Friday, April 18, 2008

More Comments on Stupid Art Projects and the People Who Do Them

Just about every article on the web on this subject is filled with comments from the general public.  In the previous post, I referenced some at the NY Times.  After that post, though, I went and read the comments on the Yale Daily News article, "Shvarts, Yale clash over project".  Interesting reading.  Here's the winner quote of the day, though:
So in an entirely unsurprising turn of events, the University has lied, betrayed one of its students in return for better press, and failed to defend free speech.

Aliza Shvartz, on the other hand, had the moral courage to tell the truth from the beginning, stick to her story when the going got bad, and know the difference between fiction, art, and honesty thoughout.
Apparently, Ms. Shvartz is an icon of integrity, one whose example should be taught and shared with others. Shoot, if I could only remember that verse of Scripture that pertains to such a statement... Oh well.

Update on Yesterday's Post

It is beginning to appear that the Yale art project referred to in yesterday's post is a hoax.  Because that makes it so much better.

From the Yale Office of Public Affairs:
Statement by Helaine S. Klasky — Yale University, Spokesperson
New Haven, Conn. — April 17, 2008
Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.
She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.
Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.
Even this is disturbing.  What, exactly, does "draw[ing] attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body" even mean?  Maybe that's why it's ambiguous, and that's why we need to bring it to discussion in this manner?  Is it really that ambiguous?

Yale has said that the piece is "a creative fiction."  In an H. G. Wells-like fashion?  This seems grossly inappropriate, even within the context of a "creative fiction."  For Ms. Shvarts has not operated with the realm of fiction, choosing instead to intentionally blur the lines between fact and fiction, between truth and falsehood.  And she continues to do so.  Her foolishness, apparently, knows no bounds.

We have built ourselves a culture that only responds to the shock factor. We have become numb and incapable of discussing "the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body" in a healthy, adult manner. Ms. Shvarts is merely a product of our times and our culture.  That does not absolve her of responsibility, but it should help us remember that we will only see more of the same in the future.
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool. Like a lame man's legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
-Proverbs 26:1-12
What is, perhaps, more interesting is the ongoing conversation about this event and its coverage in the media.  Check out the comments in this NY Times article.  Repeatedly, the comment is made that this is actually boring and uninteresting.  Thus showeth the heartbeat of our culture.

When The Earth Moves

I experienced my first earthquake three years ago in Alaska.  You can read about that experience here.  It was pretty neat, in that never-been-through-this-before kind of way.  But it was also sort of expected, I mean, I lived in Alaska at the time.

So now I'm in St. Louis.  While there is a large faultline running through this area (and I remember in elementary school in Maryland the big deal made about it - an earthquake in St. Louis would level Maryland was something of how the story went), it's pretty inactive.  You just don't expect earthquakes pretty much anywhere east of the Rockies in this country.

So imagine my surprise when I wake up this morning, and everyone is talking about the big earthquake last night.  Turns out it was a 5.2 in southeastern Illinois and happened around 4:40 AM.  I slept through it.  That's my thing.  I sleep through earthquakes, hurricanes, sonic booms from landing space shuttles, my alarm clock...

There have been aftershocks from the earthquake, the most recent and strongest was a 4.5 at 10:15 this morning.  I was awake for that one, kind of felt like the ground rolled.

Earthquakes, particularly for those not used to them, are very unsettling.  You don't expect the ground to move.  That's why we call it "ground."  We talk about standing on solid ground.  We count on it being secure, solid... and not moving.  When it does move, it throws our sense of "rightness" off.

This is the second time in three months that this area has had its sense of "rightness" shaken.  Then, it was the shocking shooting of people during a suburban community's council meeting.  Then, our sense of security and safety at home was shaken.  It was disconcerting and confusing for many.

And then the earth moves under your feet.  That which is supposed to be stable and secure is suddenly as unsure as a boat on the ocean.  It is disconcerting and confusing for many.  What is one to do?

These events in our lives, and there are many more that happen - from the mundane to the magnificent - provide us opportunity to evaluate where we truly place our hopes, our security, our future.  We have a chance to question what the bedrock foundations truly are in our lives, what is the "solid ground" upon which we set our lives?  That in which we had considered our foundation, our "solid ground" has been shaken - quite literally - where do we turn now?
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
- Matthew 7:24-27

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Horrendous Destruction of Life

My dad likes to send me stuff throughout the day to keep me from working.  He knows I am way too focused on my work and need to take a break every now and then, so he helps me procrastinate.  Thanks, Dad!

The email he sent today, though, isn't a fun one.  It's a link to an article about an art student at Yale who inseminated herself (read: got herself pregnant repeatedly) with the specific intent of destroying those lives for the sake of an art project.  She would induce a miscarriage every time, and video tape it.  She saved the blood as well.  Both of which will be used in the display of the project.

