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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Decorative Cross?

I saw a catalog today that markets "decorative crosses." And the first thought that came to my mind was "what kind of sicko decorates their houses with crosses?" Then I calmed myself down.

We have crosses, crucifixes and religious artwork all throughout our house. My study at the seminary has several. And though they may be artistically stylized and may look nice, they should never be considered decorations. Jesus Christ died on a cross. Oh isn't that lovely?! The Son of God bled on the cross for my sins. Wouldn't that make a darling decoration?!

Maybe I'm getting to be more of a curmudgeon but I really can't tolerate "cute" religious artwork. I am often literally SHOCKED when I see Noah's Ark toys and cartoony chidlren's bedsheets and lampshades. Good grief! God violently destroys all living things on the surface of the earth. How adorable is that?! The flood was divine wrath upon mankind. God was sorry he ever created man. Isn't that sweet? Why don't we make Auschwictz action figures and Buchenwald bedsheets? Let's put a photo of a lynching or a burning at the stake in our parlour. Won't that be grand?

One of the causes of anemia within the Church today is the cute-ification of God. Cute kittens I love. Cute kids are precious. Cute teddy bears I could hug all day long. But God is not cute. The crucifixion is not mere decoration.

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VirginiaLutherans said...

I couldn't agree more. The question I would pose is this indicative of leaning too much on Gospel vs a balance?

Tim Kuehn said...

Surely you're not equating God executing His righteous judgement by cleaning the earth of sinful unrepentant men with such inhumane and unjust things associated with Auschwictz, Buchenwald, lynching, or a burning at the stake?

Noah and the ark show God's faithfulness in preserving those who believed and trusted in Him in the midst of all of mankind's evil and they should be remembered as such.

Whiel the reason Noah and the ark was necessary may've been marginalized over the years, but that doesn't mean that Noah & ark images should be tossed out as well.

What happened at the flood is a foretaste of what awaits all unbelievers when they die. It should be a constant reminder of what Christ underwent on our behalf.

Carl said...

So what do you think of those who
wear "pierced earrings" in the shape of a cross? Sometimes I'd like to comment, but never really know how to go about it.

Kelly Klages said...

If a person's aim is really to lean on the Gospel, they won't get there without the Law first showing them just how ugly their sin is. The cross (the un-cute kind) both shows how bad our sin is as well as how good our Savior is for us. I can't imagine a person really into the Gospel using their utter dependence on Christ to justify frilly crosses. Neither the wages of sin nor the gift of God is cute.

Full agreement on the sickliness of cute religious artwork-- quadrupley so when heavy Law is involved!

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

First, who says lynchings and burnings at the stake are unjust or inhumane? Romans 13 gives the gov't the authority to impose capital punishment. If a man is hanged or burnt or beheaded or electrocuted or gassed to death by the gov't for his crimes it is neither unjust or inhumane. My comment did not specify those cases of vigilantism you must have in mind.

And how can you say that the flood is God's wrath but Auschwitcz is not? How do you know that? Were the men, women and children in the flood worse sinners than the people killed in the Nazi camps? No unless you repent, you shall likewise perish. Were the concentration camp victims really innocent before God? Don't we say in our general confession of sins that we all deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment? I'm not saying that God was condemning all those who died in the camps? But how can you say he was not?

Certainly, God's wrath is terrible. It is good and just, but terrible nonetheless. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God..."

Re-read my post, Tim, I did not say that images of the flood should be tossed out. I said "cute" images of the flood should be tossed out. Just like "cute" crosses should be tossed out. Of course, the flood and the cross are gospel. They are also law. They should not be trivialized by being made into kitsch.

Jonathan & Kaethe said...

I completely agree. I have no idea what to do with the pastel-colored stuffed cross that Amalia received as a gift from relatives for her baptism. I had no idea such things were even made. Are we supposed to line it up with her teddy bears? Does it goes next to Winnie the Pooh or Piglet?

Darrell said...

I'm totally with you on this. We have a crucifix at the end of our hallway, and I try to use it as an ever-present reminder of my faith. It's not a decoration, it's more like a crutch, I suppose. It's also something I find myself contemplating from time to time.

I'm also with you on cutsey decorations. Things like this figurine really bug me. I can't for the life of me figure out what message they are supposed to convey. Jesus is, of course, our friend... but these kinds of things seem to lower him to merely our peer, if you see what I mean. I don't like the idea of teaching irreverence, even if it's taught with the best of intentions.

Bob Waters said...

The answer to Virginia Lutherans is "absolutely, positively NOT."

The concept of a "balance" between Law and Gospel indicates a complete misunderstanding of what the distinction is all about. There can be no balance. The purpose of the Law is to drive us to the Gospel. And where the Gospel does not predominate, it is not being proclaimed. Neglect of the Law, or a failure to allow it to perform its function, is an abomination- but the notion of a "balance" is, too!

Rather, I think, it's a matter of not taking God's judgment seriously, which is rather a different thing. We cannot domesticate God. It's as Mr. Beaver says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan isn't tame. But he's good.

Big difference.

Scott Roche said...

While I may agree with you on the crosses, I can't say that a toy ark with animals is a bad thing. To most kids it's just a boat with animals on it. When they're old enough to talk about things like the flood I suppose it could serve the same purpose (reminder) as the crosses that you have up. Odds are pretty good though that it will stay just a boat with some animals. And I think that's fine.

Anonymous said...

The big question: what is the motivation for such a portrayal? For example, an atheist rockstar wearing a cross is just wrong.

My wife and I chose Noah's Ark as the theme for our baby's room. Of course the Noah's Ark motif we chose is not one of death and destruction. We would probably get referred to social services if it were.

The reason we chose the Noah's Ark motif was to focus on the presence and promise of God in our children's lives. Regardless of what may come into their lives we know that they have the same promise that God gave Noah. In fact, they have a more detailed promise through the gift of their baptism. We know that the same water which brought destruction on the earth also saved Noah by lifting the Ark above the destruction. And that is the same power that saved our children in Baptism.

It is also interesting how beauty can come out of dark and tragic circumstances. I think of the picture of the soldier in Iraq petting a kitten. I also remember a book of poetry written by children in a concentration camp. The name of the book is "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."

Thank you for the excellent blog. I look forward to reading many more great and thought-provoking entries here.

Orycteropus Afer said...

I don't like "cute" but I do occasionally venture into "kitsch" (if there's not an actual dividing line, please don't disabuse me of my fantasy). Anyhow, some of the Noah items I've seen aren't of the "Precious Moments Make Me Puke" variety but still are kid-friendly and non-threatening. I have no problem with this. After all, while the Flood was God's judgment, the Ark was grace. While we need to properly understand and fear the wrath of God upon sinners, do we want to keep our illustrations so harsh as to scare kids (and some adults) off of or away from the boat? Why worry about a sweet reminder of an even sweeter Gospel?

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