photo, mystery, lightening, ultrasound, clouds, xray

Brought to sight by a flash of light

It’s small in the scheme of things
But significant all the same
Brought to sight by a flash of light
The unseen is suddenly seen

Water surrounds it darkly
Future written in the sky
Brought to sight by a flash of light
Startling momentous life

What is it?

Why should the devil have all the good computer games?

When Larry Norman sang Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music in the seventies he was fighting back against a religious world-view that said music could not be ‘Christian’ unless it was played on an organ and written in old English.

Which is not to say there’s not some great music in that genre, but when it came to Christian rock, Larry was proclaiming it was time to hear some music which was ‘good’ in its own right. And the message it carried would be lifted as well:

“I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat.
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that moves my feet”

I can still hear Larry’s nasally voice in my mind when I read those words…

Anyway, time has moved on and there is plenty of good Christian music, in fact arguably, contemporary Christian music, musicians, songwriters and singers breath much-needed life into rock, soul, R & B and all kinds of music every day.

We are still waiting to see the same commitment to artistic imagination and excellence in the realm of film and literature but there are plenty of people trying. Which is sometimes the problem.

And now a Sydney Morning Herald blog writer has opened up a whole new area of discussion with the question, “why are Christian games so often so bad?”

Now I’m not really a big fan of computer gaming – mainly on the principle that there are games that you can play for 80 hours a week for the rest of your life and never come to an end… and there are too many people trying to accomplish this.

But Ash Walmsley’s blog tackles the whole arena of faith and culture via reference to gaming (having arena and via in the same sentence is a nice Roman touch I think, they liked their games too…)

He writes:

“Joshua Topolsky, founding editor in chief of The Verge writes for the Washington Post about his recent trip to E3. ‘Finally, one thing I found surprising and more than a little disappointing was the increase in graphic violence in games, as well as developers’ apparent inability to think of anything more than a gun to place in the hands of lead characters,” Topolsky wrote.

“‘There were a handful of games that explored a space outside the run-and-attack mechanics of many titles, but few tried to tell adult stories without gunshots and stabbings.’

“The world has become scared to acknowledge God. Do that, and you have to acknowledge sin and eventual judgement, which is as uncomfortable as the itchy, high-hitched trousers your mum used to make you wear to Sunday School. And yet we have greater acceptance in some areas, such as school chaplains being given the OK by the High Court (although the funding model needs a tweak).

“Could innovative, soul-searching, conscience nudging, mortality-facing games with Christian themes take gaming to another level? I shall be keeping my eyes on the Gamesmen catalogue to find out.”

Bad does get boring and once the rabid R-rated gaming fraternity wears itself out on its newly won ‘bound-freedoms’, perhaps they’ll even come looking for something more…

Read more of Ash Walmsely.

PS I love a line adaptation in Larry’s Youtube clip above: “Why should the devil have anything?”

Filipino wins 99designs contest for Purpose Driven Life cover

There are a couple of interesting sidelights to the redesign of Rick Warren’s best-selling The Purpose Driven Life.

This year Rick Warren and his publisher decided to relaunch the book with a fresh design for younger readers to mark the 32 million-seller’s 10th anniversary.

They used the online marketplace for graphic design, 99designs, to launch a contest for the cover design with a prize of US$3,500.

One designer to enter was Filipino Brian Montes who said,  “The book inspired me to strengthen my principles in life, so designing a cover for the new edition was personally a very meaningful opportunity for me.”

Brian’s clean and simple design features a tree with 40 leaves.

Read Brian’s story here.

Meanwhile 99designs is the number one crowdsourcing online marketplace for graphic design and as of today boasts 145,513 contests hosted to date; 166,281 designers and US$36,127,663 designer prize money awarded.

And to check out the new edition of Rick Warren’s book now titled What on Earth am I Here For? The Purpose Drive Life, you’ll have to wait a few more months but there will be four new chapters from Warren.

Visit the current Purpose Driven Life site.