There is much to comment on about this, but this student made a particular comment that stands out to me:
Shvarts emphasized that she is not ashamed of her exhibition, and she has become increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers.
That is what sin does to us.  If you read through the second half of Romans 1, Paul tells us that we all have a root problem, Sin.  That root problem is that we have rejected what we know to be true: 
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Go ahead and replace "they" with "we," for this is a problem we all have.  The rest of the chapter outlines the sins that have flowed out of that root problem of Sin.  It outlines what, in many respects, is a progression of sinfulness, that is ever-increasing in it's severity (note, interestingly, that sexual sins are the middle and disobeying your parents is as the end.  Hmm).  What's really key is the last verse of the chapter:
Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
See, every time we sin - no matter how big or how small - I think a piece of our soul is chipped off.  The Bible refers to it as the hardening of our hearts.  The bigger the sin (and yes, there are "big" and "little" sins, although they all have the same ultimate penalty - death), the bigger the piece of your soul.  Ultimately, we become so hardened that our natural sense of right and wrong is obliterated, and we not only continue to do wrong, but we rejoice, celebrate and encourage others to do the same.

I am passionately pro-life.  I can't imagine what killing your own child must do to your soul.  It is this aspect of the abortion debate that I think is overlooked too often, and we don't want to think about it.  Oh, by the way, I think it chips away at the father's soul, not just the mother's.  

So, what potentially eternal damage has this student done to her soul?  That is what, after the lives destroyed for such a pitiful excuse, bothers me most about this story.  And what is her life going to be like from here?

You know, it's become popular to portray abortion as a "necessary evil" these days.  Here's the problem:  The more you engage in a "necessary evil," the more necessary it becomes and the less evil.  I would need to check my history books, but I'm pretty sure the Holocaust was initially portrayed as a 'necessary evil' in Germany, but it certainly didn't take long to lose it's perception as being evil.

This is simply the natural consequences of a pro-"choice" stance on abortion.  It is the end of the slippery slope.

She destroyed countless lives for the sake of her artwork, not realizing that she was decimating the most beautiful art that could ever be created.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
- Psalm 139:13-16

Friday, March 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus

My niece loves Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana), and I think that's a good thing.  There are few characters on TV for 'tween' girls to look up to, and few actresses that strive to live a life of character.  Miley Cyrus seems to be a diamond in the rough, and I hope it stays that way.

According to FoxNews Pop Tarts (see my friend Amy's blog about what's wrong with the idea of "Pop Tarts"), Miley's ability to remain grounded in the midst of her fame and fortune is due to her faith. 
"I think it’s my faith that keeps me grounded, especially because I’m a Christ follower for sure," Cyrus told us. "Live like Christ and he’ll live in you, and that’s what I want to do."
This is a really good thing, and I hope she maintains this foundation as she moves forward.  But I do worry.  I worry that the marketing machine will end up being stronger than Miley's faith.  And the marketing machine loves statements like hers... right now.  But there comes a time when it doesn't want a "good girl" to market any longer.  The "good girl" needs to become a "bad girl."  I referenced a blog post by Walt Mueller a little while ago that talked about how Britney Spears got where she is.  I wonder how much of the moral failure of Britney, Lindsay Lohan and countless others is the result of marketing versus their inherent depravity.  Heartbreaking.

And, of course, countering this, we have Paris Hilton, who today said she is "a good role model for young girls."  
Hilton, 27, boosted her fame in 2003 after a sex video of her and an ex-boyfriend hit the Internet, and she spent three weeks in a Los Angeles jail last year in a drunken driving case.

Hilton said 90 percent of stories about her in the media are "complete lies," and she blamed Internet bloggers for spreading rumors.

"I don't pay attention to lies because I am a good person, I work very hard and I've built this empire on my own. I think this is an inspiration for a lot of girls out there," she told Reuters.
Way to go, Paris. Don't let reality ruin your self-perception.

Personally, I hope my daughter emulates Miley, not Paris.
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
- 1 Timothy 4:12

Monday, March 17, 2008

That Missional Stuff...

Over the past several weeks and months, I've been struck by how other-focused Scripture is.  I mean, I've read much of the 'missional' church information out there, and I agree with nearly all of it.  I fully believe that we (the church/saved/ redeemed/chosen/elect/ christians/etc) exist to be Christ's hands and feet in serving others, that we have been given salvation not for ourselves, but to take that salvation and hope to those that do not know.  And I've seen the scriptural support given for these premises.

But it's something different when, in your own study, you begin to see it for yourself.  Again, that sounds kind of weird to say, because I've seen it in Scripture before and have preached it several times myself.  But recently I've come across two passages that particularly stood out to me for their missional focus.  One is obvious and I should have expected it, the other I didn't.

