Monday, June 30, 2008

Eeyore Goes to Tehran

Sermon given at Trinity Reformed UCC in Mountville on June 28, 2008

The Jonah story is exaggerated and silly, and it uses humor to prove its point. The audience, original and modern, is presented with a series of reversals that play with our expectations of what a prophet is and what one should do.

Jonah is the only prophet to run away from God. He is also the only prophet who says so little and yet causes the most frantic reform in the Bible. The entire city, royalty to common folk and even animals, all repent and wear sackcloth, a symbol of Middle-Eastern mourning. Consequently, Jonah is angry and wants to die. The story is fascinating at the literary level and that is part of the reason the story is so popular in both Jewish and Christian circles.

I hope to give some understanding of this story in our modern context, following Nancy’s sermon series, “Is this your idea of a good time, God?!” To attempt to wear Nancy’s shoes and follow in her footsteps, I’m gonna need a lot of prayer. So please, pray with me now.

Most Loving and Most Gracious God, you are indeed with us both in the speaking and in the hearing of these words, may this speaking and may this hearing, be light and benefit to all.

I was raised on Winnie the Pooh. My aunt LOVED these stories and my sister and I were fed a healthy diet of the Hundred Acre Woods every time we stayed over. I loved Tigger, he was always so positive and energetic. Eeyore was his opposite. Eeyore is a clinically depressed donkey in great need of therapy. This is our modern Jonah. You see Jonah is introduced and his name, Jonah of Amittai, in Hebrew roughly translates to “Dove of My Truth” giving a hint of what is to be expected of Jonah in the story; namely to fly to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians, and give God’s truth. However, DOVE has another connotation in the Hebrew mindset. Doves “cry” or “complain.” So let us being our reimagining of the story of Jonah.
God comes to Eeyore and says “Go to the capital city of Iran, Tehran, and let them know that I’m not liking what they’re doing. You see I’m a subscriber to the Human Right’s Watch and I know what’s going on in there. You need to go and let them know that they better stop or I might lose my cool and smash ‘em.”

Hearing this Eeyore immediately books a flight to Alaska. Eeyore is fast asleep in first class and his plane is somewhere over British Columbia when a storm rocks the plane. We’re not talking a little turbulence, we’re talking passengers from coach bouncing their way into first class, and nothing makes airlines angrier than coach class people trying to sneak into first class. Everyone is shouting and yelling and praying to God in his or her own way. But during all this shouting, yelling and praying, Eeyore is sound asleep. God lets it be known to the pilot that Eeyore is the cause of all this distress, so the pilot comes and questions Eeyore.

“Who are you and why are you on my plane?” asks the captain.
“I’m Eeyore, a Christian.” Says Eeyore. “I think I’m causing this turbulence because I’m supposed to be going to Iran, not Alaska. You guys better give me a parachute and toss me out an exit door.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says the Captain. “We’ll get around this.”

The captain tries every trick he knows, he tries going around and above the storm, to no avail. The funny thing is, is that when he radios other planes, his plane is the only one experiencing problems.

“Oh bother,” Says Eeyore. “I told you to throw me out.” And that’s what the captain does. As soon as Eeyore is given a parachute and leaps from the door, the storm dissipates and the passengers have a silky smooth ride the rest of the way and vow to double their tithes when they get home.

Meanwhile Eeyore is in free fall. He’s thinking to himself, “why does this sort of thing always happen to me.” He’s just about to pull the cord on the parachute when he’s swallowed by a giant pelican. This makes Eeyore even more depressed. On the third day in the muck and guts of the pelican, Eeyore gets it. He erupts in a song of thanksgiving to God for giving him a second chance. This of course, gives the pelican indigestion, and Eeyore is vomited out on the city limits of Tehran. Eeyore got another chance. He then goes to Tehran, and he declares their peril and warns of the impending doom. He travels all over the city, three days with his sandwich board and haggard look (hair still kinda matted from Pelican stomach juice). Think of a caricature of a Times Square prophet.