Related: Purpose Driven meets Starbucks

Caravaggio’s Resurrection of Lazarus restored

“Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend
And then he raised him up again.”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (September 29, 1571 – July 18, 1610) painted Resurrection of Lazarus in 1609, not long before his death, and while on the run for various crimes committed in his often wild and tumultuous life. He was on his way to Rome hopeful of pardon when it appears he died on fever.

His painting has received the restoration he longed for and has also found its way to Rome where it is currently on display. Read the BBC’s report.

Lazarus, we can presume, lived to die and live again and is now with his great Friend forever… perhaps Caravaggio is with them, pardoned at last. Read the Bible’s report

Offending sculpture creates spiritual precedent

Offending sculpture... cropped so as not further offend.

A court order for the destruction of a sculpture that is spiritually and culturally offensive to Aboriginal people creates an important precedent for other people of sincere religious or cultural conviction offended by “works of art”.

A NSW court has ruled the 8.5-tonne stone sculpture of a Kimberley Aboriginal spirit figure must be pulled down. The Wandjina spirit is sacred to three Aboriginal clans in the West Kimberley and its public depiction is deeply offensive to them.

The sculpture was erected at a New Age “wellness centre” and art gallery run by  Vesna and Damir Tenodi known as ModroGorje.  The couple are devotees of Anan-Do meditation.

Traditional Aboriginal owner Gordon Smith junior travelled to Sydney for the hearing.

“I’m very happy with the ruling. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” he said.

Worrorra elder and lawman Donny Woolagoodja said: ”The sculpture is a caricature … and its presence mocks and denigrates the spiritual beliefs of the Worrorra people.”

Given the power imbalance between Western colonisers and Aboriginal peoples, it is good to see the courts restoring the balance by protecting sensitive cultural material.

At the same time, religious symbols and icons of many kinds are fair game for misuse by popular culture and contemporary art.

Christians have for years struggled against offensive depictions of core elements of their faith such as the crucifixion of Christ but are usually labelled enemies of freedom of expression or simply wowsers.

Of course rushing into banning or destroying works of art is rarely a constructive course and sometimes material that seems offensive, such as Piss Christ, may actually be highlighting the very issues being discussed here – the cheapening of deep spiritual beliefs.

(Mind you, even putting those two words together makes me feel uncomfortable.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if it is indigenous people in our nation who lead us into rediscovering the importance of a spiritual life. Of course, a very large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold deeply spiritual, Christian faith.

Major new avant-garde dance talent discovered

As my vast readership will know, I am a great supporter of the arts… Mmm, I wonder if I could make that sound even more pretentious…. never mind.

As I was saying, I love the arts and so am proud to unveil a major new work in the field of dance… or is it comedy… most likely neither.

In the  words of a famous car commercial: Please Consider.

Cycling to revolutionise cinema

A friend from UTS, Greer Allen, is helping to put together the first Cycle in Cinema in Australia where you can not only ride your bike to see the film, you can ride it to run the equipment!

Magnificent Revolution (UK) has built quite a few bicycle powered cinemas over the years, from a single bike generator Mini Cycle Screen to a Magnificent Cycle Cinema system which uses up to eight bicycles (16 legs!)  to power 600 watts of audio-visual equipment for public film screenings or projections.

A group of motivated Australians have approached Magnificent Revolution in the UK to get cycle cinema happening here in Australia.

Magnificent Revolution Australia (MRA) will be able to set up in parks, on the beach, in your backyard – anywhere. Imagine an outdoor cinema without any cars, where audience members can ride their bike to the event and use them to power the system, completely off the grid.  

MRA will be a not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to inspire and empower a wider understanding and uptake of renewable energy technologies and create a movement towards Australians reducing their energy consumptive habits.

The Cycle In Cinema is one part of the MRA project, which aims to launch pedal power sounds systems for event hire and pedal power workshops in Australia early next year.

Check out how you can support Cycle-in Cinema in Australia.

Kill the church but go easy on the gurus…

As a wobbly sounding plane flies over head through the cloud and light rain of an early Leichhardt morning, I consider another staple of inner west life, the Inner West Courier.

