Make Meaning Matter

If you took a peek at the “God-gadget” you know just how bad Christian kitsch can get (oh, btw, Christians aren’t the only ones!). I love reminders of my faith and inspirational utilitarian objects as much as the next person. Really! I think these things can be done well and with meaning, but there has to be something of discretion in how we get our message across …even if we are the only ones the message is intended for. Ever heard the term “profane”? Yes, well, some of this comes pre-t-t-t-y close. And unfortunately some of that profanity gets somewhat laughable. We are supposed to be sober, which does not mean to take ourselves seriously. How about taking God seriously and the sanctity of His message? That might be a good start , and it could circumvent some of these truly awful cultural bloopers. That was awful, not awe-full, friends, unless we are simply flabbergasted by the absurdity of it.

Maybe this was one reason the ten commandments included not making an image… it is in the ubiquitous religious images, from light switch covers to thongs of praise ( oh yesssss), that we find some of the most offending to good sense. The inventions of man know no limit.

There are some excellent ways to insert inspiration into your mundane objects and daily life, though it isn’t to everyone’s taste; but at least it holds the meaning in context. Incorporating written messages in wall borders or posters, anywhere really. I personally love that, and the Craftsman era gave it particular attention along with clear and distinctive lettering. It doesn’t always have to be religious, and often isn’t, but the practice lends itself well to the urge to decorate your environment with reminders of faith. Iconic symbolism has worked well and seems to escape some of the obvious blunders that unfortunate but well-meant images seem to be so prone.

My own examples, just given here to amuse you, not as the grand example, are a string of letters ( found @ Target for a dollar) which spell out the word “LAUGH”. That seemed a worthwhile message for my household- and I have since bought some vases with that inscription as well. I have a standing shelf decoration that spells PEACE. On my recent trip a poster with illustrations tell us ‘How to Live at the Beach’:

  • bask
  • blossom wildly
  • Leave crabby behind
  • shed your shell

and ETC. and so on, all with appropriate humorous images. I’ve had our names meanings with appropriate scriptures that a friend made for me. I also bought an original work of art from a friend which is a woodblock of the woman washing the feet of Jesus. These were things meaningful to me… and capable of sharing that message with others.

Perhaps we get in trouble when we try too hard to be “relevant” or oblique in giving the message, instead of just being straight forward about it. I had a Grandfather and Grandmother in the Reformed pastorate, and their home was replete with pictures and Christian doo-dads. But they were ones that kept the meaning intended… the well-known picture of Jesus knocking at the door had a place on the wall, Jesus as a Shepherd with sheep on the church fans, that sort of thing. It never jarred, and had a point in its presence in the home. My grandmother had plenty of kitsch, but it was the usual kitsch without lots of counterfeit meaning…

Perhaps we ought to keep in mind the word counterfeit, and eschew all things that smack of a false piety, or make religion a little too much about us.

The important thing for messages of faith is to keep something of dignity intact in the media. We can make fun, but we ought to know what to make fun of and what not to touch. If we can’t figure that out maybe we should skip it, because the potential for misrepresentation can be damaging. This is not only in our representation of God and His message of the gospel, but also the dignity of man. The Bible gives us guidelines, especially in Paul’s epistles, where much attention is spent on bringing our daily life in sync with Christ’s message. the love chapter of 1 Corinthians is actually a guideline for many of our expressions, have you ever taken it to heart for how you utilize media in sharing the good news of Jesus?

Keith Green wrote a song called ‘How Can They Live Without Jesus‘, with a line that goes,

So many laughing at Jesus
While the funniest thing that He’s done
Is love this whole stubborn rebellious world
While their hate for Him just goes on

We actually intend to laugh with Jesus about ourselves, with joy, not at Him. And we don’t want to give more occasion to allow Him to become a laughingstock for our absence of forethought and discretion. when we make a message and craft it in words or with paint or even in plastic… let’s give thought to creating something that has our hearts fully engaged. That is the key to making the media mind the meaning, and making the meaning matter to others- when it really matters to us.