, glorifying some things that aren’t all that noble or worthwhile. But we relate to it, and it makes us feel something. That’s what makes it “good.”

There shouldn’t be anything more beautiful than all-powerful God and the message of the Gospel. Then why is it so hard to portray? Why does everything else get sanctified so easily by artists?

Yet maybe I am barking up the wrong tree. Is there really a “problem of literature?” Or does it just seem like there is because we are simply outnumbered by secular artists? Maybe good art exists, but no onediscovers it until after the artist has died.

Surely it’s been done. Look at The Brother’s Karamazov, which seems to be everyone’s all-time favorite book nowadays. And I’m not trying to put it down, I absolutely loved it myself. It is, after all, one the greatest and most famous literary works of all time. And it’s a Christian book. Or Anna Karenina, for example. Paradise Lost. The writings of CS Lewis. I’m sure there’s many others, but I just can’t think of them.

I’ve heard some pretty Christian songs. Some are hymns that I’ve forgotten the words to. And I really liked “Everything” by Lifehouse.

Whether or not there is a “problem of literature,” I don’t think it would hurt some of us to try harder. The Bible itself doesn’t gloss over sin. How can we? The Bible itself has passages that express doubt, suffering, worry. Psalms anyone? I’m not saying that Christian fiction ignores these things. That would be completely impossible. But somehow, we need to do a better job with it.We need to paint the whole picture. We can’t just tidily tie up all the loose ends of the faithful life. But we can’t leave our characters in despair and oblivion either. We can’t justify. But we must depict. It shouldn’t be our goal to encourage a new generation of overlyskeptical and rebellious children. But no one wants to read about a family of saints either. We must use real people, who are really going after God, who are really having a hard time. That’s all much easier said than done.

photo credit: tribune.com.pk

That Intellectual Garbage

Sometimes, I think I understand why the Puritans thought that literature and drama are inherently sinful. Not that I agree, but I think there is a tendency for us creative people to get carried away by our own eloquence and “insight.” If you’re a writer, you probably know what I’m talking about. We get all crazy, talking about themes, symbols, the human condition, modern life, technology, it could go on and on forever. All of a sudden everything is art as long as it seems original and reveals a certain truth about people, no matter how trivial.

I’m writing a novel now about a somewhat dysfunctional Christian family. The point, of course, is not to ridicule God, even though maybe it seems that way because so far I, the author, have not interjected too much of my opinion, besides subtly satirizing the things that the characters do. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong. Even the best of us handle certain situations wrong, and maybe laughing about it can help us to realize our folly and turn away. Or, if you’re from the other point of view, it would be making light of sin, which is bad and leads to ankle-showing and high teen birth rates. 

So, I’m a little confused about it, naturally. But I’m confident that my characters are sincere people and will figure it out in the end. I hope I can say the same thing about myself. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll try not to pretend to be too intellectual. After all, I just found out yesterday that my IQ is only 109. I doubt I even have the right to act intellectual. 

 

My Two Cents on Jane Austen’s Emma

Just finished this book, so the thoughts are fresh in my mind! This is the third book I’ve read by Austen, a very delightful one. The irony, the wit, the drama, all very charming. Yet it always depresses me to ponder the unhealthy obsession women have of being married, and how little they concealed that obsession from themselves in those days!

I don’t believe anyone has ever questioned Austen’s talent for crafting novels. They’re as good as romance novels with happy endings can be.

Everything works out and condenses into a nicely wrapped package, as is the convention, but at a rate and in a manner that is adequately realistic, averting the readers attention from the mechanism of Duex Ex Machina at work.

In Emma, the “insolence” of an “imprudent” match never suffers to shake up society. Though it is talked of, no one ever marries anyone where an overwhelming disparity is considered (Jane and Frank tie the knot, but only after a very convenient death, of course). The societal lines are drawn, and they serve their purpose. Everyone stays in their little place, for the most part. True love finds it’s way into the lives of the Highbury residents with a degree of grace and good breeding. Honor and family pride remain intact. Love does not choose to cause embarrassment when all is over with, once the misunderstandings are cleared and the characters reconcile with one another.

And of course, why should it be any other way? I’m not saying that these are real faults in Austen’s style. No, her novels have stood the test of time for a reason. I’m not really sure what I’m saying. I seriously doubt I could write a better romance novel. And shaking up society really was a big deal in those days.

Take-away from this post: shake up society! Please do. Write something revolutionary! Keeping characters in boxes is a great strategy, but what is literature without variety?

 

 

A Day at the Getty

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I can look at paintings all day long… and I pretty much did. I love to just get transported by them, entering a new realm, forgetting where I am and who I am. The one up above is of the Sermon on the Mount. Sorry, I didn’t have time to jot down all the titles and names of the artists. I especially liked the religious ones, even if they tended to put an unhealthy emphasis on the Virgin Mary. But at least it seemed that people were trying to glorify God with their art. More than can be said for the movies and television we see today. Image

 

I really liked a lot of the more medieval panel paintings. One so seldom hears about European art from before the Renaissance (and there is a reason), but I don’t think they should be completely overlooked. They’re so ornate and often quite whimsical. You always think of older things being conservative, but not always. 

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I believe that this one was done by Titian (I was really excited to see one by a very famous artist) but correct me if I am mistaken . Yes, now we are into the mannerism movement (right?)

