Friday, October 1, 2021

Fools For Christ

We generally dread looking foolish to others, and sometimes to the point of violence. In ages past when dueling was legal many a man lost his life for making an adversary look foolish. Short of dueling, malicious gossip and lies can wreak havoc and destroy our lives and families. It's one of the many ways we can be crucified socially. Being shunned, ostracized, and ridiculed can be deadly for us if our health is poor, or our heart is less than robust. 

The great French music composer/prodigy Georges Bizet (1838-1875) had enormous success early in life, won prizes, and was seen as a rising star. But he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 36, and few could agree on the cause. Those who knew him best said his heart was broken by the fury of critics who hated his recent works, like the opera Carmen and his incidental music for the play L'Arlesienne. Bizet was forced to move out of Paris, into the country, and he couldn't make a living as a composer. Once he was dead, however, the public and critics praised him and wanted to hear his works often. Four-thousand people showed up for his funeral in Paris. His rejected music is now adored and heard weekly all over the globe.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was lonely and rejected by society in the south of France, and his paintings were considered hopelessly foolish until he died at age 37. Then, suddenly, his art dealer brother couldn't keep up with the demand for Vincent's canvases. Today some sell for over $100 million each. Incidentally, he almost certainly didn't commit suicide. His paintings at the time were not gloomy, but full of sunlight; a pistol bullet entered his abdomen at an oblique angle; there were no powder burns around the hole where the bullet entered; he then walked over a mile to the inn where he was staying and died the next day. Several deathbed confessions of people who were there - and one was a doctor - were specific; some local kids who had been jeering Van Gogh for months had acquired a pistol and were recklessly playing cowboys and Indians. They didn't want to kill him, but the pistol was defective. Vincent made it clear to all that he didn't want any of the kids to be prosecuted (Link).    

Almost all of us want to be seen as wise, which brings status and wealth in many cases. But how do we define wisdom? Or foolishness? There's the rub. What's seen as wise by some is pure foolishness to others. In the Mafia, a "wiseguy" is someone who's a full member in good standing, having proved themselves capable of cold blooded murder; the required cost for joining the mob. 

There are 267 Bible verses that warn us about being foolish, and 264 of them are in the Old Testament. But a funny thing happens in the New Testament where Jesus says, "But I tell you, anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment... and anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire in Hell." (Matthew 5:22).  And the Apostle Paul writes, "We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor..." (Corinthians 4:10). Clearly, Paul was being sarcastic. Worthiness in God's eyes has nothing to do with popular opinion, and it's often the polar opposite. Jesus tells us to, "Turn the other cheek... Give to all who ask of you... He who is greatest among you is the servant of all... He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life shall find it... The last shall be first; and the first last." Talk about foolish. Right? 

Particularly now, in our age of science and technology worship, people of faith - and especially Christians - are often thought to be inexcusably na├»ve and ignorant. Science tells us that fixed laws govern all of nature, and only a fool could believe people can be healed by faith in God. Resurrection of the dead is the height of absurdity. But, in fact, we can't be Christians if we don't believe this can happen. And it has more than once: Jesus appeared to over 500 disciples, (1st Corinthians, 15:6-7). 

Science has a terrible record of living up to expectations. Technology hasn't improved our lives to the degree it's damaged them. We're paying a terrible price for "progress". Marxism and socialism have always claimed to be "scientific", but they have in fact ruined many nations and the lives of countless millions. So-called "rational" thinking, science, and technology have brought unprecedented lawlessness; and relativism, which preaches there is no immutable Truth. This means children never learn honesty, and criminality is easily accepted. Not just society, but all the fine arts have been ruined by "progress" and the fear of being seen as foolish. 

We've lost track of the degree of destruction that brought us into World War I.  An entire school of painting, known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, was wiped out by modernism; and many great artists went from prosperity to bankruptcy in a very brief time. One of the best, John Godward (1861-1922), was disowned by his wealthy, priggish, and rigid family. Paintings of his that were purchased for fortunes in 1900 were being sold for just the value of their frames by 1915. Ruined and alone, he committed suicide. Here are some samples of his paintings accompanied by the music of Vivaldi (1678-1741), who also was wealthy until the art patrons of Venice, Florence, and Rome turned their back on him. He died in Vienna, poor and alone. But his spirit, in music, is heard and celebrated every day all over the world now:

If you haven't heard of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, you're not alone. They've been deliberately buried, historically, by the French Impressionist art market of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Such immense and quick fortunes could be made by manipulating artistic taste that the temptation was irresistible. The Pre-Raphaelites were British, they often spent a whole day doing one square inch of a painting, and the two countries have been rivals for centuries. The French Impressionists could knock off an entire painting in a few days. Here's a very engaging and entertaining rundown:

The lives of artists and religious people have always been precarious. "The course of true art never did run smooth", to paraphrase Shakespeare. People are fickle, particularly the wealthy and powerful. Fashion and economics change, and the masses who follow them are vulnerable to suggestion and sudden reversals of taste. We should never expect the world to be different until Kingdom Come. But why is modern art so bad? Here's a truthful explanation. It's the Devil's candy:                            

The wise admonition, "What does it profit one to gain the whole world and lose their soul?" is now proving to be true. We've gained - even stolen - the world with our powerful technologies and brazen lawlessness. But the price has been our humanity, integrity, and understanding of beauty, love, and joyful creation; our soul. In the end we will lose it all and die. 

But if we love God and keep His commandments we will defeat death. He will resurrect us to a new and infinitely better eternal life. Our time on earth is filled with stresses, challenges, and pain. We have some pleasures, but the shadows of death, disease, and decay will fall on us. The life to come is 100 times better; filled with joy and riches beyond measure for all eternity. The lowest soul in heaven is happier than any earthly king or queen who ever lived, and more beautiful than she is:

No matter when you die, if you keep the Lord's commandments and believe in Christ, you're name is in the Book of Life and you will be resurrected into the "new Heaven and New Earth" - (Revelation 21:1 and Isaiah 65:17). All the blessed of  various races of the world will be saved on the Last Day: