Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gray Hearts and Minds: Faith, Morality and the Beauty of Contrast

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

If you are a visual thinker like me, these words may radiate with clarity and light for you.  These core truths that we, as Christians, believe both settle and enliven my spirit each time I read or declare them.  These words slice the darkness from the light, creating a bright space for God's people to dwell.

In our society--in art, culture, friendships, and even our faiths--have we made too much room for gray?  The very first of God's people muddled the waters pretty quickly after a black and white line was drawn: Do not eat of this tree.  The gray dissolves both Boundaries and Beauty.  As the metaphor goes, we are God's children, and all children need boundaries, no matter how adult we have become in our faith.  I recently read a theological discourse in favor of a "mature Christian sexuality outside of marriage" as long as the members of the relationship are committed to one another.  I don't usually like to engage such specific and pseudo-political topics in a public forum, but when I read this article, all I could see in my head was an image of a human heart, turned gray.  There are many areas that we humans muddle either mentally or emotionally for the sake of a sense of freedom, autonomy or comfort; this was Adam's (and Eve's) problem in the first place. 

Muddling certain moral and theological concepts also strips us of much of the beauty of our faith.  Darkness and light create contrast, one of the core elements of design.  The element of contrast helps us to see rightly and to experience beauty.  I admit, there is beauty in nuance, as well, but it takes a more trained eye to see; and I do believe that there are some artworks, like some areas of our faith, that merit dramatic clarity.  Note the image of Rembrandt's Descent from the Cross. (taken from

My church closes with a Rwandan benediction each Sunday which captures the aesthetic grandeur of Christ's redemption, and paints a clear picture of the gift of contrast.

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.


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