Sunday, November 05, 2006

God, Art & Metaphor (Part 2)

Instead of embracing our Lord's creative nature, the church has shunned it.
Instead of celebrating the Creator's Spirit inside each of us, the church has suppressed it.
Instead of using metaphor to be the Light, the church has hidden it under a bushel to control it.

Metaphor is a scary concept to church leaders. The church likes to control what we see, what we hear, what we read, and what we think. Our primary mode of communicating the Message remains the pulpit, and one person in the pulpit is very controlled communication. In addition, church leaders commonly view the members of the body as mindless sheep. They pridefully maintain that the sheep need very simple, direct communication from their rare, ordained, ecclesiastical knowledge.

"They won't get what you're trying to say in that painting."
"I'll only have to explain to them what the drama really means."
"It's too high-brow for them."

Artists, like the prophets of old, express themselves in metaphor - and people expressing themselves in metaphor can be very messy business. You could end up with Ezekiel building a model of Jerusalem out of Legos and acting silly. You might end up with Jeremiah running naked through Jerusalem with a yoke on his shoulders. You could have Isaiah using a used tampon as an expression of the nation's sin. You could wind up with Hosea marrying a whore. We can't have that. It will only confuse the simple, ignorant sheep. Besides,

It's not socially acceptable.
It's uncomfortable.
It will generate uncomfortable conversations I can't control.
People won't get it, and I'm not sure I get it myself.
It will cause a flood of angry letters and e-mails I don't have time to answer.
I might lose my job.

Let's just stick with what we know. Let's just do what's most comfortable; with what we've always done; with what works (or not).

Artists commonly complain that the church doesn't understand them and won't accept them. But really, it shouldn't be that surprising. Israel killed their prophets because they didn't like the message of their metaphors. The church kills the spirits of their artists by not even allowing them to express themselves in metaphor. If we don't even allow the artist-prophet in the door then we don't have to go through the whole bloody mess of killing them. Let them just waste away outside the church walls. It's much easier on everyone.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Yet, while the bodies of the prophets were hewn by their own and left for dead, the message (the metaphors) of the prophets endured and has spoken to endless generations. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it is a powerful communication tool. It is just as worthwhile as a thousand word sermon and more lasting - for while the sermon goes in the ear and is quickly forgotten, the picture remains before the eye as a constant reminder - an enduring message.

Our churches are dying. The Message is falling on deaf ears.

We need to find new and powerful ways of communicating the Message. We need to reclaim the Creator's Spirit within us. We need to express the Message in metaphors that stir the hearts of our generation.


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