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And look, a wood cutting, a style made famous by Albrecht Dürer (but this one was not done by Albrecht). I believe the title is, “A Hare in the Woods.”

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The food at the restaurant was quite fancy, all French style or something. My salad was quite satisfying. I wish I had pictures of all the dishes there, they were so pretty to look at! Never seen anything like it.

Well, I hope this has been cultural. It’s really cool looking at art, because you see things that are both vastly different and strikingly familiar. You see emotions that you know all to well yourself, and you see that people really haven’t changed as much as you might think. You can even argue that they haven’t changed at all.

You should visit this place too! Thanks J. Paul Getty.

 

Best Combo Ever… Hypocrisy, Self Loathing, and Fine Art

Today was a bit of a roller coaster. I will probably be doing another post about it tomorrow, when I upload my pics from the Getty Museum (which was great, by the way). But for just now I would like to talk about something a bit more personal, like I always end up doing.

I was kind of in a bad mood this morning, no particular reason, and it only got worse because one of my party was complaining about things, and it annoyed me. As far as I was concerned, the food was alright and the architecture was nice and the garden was pretty… SO SHUT UP AND HAVE A GOOD TIME! Yes, I realize the irony.

But then I was in a better mood when we started looking at the paintings. And then it went south again. I’ll skip some of the trifling details and set the scene for the more interesting part. O is trying to get a picture of me by this really fancy bed on display. Mind you, I don’t like having my picture taken when a lot of people around, so I was feeling more awkward than usual. But it was a nice bed. No kidding, it’s blue and frilly, and it goes up like 15 feet or something. Two girls are getting out of the way, and they say “sorry.” And what do I say? I say, “it’s good.” And I said it all quiet and mousy because I decided on what to say as I was saying it. And then I’m pretty sure I heard one of the girls repeat what I said as they were walking out. As if I couldn’t hear. So they’re in the next room, laughing and stuff about whatever, and I feel like crap. Because I guess I hate being mocked. And now I’m more insecure than ever because apparently I’m so bizarre that strangers have to make fun of me.

Here are the three take aways from this experience, because I feel obligated to make logical conclusions in the form of a numbered list from one of my many days spent indulging in my own nonsense:

1. I have self esteem issues… But that’s a given.
2. Who am I to get all mad at other people who complain when I am so petty myself? I mean really, why am I letting other people determine my self worth?
3. Words can hurt, and I’d better be careful with them. I need to stop scoffing. Otherwise I’ll hurt someone just like I was hurt today

Nothing New Under the Sun?

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Is it true that things are getting worse in the world? Is this an even “wickeder” and more “perverse” generation than the one before it and the one before that? It sure seems that way sometimes.

Even though it’s before my time, I love music dated from the 60’s to the 80’s. I grew up on the Beatles, the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Journey, and the like. It seems like music today just isn’t of the same quality. It’s quite a subjective matter I understand, and I know that there is good stuff out there today… but something about it just seems… Inferior. This probably just has a lot to do with my personal bias, and perhaps I’m a little delusional in seeing such glaring differences between music of the same century. But let’s take a step back farther and to the side, from Modern America to Europe back in the day. Is hip hop really as good as classical music, in the most objective way possible?

And then there’s the morals of society. Everyone’s favorite subject. Watch a movie from the 40s. Watch a movie from today. It’s not rocket science. People used to censor, dance around things, leave to the imagination. And now entertainment is often shameless. As we strove towards portraying gritty reality in media for the sake of believable art, we long ago crossed the boundary and entered into a realm of senseless debauchery. And in doing so, I think we are also beginning to abandon those basic truths that have given movies their magic, replacing them with raunchy details that fail to carry their weight when it comes to illustrating the true nature of the human spirit.

Yet I’m not sure if that says much about the phenomenon that supposedly exists of each generation getting worse than the last. Are people essentially any worse? I think that media has a negative effect, but there are also positive influences all around. The changes in the media are not necessarily an indication of a change in the people. No doubt that the media is more dangerous, that it has gotten more comfortable in its own skin, that it is content to take off its clothes in the living rooms, bedrooms, bus stops, and offices of this fine nation. But are people really any worse? In Ecclesiastes it says that there is nothing new under the sun. Since Adam took a bite out of that fruit, the world has been a crazy place. There has been hatred, war, violence, idolatry, greed, extra marital sex, adultery, jealousy, cursing, homosexuality, selfishness, and most importantly, indifference towards God. All through the centuries. We can’t forget that.

The good old days seem good to us, I understand that. A time when things were less complicated. Sure. The world seemed less artificial back then. We’d all like to get back. No one likes all the crazy, prophetic stuff going on in the world now that seems even crazier than anything that’s ever happened before. But was it really, truly, better, and is the future really truly going to be worse? I doubt it, but I could be wrong. It seems to me that people are just always finding new ways to sin, but isn’t sin sin no matter how you smear it in lipstick? I could be wrong. Maybe kids today are truly rotten, and it will only get worse. The end times, after all, seem pretty bleak. There will be the anti Christ and the mark of the beast, that seems like rather unprecedented evil. But there will also be more Christians (I think) and there will be signs and miracles. That’s a plus. So what’s better? I don’t know, I think I’ll just throw out the measuring cup and call it a day. The point is that people sin and people always have sinned. The point is that you’re either for or against God so it doesn’t matter how quantitatively moral you are if you don’t have God. The point is that there’s always hope and there’s always joy.