And an amazing thing happened. The Iranians listened. They paid attention. A preacher’s dream fulfilled. They repented. In fact this is arguably the most successful prophetic mission recorded in the scriptures.

They closed the massage parlors, the back room bars, and shut down the drug cartels. They stopped the child abuse and ended the domestic violence, they provided shelters for the homeless and built affordable housing, they implemented health care for their elderly poor, a program you could actually understand. They put an end to arms production, they made peace with their neighbors and stopped torturing prisoners in clandestine locations, they stopped the terror squads that were taking people hostage, and in every respect cleaned up their act. The Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah, himself repented and ordered everyone to join him, to put on sackcloth and sit in ashes and pray for mercy. They repented, and turned their lives around.
And as if that weren’t enough, so did God. God repented. God saw the sincerity of the Iranians, the turn-about that they had made, and it moved God. Moved God so much that God repented of the idea of destroying them.

Now this is the point at which a lesser story might end with those familiar words, and all lived happily ever after. But instead this story has one more chapter where we discover more about Eeyore than we ever wanted to know. We find out why it was that he headed for Alaska the first time when God had sent him to Tehran. And why was that?

Because Eeyore didn’t like Tehran, couldn’t stand the Iranians, didn’t want anything to do with them at all, least of all to give them warning of God’s displeasure, or any opportunity to avoid the well deserved judgment that was coming upon them. After all, they weren’t even Christians, and what was the point of being a Christian if God does not love you more than God loves your enemies? And they didn’t repent of being Muslim, they’re still Muslim! What’s the point?! If God is just, then God could not forgive the Iranians, Eeyore reasoned. Eeyore thought he should defend God’s honor and keep God from showing mercy on a nation that Eeyore was sure God hated. After all, if Eeyore hated Iran, God must too.
After the Iranians repent, Eeyore speaks in anger at God, “I know that you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Was this your idea of a good time God?” Eeyore had hopped a plane for Alaska because God was asking Eeyore to do something that turned his stomach, to show mercy to not only non-Christians, but to America’s enemies, the ranking nation in the Axis of Evil.
Most of us are more like Eeyore than we might be ready to admit. We have our systems worked out as to who is favored by God and who is not. We know the good guys from the bad guys. Just like Eeyore.

God answered Eeyore. God answers us when we get caught in this type of “Eeyore” thinking. God firmly asks Eeyore, “Who are you? Who are you to think that I have no concern for the Iranians. In that great city of Tehran there are 7 million people who did not know their right hand from their left, and you think that I would forget them? Do you think I’m just the God of America, and not the creator and sustainer of all peoples?”

The redemptive message of Jonah is a powerful one. It leads to coexistence and harmony, yet it shows the painful process of opening one’s self to God. In this story we recognize that we’re all children of God. We must fully identify others and ourselves as children of God. We are all connected in the divine web. AMEN.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

PWNED by God (?)

SVS brought up the idea of "Does God hate?" i commented on this thread:
great question! my short answer is “no.” if you say “yes” then there’s too much argue’n over who gets to say what God hates and why. plus if you believe in an all powerful creator, if HE hates something, wouldn’t HE remove it? free will be buggered as HE is too powerful for that crap.

if answer is yes, then who gets to determine this… scripture? prayer? divine intervention? social darwinism? white hetero males?

this always brings into play the question of GOD'S WILL. Does everything happen in this world because of God's will, or due to free will? I don't see this as an either/or senario, rather a "both/and" dealie.

Process Theology states that the universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God's will.

