Monday Morning Musings for 10.23.16

  1. "We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it." Hans Balthasar. Sobering words that I find to be increasingly true. In our busyness, in our rush to record everything on a smartphone, unable to live in the moment, we are losing our ability to "behold" the beauty that God puts before us every day. To "behold" is "to contemplate with pleasure." King David knew of its importance in Psalm 27 when he expressed his sole desire to "behold the beauty of the Lord." Part of God's common grace, beauty calls out to every human soul, gently drawing, beckoning, declaring "there is more! There is He who made this!"
  2. For that reason, art matters. True beauty is always God's beauty; thus, the arts always illuminate God's nature while demanding His praise. The arts will always call the wandering heart to "find the beauty behind the beauty." Art renews, reorients, and transforms people and cultures no matter it's form or expression. Therefore, FPCO will always support the arts. It's why we have our own Art Gallery, why we participate with the city in "art in odd places", and why we placed the sculpture of "Homeless Jesus" on our campus. Art is timeless as its beauty declares the glories of God.
  3. While art matters, we have reason to be gravely concerned about its current contemporary direction. Sohrab Ahmari wrote a column in the WSJ "Remember When Art Was Supposed to be Beautiful?" In it, she decried contemporary art's obsession with politics, gender, and sexuality. Sadly, she writes, "In today's arts scene, beauty is not even part of the lexicon. Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent – all of these ideals, once thought timeless, have been thrust aside to make room for the art world's totem, its alpha and omega: identity politics. If you ever wonder why nothing stirs inside you when you encounter contemporary art, chances are you're suffering the effects of the relentless politicization of the arts. This state of affairs should alarm anyone who cares about the future of liberal civilization. Free societies need art that aspires to timeless ideals like truth and beauty…when all culture is reduced to group identity and grievance, tyranny is around the corner." Read that several times and take note. The arts matter, but not all art reflects true beauty nor seek its reality, and that should give us pause.
  4. The beauty of quiet places: normally, the gym where I work out is playing loud, thumping music. This week, I went to workout mid-morning, and not only was no one else there, but the music was off. I had an hour alone – in the quiet – to work out and think and pray – and it was beautiful.
  5. Great column from Arthur Brooks in the WSJ revealing research that in today's cutthroat, cut down society, being nice to others not only makes you happier but gives you an advantage over others. It is the edge employers are looking for and the quality that potential mates find attractive, even more than personal appearance or income. He writes, "Selfish nastiness is all the rage, but research shows that pleasant behavior leads to more success and happiness in life." It doesn't mean you let people roll over you. You simply learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord, for the first cold front of the season!
  7. Homeowner Issue: I come home one-day last week and there were trucks digging up small (two foot by four foot) patches of ground, about three feet deep, rolling back the sod. I inquire as to what was happening, and all I could get was "Verizon…fiber optic." Perhaps the grass behind my back fence is not on my property, but it seems to me that as the homeowner, I should at least be asked or notified, correct? Yes, they laid the sod back, but it is dead now and looks awful.
  8. THIS WEEK'S SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE: We learned this week that the Portland, OR school district approved an afterschool "Satan Club" for elementary kids. This is the result of a "Bible Club" that has grown significantly over the past few years in many local schools. The "Satan Club" didn't like that, so they petitioned to meet. This actually IS a sign of the apocalypse – when people worship what is evil and call it good.
  9. TOO GOOD: From Peggy Noonan, WSJ – "If people are going to look down on me I want them to be distinguished or outstanding in some way – towering minds, people of exquisite sensibility or learning. Not these grubby poseurs, these people who've never had a thought but only a sensation: Christians are backward, I saw it in a movie! It's the big fact of American life now, isn't it? That we are patronized by our inferiors."