April 07, 2021

Canyons and The Cornerstone by Pamela Mytroen

 



What do you do when you’re asked to write something that you might not agree with? Recently I was asked to interview an artist whose work is on display at a well known gallery. Usually, this is something I look forward to, but when I viewed her website my spirit stirred uncomfortably within me. While her subject matter is a rugged National park with surprising canyons, her message combines the tenets of two trendy religions, fraught with deception, albeit very popular and appearing innocuous. 

 


What was I to do? I prayed much about this. It is my job to cover topics that my paper assigns me. Should I refuse this particular assignment so that I could honour Truth? I didn’t want to encourage potential viewers of her art to follow her over the cliff into a canyon of darkness. However, I also felt that I should try to cover this assignment to the best of my ability, while staying true to absolute standards.


 The Lord answered quickly and clearly with four quotes I came across all within a few hours. I had missed one day of my Easter reading plan so I returned to that chapter to finish it off and this verse resonated with me: “For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (IPeter2:6). I knew that I had to stand my ground on the foundation of Jesus. Then, whatever I wrote would be grounded on the solid rock of Truth. I would write well with respect to the paper and the craft and even if people didn’t approve of my writing, I also knew that I would never be put to shame.


 But, that still didn’t solve exactly how I was to write this article. Within minutes, a little bamboo sound notifed me I had email. It was a quote by Francis Schaeffer from his book, Art and the Bible. Curious, I opened it and it helped me discern how I should approach this article.  It said, “If the artist’s technical excellence is high, he is to be praised for this, even if we differ with his world view. Man must be treated fairly as man.” Aha, I could angle this piece towards the artist’s technical expertise, which was interesting and highly praised. I still had a niggle in my spirit, though.


 Interestingly, I delved deeper into Schaeffer’s theory and found this gem: “As Christians, we must see that just because an artist – even a great artist -portrays a worldview in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that worldview. Good art heightens the impact of that worldview, but it does not make it true.”

  I knew what I had to do.

 That afternoon I had an appointment to interview the curator and to view the art. While technically it appeared well done (I’m not an artist but it truly was stunning), there was an aura of death about it, which even the curator pointed out. Every piece featured a skull, and most of them were painted over the scenic canyons and landscape. Impossible to miss. That was part of her message, that life dies and is reborn again as another creature.


 I wrote the piece pointing out her engaging technique and the subject matter of the park. Rather than giving my opinion, which I am not really supposed to do, I  invited the the viewer to ask questions about it such as, “How many animals can you count in each scene? Do you see the cycle of life and death? What do you think of it? What message is the artist trying to portray? Do you agree or disagree? If you could ask the artist one question, what would it be?” Asking questions, I feel, gives the viewer the opportunity to think for themselves, and maintains freedom of expression for both the viewer and the artist.

 

That evening I picked up my novel, “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn, and wouldn’t you know it, the chapter I read included a scene with people involved in this religion. My heart pounded and I chilled. God had heard my prayer and was pointing out the darkness and deception I am surrounded by. Although the artist is sweet, engaging, and even invited me to have tea with her, I feel that she has been deceived. It affirmed to me that I must speak truth and have nothing to do with innocent sounding lies.

 

We walk along valleys of the shadow of death, but we fear no evil. I am learning to navigate these dark canyons as a writer. 

Asking questions and allowing the other person to tell their story and the reasons for their message is a good place to begin. Maybe even having tea with them. But standing firm on the Cornerstone of truth – by the grace of God -  is where I will remain.

 

Pamela Mytroen

 

17 comments:

  1. Wow! As an art lover I can totally relate to appreciating the expertise and technique but feeling uncomfortable with the message... Thank you for this. I love how God always comes through and how He showed you in so many ways what to do.

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  2. I love too, how God showed you the way. Reminds me how important it is for us to pay attention to our 'niggles.'

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    1. Thank you Lynn! God for the win!
      Pam

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  3. Thank you Tracy! I am so thankful that God is with us, guiding us as writers!
    Pam

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  4. Yes, art reviews really give us a chance to explore the meaning and story around them, don't they? Good reflection on navigating this Pam - and how it led to resolve. I think when we take a stand, it really does serve to build strength. Thanks for this.

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    1. Yes art reviews give everyone the opportunity to seek out and discover their world view.
      Pam

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  5. At each step of the way, God interfaced with you and provided exactly what you needed. That in itself is a story.

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    1. Thankful for the Lord's guidance!
      Pam

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  6. I really enjoyed hearing about the different ways God guided you through this. He is so unique. I've faced similar challenges in my reporting, especially for the art world and for businesses that were new age geared. I did at one point tell my editor that it would be the last time I interviewed a certain type of business. But I was on a contract basis and so had that leeway. Perhaps it wasn't even the best way to handle it. In dealing with artists and some at times strange world views I tended to stick with direct quotes from them and I suppose their own viewpoint of their art. I really like how you asked the viewer the questions though! You listened well!!

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    1. Yes, sticking with direct quotes and their own viewpoint is always a good idea! Thanks Gloria.
      Pam

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  7. What a wonderful story of how God directed you to honour him while honoring your writing contract! Your story has sparked an idea which I wish to use as a prompt for our 2022 blog. It will be good for us to grapple with our responsibilities and God's leading us as Christian writers.

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    1. We do live in a new world. I'm thankful that God gives us wisdom to navigate!
      Pam

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  8. How wonderful that God guided you to make the right decision. This reminds me of when evolution was being taught in high school and I asked my church friend about what to do. She said I should write what evolutionists believe or what the text book said. Then I wouldn't be promoting the lie but fulfilling my essay assignment.

    Then there was the time I worked in a kiosk where pornographic magazines were for sale. After plenty of agonizing, I concluded it wasn't my job to prevent people from buying that filth. It was on their conscience. I knew they could go elsewhere to buy what they lusted for.

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  9. Hi Pam! I love this post and how it gave a peek into how you covered your paper's assignment with respect and without compromise. Your handling of this reminded me how as a Chaplain I faced similar interactions with people of all kinds of beliefs and background. Your carrying out your assignment you spoke to me as a personification of Matthew 10:16, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Thank you for giving us a great example to follow.

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    1. That is a great Bible verse, Alan, and full of wisdom and direction for us as Christian writers. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. Your surrender to God is inspirational and, as always, He is amazing. Thanks so much, Pam

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