So where am i heading with this, or what caused me to write this? well, our condo did. we tried to sell it for a year, didn't sell. that's understandable, cause we bought at the peak and are trying to sell in a valley. so we tried to rent... we had a perfect couple but due to a death in the family couldn't make the first lease signing. we put it off for a month, holding it specifically for them, only to get a voicemail message (on our home number none-the-less after we already drove 2.5 hours to g-town) saying that the couple broke up and will not be signing the lease today or ever.

seriously... WTF?! is this the will of God, to go around PWN'n peeps? infuriating them to an annoying level?! is this your idea of a good time God?

so i'm trying to see what the WILL of GOD is in all of this... then i realize something... this is like if i went up to you, dear reader, and socked you in the noodle. you'd be all like, "dude, why did you just punch my lights out" (after you woke up in a different zip code, cause i got mad ninja skills) and i'd say "you figure it out." if this is how God chooses to relay messages to our earthly selves, then i'm having no part and dropping out of seminary immediately. God is MUCH smarter than that and when God communicates, God communicates it so you get the message! you may choose to ignore it or not understand it fully, but it's swimming in your brain. i must now come to terms that sometimes shit happens. sometimes the world IS random. sometimes chaos wins over order. or following Oprah's THE SECRET, i've attracted this because i expected it.. which is a load of crap.

here are somethings i've learned besides that Due to Our Condo NOT Selling or Renting:
+ no one died or is suffering or will starve because of this
+ no one is oppressing or being oppressed
+ some people are homeless, we're blessed with an over-abundance
+ God is not in the real estate market.. God's son was a carpenter who (possibly) BUILT houses, not sold them.
+ life is annoying at times but blessed most all the time
+ patience is a virtue, but it's hell learning it

keep our housing woes in your prayers, but not too far up, there are other more deserving prayers that need attention before ours (natural disaster victims, people dealing with cancer treatments and recovering in ICU for a start) but just remember it towards the end.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


y'all know that i can't stop posting! with so much going on, i gots to keep y'all up on the happenings (crappy movie i hear) here in L-caster.

I give my first sermon at Trinity UCC here this sunday, a little nervous about it.. it's on Jonah and the title is "Eeyore goes to Tehran." It will be sucessful if 1. my voice doesn't crack like a 13 year old, 2. i keep the "umms" and "uhhhs" under 200 and 3. they don't stone me for heresy at the end. keep your fingers crossed ;-)

Katie, Brian, and Daniel, friends from college who lived in the DC area with us, came out this past weekend. great to catch up with them! I need to check out Poi Dog Pondering, they're fav. band. Also that weekend i glimpsed heaven. Heaven is sitting on the porch on a clear night, having a few suds and talking about camping tents and their merits, whether or not the Mars Rover wrote "We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!" when it detected ice, and how racism is a biological holdover from our tribal past.

I gave a speech as an Ally at the Lancaster PRIDE interfaith service.. it went something like this:
Being raised Catholic you’re told that sex is only for procreation. Any sex that does not result in a child is immoral. So when BIRTH CONTROL is a hot topic in a society, the topic of same-sex partnerships are LIGHTYEARS beyond our comprehension. I was told that it was unnatural and immoral, end of story, that's all i need to know, period.

I never considered the plight of the LGBT community until my best friend in college came out. That was a transformative experience for the both of us. Neither she nor I knew how I would respond, but when the rubber hit the road, I knew that I
loved her unconditionally.

So here I stand, a straight protestant man doing his best to help where needed, to stand up and speak out when someone thinks they can tear down my friends. you can do a lot more damage from the inside of a majority, than from the outside ;-) I also recognize the need to stand aside. You can't give someone freedom, they must earn it for themselves and claim ownership.

I stand on the side of love."

and I think that's about it... oh, the Bonsai tree hasn't grown at all... with that thing would hurry up.. (wait.. why am i doing this again?) so i will post up the sermon later and let you know how awful it went! RAWK OUT GIRL SCOUT!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Created Reality

I love the TED talks. Amazing stuff over there. Run over there and check it out.. i've watched a TON of things but i would like to know what strikes your fancy. let me know!

here's my big rant for today based on two TED talks. How do we create?

Why am i this person? why am i not someone else? I would prefer to be a Japanese heiress, why am i a white American from Ohio?

what Amy Tan talks about around 11 minutes is that we "notice disturbing hints from the universe that were always there." this is what i was talking about in the last post about Serendipity and synchronicity. we strive to gain our focus on the question "Why am i here?"