It has thrown up a spiritual conundrum, a coded message of religious reality in our time. Actually, it’s just demonstrating the bleeding obvious…

On page 12 of the August 31 edition, a story celebrates the awarding of the Australian Writers Guild Kit Denton Fellowship Award to Petersham resident George Casti for his script I Want to be Slim.

Great, I think. Good to see some local talent being rewarded and $30,000 can make all the difference as a writer seeks to stave off poverty and establish their craft.

I read on to see what his script is about: ‘…award judged on courage and excellence… Catsi’s “anti-Hillsong” script won… religion is a very polarised area… satirical script is about the Rev Slim Limits and his performance in getting the masses to follow his evangelical ways.’

Mmm, so George gets $30,000 to perfect his script, poking fun, in a courageous and excellent way, at a section of society that, obviously, it is perfectly appropriate to ridicule. The Courier report is matter-of-fact, as if we shouldn’t be surprised that a local church is award-winning, satire material.Read More »

Audio/Photo Post: Art, death & everything on Kensington St

Kensington St Broadway is a handy shortcut if you are heading to Redfern or Cleveland St. Turns out it is more than a little interesting with food, art, education, death and development all delving into this Sydney back street.

Turn off Broadway with the shadow of the UTS tower on your back and walk steadfastly past curious artefacts and digging developers to come face to face with your mortality. Listen to my impromptu description:

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Giraffe art for Jesus’ sake

Christian themes and characters dominate classical European art. Think The Last Supper, Madonna and Child and a thousand other amazing images. And while the treatment and frequency of Christian themes may have changed, artists of all kinds still find themselves returning to the universal impact of the Christ narrative.

A recent example is Jaye Early’s Giraffe Jesus (pictured) which featured at the recent opening of Monstrosity Gallery.

Perhaps he drew his inspiration from the oddly (some would say blasphemously) named ‘Jesus was actually a giraffe’ Facebook page which suitably has a meagre 24 followers. (Jesus has a couple of billion more…)

What this shows, once again, is that whether you are Madonna, or Lady Ga Ga or Salvador Dali or some attention seeker on Facebook, Jesus cannot be ignored. As a result, his name and story are often used for ulterior motives – artistic attempts are the least of our worries in that regard.

So before we feel too much heat about a young artist depicting Jesus as a giraffe, let’s be glad that Jesus is still being discussed and worry more about how we portray Jesus in our daily lives. 

As for Monstrosity Gallery, it is a new contemporary art space ‘nestled between debauched Kings Cross, beautiful Woolloomooloo Bay, and Sydney’s CBD, just 4 minutes walk from the world-famous Art Gallery of NSW’.

‘We are dedicated to championing the cause of young emerging artists working in painting, sculpture, illustration, new media, photography, jewellery, wearables, installation, street art and everything else, by supporting them and bringing them to the attention of the general public.’

For the record, Jesus made giraffes, but is actually the Son of God. PH

Why die, why rise?

This is my take on connecting with our community this Easter.

‘Christian tradition, pagan festival, money-making exercise… what exactly is Easter?

If it is about someone dying on a cross, and rising from the dead, why?

If it is supposed to have something to do with me, why? If it is supposed to change the world, why?

Easter 2010 at Eternity Christian Church is an opportunity for asking and answering questions; for reflecting, belonging and celebrating.

You may leave with as many questions as you came with or you might just feel you found something…’

The painting is by Canberra artist Ben Sherwood who did this pastel on cardboard piece in about 30 minutes during an Easter service at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre quite a few years ago (if your out there somewhere Ben, drop me a line!) It now hangs in our church and is one of our favourite works of art.

We borrowed the Good Friday Candlelight Service idea from a church in Port Macquarie (saw their posters one year) and it works nicely with the quieter, reflective feel of Good Friday.

Anyway, beyond all the ideas, the spin, the occasion – we really do long to see the mystery of His cross and resurrection undone in our own hearts and for others too.  PH