Christian Comments, April 2017

The other day whilst driving home from church, I flicked on the radio and heard what sounded like a very exciting discussion going on. The debate was between some very passionate protagonists. I wondered what it could possibly be that had so animated this panel of learned and wise individuals? World hunger, poverty, war, politics, ethics, economics. No, they were in fact arguing about Marcel Duchamp’s extraordinary submission to an art competition in Paris in 1917. I know, the current affairs of today!
Duchamp took a mass-produced toilet and signed it – declared it art, called it ‘Fountain’ and, according to the panel, divided the art world into two camps lineated along the lines of: ‘It is Art’, and ‘It isn’t Art’. They did forget my own personal camp, the – ‘Who Cares if it is Art’ category however. The panel concluded that whatever it was, it was a significant ‘artistic’ milestone. Even though it added nothing to human knowledge, well-being or progression.
I arrived home and immediately asked my wife, who went to Art College, whether Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ was art? She looked at me deeply, thoughtfully, and then asked me: ‘Define what is Art?’ All those years at Art School not wasted then, I thought quietly, secretly, and expressionlessly.
Basically, in our modern world it can be concluded that Art is anything people want it to be. If people think an American urinal is beautiful and worthy of a place in a museum, then it is. And who am I, or any of us, to say it is not.
So here’s the conundrum: how do we deal with a world where growing numbers of people no longer recognise divine authority or knowledge to guide them in life? Authority is shifting from what is divine into the heart of oneself, not God. What the Human Being wants and thinks is the only thing that truly matters. In Politics, the people know how to vote; in Ethics the person does what feels good; in Economics we produce ever more to keep the customer happy.
The source of authority in the universe belongs to us. We no longer need to rely on God – It’s all about the Human Being, our choices. It’s all about us.
That is a lonely place – and I feel the shame of it, of a humanity that still relies on weapons to decide arguments, withholds resources from those in need, pollutes, destroys and agitates. I cannot think of a time when God was more needed by humanity.
Thank God then he sent us Jesus, Jesus who gave Himself up to death on the Cross so we can know we are never abandoned, never alone, never not loved, even if we choose to abandon God ourselves. Jesus asks God to ‘forgive us, because we know not what we do’. We must choose, seek, listen and pray, for God is listening.
I lament our arrogance and self-reliance. ‘I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax, it has melted within me’.

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