I have not read A Purpose Driven Life.. so i can't comment on that.. but i do believe that we all have internal blueprints and we have to follow and we get in trouble if we stray too far from these blueprints. Joseph Campbell's simple "follow your bliss" helps but we must be mindful of our bliss and our pursuit and what effect that takes on others. the question then of "why am i here" becomes a problem of big sorts, esp. if the universe is telling us in such obvious fashion. how can we miss such obvious cues?

the Christian answer is because we're fallen. The science answer is that our brians are miswired. Either one points to the fact that humans are limited and flawed.

i'm not in the Sinner Theological World... so i don't really buy the "inherently and permanently no good" of the original sin doctrine. i think that once we gain our focus, we can overcome a lot of flaws inherently built. God is helping in this process the whole time, helping us to wake up and become who we are and who we're meant to be.

In the book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Helath, Wealth, and Happiness Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein points out how weird our brains actually are. Humans are very illogical: we eat more from larger plates, care twice as much about losing money as about gaining it, fret over rare events like plane crashes instead of common ones like car crashes. We need what Thaler and Sunstein call a "libertarian paternalism" that lure us to make the right choice. our brains are really weird.

but what about trauma? what about those events that happen to us that are SO traumatic that we will never get over them? things like rape, abuse, oppression, dehumanization... what about those things? these are results of what is attached to our memory. what is memory then? a collection of protein chains.

Neuroscience has discovered how we remember events in our brains through protein chains. An NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux, who studies fear memories in rats, tells us how with a one shock, one tone, and one drug injection, you can bust up this piece of matter, and prevent a rat from every making a memory. LeDoux’s research goes sci-fi, when he and his colleague Karim Nader start trying to erase memories. And Nader applies this research to humans suffering from PTSD. We heard about this when we were at Rolex in Lexington KY on the radio. Listen to it here! IT'S AWESOME! check it out, as this is the basis this post revolves around.

Particularly traumatic memories appear to be captured by two separate parts of the brain: the hippocampus, the normal seat of memory, and the amygdala, one of the brain's emotional centers. People incapable of forming long-term memories thanks to hippocampal damage can nonetheless form subconscious memories of traumatic events if their amygdala is intact. Someone suffering from the Memento condition would likely have a feeling of general unease encountering a person or a situation that had caused them harm in the past, though they wouldn't be able to put their finger on what was making them uncomfortable. In Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, something like this happens. There are several instances in the movie where Clementine appears to have a trace emotional memory of an event that has been wiped from her waking mind.

Theoretically, if you could block protein synthesis in a human brain while triggering a memory, you could make a targeted erasure.

So not only does this show how we don't really remember who we are accurately, we don't preceive reality accurately, and we're generally in quite a state. once we realize this, maybe we won't be so hyper about disagrements. maybe the word HERETIC won't be a warcry anymore, but mean "to choose" like the greek implies.

this is post-modern thought. no memory is verifiably true. there is no objective reality only reality viewed from our context, with our prejudices and world view. or maybe there IS objective reality, but our brains can't handle it, misinterpret it, and ultimately misread it. so if there is objective reality, all we get from it are glimpses, small epiphanies. When we remember and view reality, it is an act of creation. Every thing we do is an act of creation. where then is God?

well Biblically this fulfills that we are active in God's creation that we are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13-16). The apophatic tradition focuses on a spontaneous or cultivated individual experience of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception, an experience often unmediated by the structures of traditional organized religion or learned thought and behavior. so that place where words fail you.. that is God. can you describe what it was like the first time you saw the ocean? first time you fell in love? that indescribable part is where God lives.

The Divine is ineffable, an abstract experience that can only be recognized - that is, human beings cannot describe the essence of God, and therefore all descriptions if attempted will be ultimately false and conceptualization should be avoided (like using pronouns).

This is a super long post... with a lot of stuff in here for y'all to watch, listen to, and consider. so i'm gonna go on vaction here as i have to write my first sermon for my field education placement. so i'll let you catch up, please comment on what you think after you've listened and watched all this, and then we'll chat! i'll post next on July 1st.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Prayer

Written by Nancy Dahlburg, delivered by yours truly Sunday June 15th, 2008.