The latter passage is Romans 1:5 (emphasis added):
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Through Christ, and for his glory, we have received grace and been called to serve as his apostles.  Why?  So my life might be better?  So I can overcome sin and live victoriously in him?  Well, maybe.  But that's not what Paul says.  Paul says that we have received grace so we can call others "to the obedience that comes from faith."  To offer to others the life we have received, a life that is "more and better life than you have ever dreamed of" (John 10:10).

The former passage is the one from which our Maundy Thursday celebration stems (John 13:34-35):
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
There are two things that particularly stand out to me in this verse.  The first is the past-tense nature of the command.  Love as I have loved you.  Since he hasn't died on the cross yet, he can't be talking about that.  He's pointing back to how he began the evening - by washing the disciples feet.  It was a very practical, visual, tangible example of how Christ had lived his entire life - as a servant, come to meet others where they are in the midst of the messiness of their lives and to clean them up, both inside and out.  Christ came not to raise himself up, but to pour himself out into the lives of those he came in contact with.  We are called to love others the same way.

The other aspect of the command that stands out to me is the command itself.  Love one another.  The very nature of love is one of self-sacrifice and putting others first.  I've grown fairly tired of the song, "And They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love," but it is so true.  And perhaps that is why so many young adults are so disillusioned by the church, & therefore Christianity, today.  They know just how Christian we are by how much we have loved.  And the truth is, we haven't loved very well.  We haven't loved those outside the church very well for a very long time, and we haven't loved those inside the church very well either.  We love those that fit in our "box," but not so much those outside our box.

We must get out of the box, we must move beyond ourselves, if we are going to be faithful to this new command, to what is a consistent message throughout Scripture.  This Holy Week, we need to make a concerted effort to truly follow in Christ's footsteps.  This week isn't about what Christ has done for us, but rather what he has called us to do for others.

Thursday, March 06, 2008



Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hold The Light

For the first quarter of 2008, I've been preaching a series on Prayer, using the book of Psalms as our guide.  We've looked at Psalm 1, 139, 51, 27 and this week we're looking at Psalm 88.  This is probably one of the most depressing passages in all of Scripture, surpassed only by the first 2 1/2 chapter of Lamentations.  Passages like these, the brutal, raw honesty of faith being tested and challenged, of questioning where God is in the midst of the absurd messiness of life, is one of the reasons why I am convinced the Bible is true.

The sermon, in a nutshell, is an exploration of how are we to pray when there is no hope, when the lights have gone out, when we don't even know if there is a god to listen to our pleas.  As the Psalmist laments, "the darkness is my only friend."  The truth is that, at some point in the life of the believer, there will come "the dark night of the soul," that point when superficial platitudes and platonic words of encouragement are revealed to be as shallow as a wading pool.  Ultimately, all we can do is hold the light.  The Psalmist does this in the opening line of the Psalm: "O Lord, the God who saves me..."

We'll follow the sermon with communion - a physical act of holding the light.  Of saying, together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what, I will trust that the promises of God are true and that I am not alone.  The act of communion will be a way to enable us to enter into the Word of God in a very real, tangible manner.   To help people connect with this, the praise band is going to sing Caedmon Call's "Hold the Light" during communion.  Why this song?

Because it speaks directly to this time of struggle and questioning, of wrestling with God and wondering where He is in all of this.  It is the story of two friends who have been sharing their lives and walking with each other for two years, a time during which one of them faced an incredible time of wrestling, doubting, being angry and bitter toward God.  The friend offered no judgement, doing the only thing he could do: hold the light for his friend.  This is fairly obvious through most of the lyrics.  But there comes a problem.

See, the bridge is kind of confusing.  It goes like this: "standing around a willow weeping/we were praying in the backyard/in the chill of the night/the friendship light reminded me who we are."

What does that have to do with the rest?  I think it's something like this:  In the midst of this struggle, we sometimes get to a point of not being able to hold the light on our own.  When our brothers and sisters stand with us in the struggle, their faithful presence - to us and to God - reminds us who we are.  Who are we?  

We are the redeemed, the chosen, the beloved, the never-abandoned children of God.  Even when we see no hope and can't hold the light ourselves, God has not abandoned us.  The community of faith, standing with us in the midst of the cold, dark struggle (and that's the key), is the presence of God that holds the light we are to use to find our way through the darkness.  We aren't meant to get there on our own.
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. - Joshua 1:5

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thank You

Thank you, God, for never letting go of me.

Thank you for never letting go, no matter how silly I get.

Thank you for never letting go, no matter how angry I get with you just because I don't understand what you are doing.

Thank you for never letting go, even when I wonder if you're really there.

Thank you for never letting go, no matter how often I let go of you.

Thank you for never letting go, even when I turn my back on you.

Thank you for never letting go, even when I do not live as you would have me live.

Thank you for never letting go, no matter how often I choose my own way over yours.

Thank you for never letting go, even when I wish you would.

Thank you, God, for never letting go of me.