Friday, January 4, 2019
On a recent visit to the Norton Simon Museum, a stroll through the South and Southeast Asian art and sculpture collection.
I've seen it before, usually in haste, but on this visit, more stopping and examining ... and then for the last week, pondering.
The hope evident in the art ... the peace and the love ... wisdom and guidance ... every artist giving expression to something of the deeps in the human story.
I'm sure the "reality" of life was quite different than the spirit offered in the art, as is true for much of Western art, too - a world portrayed far better than the reality, but in the portrayal of something ideal, an encouragement to the beholder, to strive for the better, the higher, that which is sublime and beautiful.
For much of Western History, dominated by the Christian Tradition, other religions were usually looked upon as wayward and wrong, and even evil.
Lots of evangelicals still hold to such bias, but the shrinking world no longer allows any one religion to encapsulate itself, and from the behind the walls of safety, despise what lies beyond.
This collection of art moved me deeply ... as most art does ... as it should.
With a reminder that we all have more in common than not, and that no religion, certainly not mine, can claim any high moral ground of superiority.
Rather, I believe, God is diluting our protective boundaries, so that we have to hear and see and touch others, and their world-views, their faith, their religion, their icons and philosophies.
I think this all means the end of "evangelism" in the older sense of "converting" others to the Christian Faith. If evangelism means anything today, it's this: that we offer to others what we have, and it's not all that much, and with eager hearts, receive what others have to offer, which, after all, isn't all that much, either.
We all possess bits and pieces of divinity, of truth, of hope and love, and there's no need to discard what we have, any more than there is a need to disparage what others have.
Today, it's has to be humility before the mystery of the Creator's love revealing itself in other times and places, other cultures and other religions.
A time for Christians to face up to our own dirty stories and failed projects, yet to affirm that in our art, perhaps, and in our best thinking, we year for what others yearn, as well.
We're all in this together ... and to put it into perspective, Luther's phrase says it well: "simul justus et peccator."
In our realities, we are less, and oftentimes tragically less, than what we ourselves would like to be, and in our art, and oftentimes gloriously so, we hold before ourselves what we could be, and what we are sometimes, and what the journey needs to forever seek - perhaps like the Star leading on the Magi ...
Is it not true that every human being longs for the Star ... and that every religion reflects this longing in its art?