God, today of all days, we thank you for giving us fathers. Thank you for being a God who set an example of what a loving parent should be so that we might know some of the ways in which parents should love their children. You love us even when we disappoint love us when we don’t do our have shown us how to care, how to commit, how to show affirmation and unconditional love. Thank you for being a God who shows us the love of a committed and compassionate parent and thank you for loving us even when our earthly parent’s have failed to live up to your example.

Today, O God, we thank you for all the people in our lives who have shown us the love of a trustworthy parent:....for those men who fathered us, or adopted us, or fostered us or mentored us. Thank you God for the men in our lives who taught us how to put a worm on a hook, who told us scary stories around a camp fire, who carried us to bed when we fell asleep in the car, and who only knew how to make peanut butter sandwiches when mom was sick. Thank you for dads who taught us how to swim – in lakes and pools – but also in board rooms and offices. Thank you for those fathers of ours who had patience, persistence, and praise. For those who took the time to know us – for the ones who held us in the embrace of a family love – even when we wanted to turn away. Thank you for fathers – the ones that tried – the ones that didn’t – the ones that need your forgiveness and ours – the ones that left us early, but never seem to go away.

Thank you God for fathers who worried when we took the car keys and thank you for fathers who didn’t worry when we applied for college. Thank you for the fathers of our youth that we have befriended in adulthood, and thank you for the fathers who finally learned to be a father with their children’s children. Today, O God, above all days, we thank you for dad, and grand-dad, great grandpa, our uncles, step dads, pappies, boom-pa’s, pop, father, and the guy we called “the old man”.

And today we also thank you for the women in our lives who took our father’s role when our father couldn’t or our father wouldn’t. We ask for the healing of our memories where those relationships that might have been failed to meet our expectations, and we ask for forgiveness for the ways in which fathers have burdened others with their responsibilities or neglected their role but wanted the credit.

Thank you for all our father’s....for the ones we love, for the ones we’ve lost, for the ones we have never had and the ones who have yet to earn the title. We thank you for those who were, those who are, and those who are yet to be. We pray in faith, believing in the name of Jesus our Christ, and praying the prayer that begins with words particularly meaningful today: Our father..... Amen.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Objective Walk

i walk my dog at night
and ponder what is right
what facts are facts
and what is objectively true.

i think of my old self
and the old science that said,
"The atom is the smallest matter
and can't be divided."

i remind myself that the
US was to fighr russia
and the world was to end
the date was 8.8.88.

I knew God was God
and He was in heaven
all things from His will
and i was loved.

i think of my self now
and the science that says,
"Atoms aren't the smallest
(we have quarks and quasars)
and we can dissect them too."

The world has yet to end
(though some say 2012)
I see this as each generation
unable to think of a world
without them in it.

I know God is God
and I am loved
and what is objectively true
and constant is change.

I know one day this
dog that i walk will be gone,
my unborn will be born
and may birth some more.

one day i won't be here.

these changes are true without
me having any say
and won't change despite
my objections.

but beyond that is vanity and words
and words are mist posing
as rocks on the distant
and future horizon.

so love abundantly and do no evil,
be a child of God
and remind others,
that they are too.

Monday, June 09, 2008


I'd like to think that patience and me go together about as well as an NRA sticker on a Prius. Which is to say we get along about as well as a peanut butter and plutonium sandwich and your digestive tract.

That's what i'd like to think.

Truth is i'm patient with some things and not others. I realized this when playing with my nieces and nephews two weekends ago. I just LOVE spending time with them and I don't worry about the time or how many times they ask questions. I love it! I do lose my patience when they keep jumping on me or hitting me with stuff, but they usually stop after asking them to stop.

