Friday, March 22, 2019

Have You Been Immunized?

Copyright © Edward Riojas

Sometimes we inoculate ourselves for the wrong reasons.

I’m not talking about chicken pox or rubella. Neither am I suggesting the government is secretly scheming to turn us all into GMO monsters that resist every strain of illness only to grow an extra set of arms. That’s just silly. But we HAVE, in many ways, become immune to specific horrors that appear in Holy Scripture, and that, dear friends, is not silly at all.

This came up just yesterday in a social media post in which a small piece of art I created for Oculi Sunday seemed, on occasion, to create difficulties among parishioners. The image shows a demon-possessed man being exorcised by Christ Himself. It is an ugly thing. It is odd and repulsive and shocking. Somehow, it seems inappropriate for church, and folks have brought this to their pastor’s attention. In medical parlance, however, this is a symptom of something bad.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

The Bible, you must know, if filled with all manner of unseemly, unsettling, and unnatural things. When Scripture was being written, the ugliness of hell occasionally showed up. It was visible. It was tangible.

Heaven, too, showed up. It was unearthly. It was so powerful that folks trembled at its reality, begged not to look on it, and thanked the Lord when they did see it and lived to tell the tale.

This was not some movie set or high-tech special effect – it was real. It was tangible.

And this bothers us.

We would eagerly watch planets collide in thunderous surround-sound, while super-villains threaten hopeless humankind, knowing it is fake, rather than see the haunting and glorious reality of what Scripture plainly tells us. This is a puzzle.

Hearing of the reactions to my Oculi Sunday art is nothing new. I once was told to remove a couple of human skulls from an illustration of Goliath because, well, it was ‘sort of demonic and might make some denominations squeamish.’ Huh? My skull – and yours – were knit together in our mothers' wombs by the Lord. It is His handiwork. It is not in any way demonic. What is more, apparently we can’t abide Goliath being demonic, which is also a lie.

It does not matter if folks don’t like my artwork, but it DOES matter if parents or pastors or other adults can’t explain the ugliness contained in Scripture. Being squeamish is good. Ignoring the ugliness or denying it defeats the purpose of the Law, and dulls, in turn, the power of the Gospel.

So if an ugly, little illustration gives us pause, then we should indeed pause, and explain the ugliness of sin and death and hell to our children. And if we cannot do this simple thing, perhaps we should take real time to ponder a much uglier image of torture and gore, and, allowing Scripture itself to explain, we should contemplate the greatest horror and glory of all in the reality of the sinless Christ crucified for our most intimate and grotesque sins.

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