I love following my youngest niece around and watching what she pays attention to. You can learn a lot about the world from a two-year-old's persepective. you notice the small things.

most of you know about our condo. we tried to sell it and couldn't. the bottom has fallen out of the market. we are trying to rent it, yet that was delayed. it's enough to make me think the condo is cursed. but that's superstitious. i need patiences here... or do i? somethings are good to be impatient with.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel states, "to be religious is to be impatient with injustices, a breathless impatience with injustice, a hysteria about injustices." The commentator Dresner states that "We ourselves witness continually acts of injustice... but we rarely get indignant or overly excited. To the prophets a minor, commonplace sort of injustice assumes almost cosmic proportions." (unless it's against women adds Kate, but that's another post.)

I do need to be more patient with people and esp. with my wife. Take time to communicate properly and fully. take time to listen to what they're saying.

So as a symbol of this, I've decided to grow a bonsai tree. So stay tuned for pix and more descriptions of the process. Right now the seeds are germinating in the refrigerator for 7 days. i can't say it's better than watching the NBA finals, but it's different.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Role of Art in Worship

Here is my final essay from Lee's class.. it's a little long and more of a rant than a paper.. but i hope you will enjoy!

Luther once hailed that the ear was the divine receptacle. He stated, “The ear, not the eye, is the organ God has chosen for the reception of revelation.” We must remember that Luther loved words and spent his life making a vast library of hymns, commentaries and translating the Bible. But what Luther failed to realize is that art is already in the worship. Fashion, architecture, even the printed word and the book that binds it are works of art. It is to what extent that the pastor allows and utilizes art that is the debate here. With this in mind I would reject Luther’s bold statement in favor of all five (or possibly six or more) senses.

Visual, written and verbal communication have always existed side by side (Witvliet vii). When used correctly, all three work in harmony to deliver a powerful message. Taking a look at the Bible, many of the most popular stories powerfully use all three methods. As Luther pointed out, “God… sets before us no word or commandment without including with it something material and outward, and proffering it to us. To Abraham he gave the word including with it his son Isaac. To Saul he gave the word including with it the slaying of the Amalekites. To Noah he gave the word including with it the rainbow. And so on” (Stone 10). Luther also communicated something to the Catholic Church when he nailed a copy of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. That was a dramatic act ment to attract public attention showing that even Luther used the arts. If Luther mailed his 95 Theses we may have never heard of him! It was his performance art that touched off the Protestant Reformation.

Art is everywhere and in everything. People have figured out how to make art out of every conceivable substance known to man. Art cannot be stopped and will continue to move and evolve. Protestants seem hesitant to use art. There seems to be a question of what is appropriate? Or how do we harness the visual arts and use them to communicate effectively?

All these questions must be considered before choosing art to be used in worship. If the art selector makes a poor choice, the congregation may be turned off. Maybe this is the true reason why people are hesitant to use art. Choosing just the right art piece is hard work and has no definite and concrete outcome. This ambiguity is what Luther had a problem with. One can control his or her words to get a measured message and outcome. But the combined impact of hearing and seeing is much higher than just hearing.

Based on the paper “Learning and Teaching Styles” written by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman in the Journal of Engineering Education, a study carried out by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company found “that students retain 10 percent of what they read, 26 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say, and 90 percent of what they say as they do something” (para. 7). So the impact is much higher when the purpose of both auditory and visual media match up. For this reason alone, art is needed in the worship.

In my perfect imaginary world in which I reside, there is no such thing as secular. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “The church, like Christ, has to become world. It is a denial of the real humanity of Jesus and also heretical to take the concrete church as only a phantom or an illusion. It is entirely world” (Floyd 12). Secular is a constructed idea we must break down and stop using. I do not understand the idea of Christian music, movies, etc. I can find a Christian message in the movies Pulp Fiction or Fight Club. I do not see the difference between musicians like the Newsboys who praise God and Marilyn Manson who questions God. Do not we need both? One can be just as appropriate as the other, depending on what you are trying to communicate. The "secular" movie and music makers do not hide their struggles with faith. They do not try to separate their faith and their life. It seems as though many Christians just visit their faith on Sunday and leave it in the hands of their pastor, and then they get on the road and act like a jerk for the rest of the week. I don't understand this separation. People of faith are never separated from it, albiet they sometimes let their emotions get the better of them.

With an open stance, I would expect art to pour into worship. If people took down the separation of church and secular, art would be much more welcome in worship. Bono, frontman for the band U2, said, “The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt” ( Van Gogh to Van Morrison, it is all fair game, all aesthetics and all styles. I agree with Jensen when she talks about the transcendent ideal of beauty (8). True beauty most often does lead to truth (Jensen 10).

However, this vast spectrum may leave many overwhelmed. Just as Jensen points out, the world thinks that the “real artists” are as intimidating as they are impressive (11). What most people need to get over are their feelings of “this isn’t good enough” or “this is too simple.” Everyone has their own style, and by learning the elements and principles of design, people can start to piece together what they want to communicate. Learning these steps are very important in the early stages but once learned these elements can be broken or bent to create a certain effect.

A simple first step when trying to use art and/or music is to figure out what one is trying to communicate. We must take things situation by situation. One would not choose the same art for an Easter service as you would a Christmas service. Both are triumphant celebrations but of two difference natures. Christmas is the celebration of what is to happen, and Easter is the celebration of what has happened—two very different things. Communication is key in this example. This is the main problem of using art in worship—too many people are unclear of how to use art. Some would find art distracting, like Luther argues. I think the improper use of art would be distracting. People can be distracted by anything if the sermon is bad enough, however. I was fascinated many times growing up by the design of my shoelaces whenever my Catholic priest forgot he was talking to grade schoolers. With this in mind, I do not think that Luther’s argument against art holds any water. In today’s world, people seem to want definite answers but art is counter to that. Artworks that are spiritual are not concerned with answers (Stone 11).

Art and music are the first programs to get cut generally when schools face budget decisions. But the arts have an intrinsic value that ties in with other subjects children learn. Here is a brief list of the benefits of art education from the National Art Education Association:

The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships.
· The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution.
· The arts celebrate multiple perspectives.
· The arts teach children complex forms of problem solving.
· The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know.
· The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects.
· The arts teach students to think through and within a material.
· The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said (Eisner).

Art therapy is utilized for patients across the board with varying ailments, from mental health to physical rehabilitation. Studies have shown direct correlations between higher math scores and music education. In short, art is the great humanizing force of the world—a universal language that communicates without words, revealing basic truths about human beings throughout the ages. Art has benefit to all, both the artist and art viewer.

I believe in the Andy Warhol school of thought of “Art is anything you can get away with” (Stone 33). The same goes for “Christian Art.” The key to “Christian Art” is the purpose. When one puts an adjective in front of art, one is immediately ascribing a purpose to that art. For example, Modern Art ascribes to modernist lines of thought, and Impressionist Art focuses on use of color in a scene over use of literal depiction of a scene. The same follows with the term “Christian”—we are ascribing a purpose and function to the art.

Art is needed in Christianity now more than ever. Art is already used in worship, but needs to be brought to the forefront. Art’s intrinsic value benefits both the artist and the viewer. Once the purpose of the art and the idea that needs communicated are found, the presentation will be more powerful and etched into the minds of the audience. Art invites the audience to be engaged. An engaged congregation is more likely to return than an ignored audience.

Works Cited
Bono, February 8, 2008.

Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind. pp. 70-92. February 8, 2008.

Floyd, Wayne W. The Wisdom and Witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Fortress Press, 2004.

Jensen, Robin M. The Substance of Things Seen, Art, Faith, and the Christian Community. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2004.

Madden, Christopher. “Discussion Paper: The ‘economic’ benefits of art.” 1998. February 8, 2008.

Stone, Karen. Image and Spirit, Finding Meaning in Visual Art. Augsburg Books, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.

Wagner, Imal. The Storyteller: From Epic Tale to Business Advice. 50 Lessons, Inc. February 8, 2008.

Witvliet, John D. Series Preface to The Substance of Things Seen by Robin Jensen. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2004.