Let me just come right out with it and say that I really love Kevin Smith films. I’m not entirely sure how that reflects on my walk with Christ. In fact, I wondered this week if they are, in some way, detrimental to my sanctification in one way or another. If you haven’t watched anything from the View Askewniverse I don’t know that I would recommend them which ought to tell me something. However, I have fallen in love with them because, in spite of their inherent messed up plot devices and stories, the one thing you can count on is that there will be some sort of redemptive ending or some sort of valuable lesson learned by the main characters.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good ending.
I also discovered a love for street art. Whether it’s graffiti, stencils, flash mobs, etc. I just love the idea of an art form that makes a statement and has some inherent risk involved. I watched a documentary called “Exit Through the Gift Shop” this week and it opened my eyes to a few things. It inspired me in a way because the guys being filmed were doing something that not a lot of people were willing to do with their art. Some have shows, go to galleries. These guys were displaying their art in public places by committing acts of what I guess you’d have to call vandalism. I have a hard time calling it that because vandalism entails destruction of property. Since art is, in its basic sense, a form of creation my brain just can’t quite accept calling it that.
But their work inspired me. It got me thinking.
We’ll get to that.
This week I also watched a documentary called “Until the Light Takes Us”. It was about the inception of the black metal scene and culture in Norway. Just like every genre of music, Black Metal has its own story and it’s probably got the most insane one I’ve heard yet. The genre itself was a reaction to the death metal scene that was popular at the time and became almost the sound of the underground against the established church. There were tales of suicide, murder and even church arson. In fact, there were a great number of churching burnings that occurred in Norway that were started by members and followers of these bands. When they’d tell their stories as to why they did it I wondered if perhaps they had a point.
Did the church cross a line?
One man who is in jail now, who put his own music out under the name Burzum, talked about one specific church that he set fire to. Norway is a country that, like every place else, had a culture of its own and gods that they worshipped. The way the story was told the missionaries came and built a church right on top of one of their pagan worship sites. They also destroyed a lot of the historical records kept about the people. I know it’s part of the idea of being a missionary to eventually show the people the true God but does that mean immediate destruction of their worship practices? Am I crazy to say that perhaps the church should have expected to get torched or worse for just stepping on the culture like that?
The culture of Black Metal is a bit heartbreaking.
Speaking of culture…
This past week proved to be a pretty interesting one. My assignment was to go out into Gretna and get a feel for the context the church was operating in. There were no rules, restrictions or even real directions on how I was to pull this off. But I was given $5 to use however I saw fit at the local businesses to get coffee, food or whatever else to sort of blend in. Admittedly, this assignment made me a little nervous because, as an introvert, it’s not within the scope of my personality to introduce myself to total strangers and strike up conversation. This is where Ben and I are distinctly different, though we
are extremely alike in other ways.
So, I had an idea.
I decided to test my observational skills. I hopped in my car and hit the streets to see what I could observe in the behavior of the residents of all the neighborhoods in Gretna. As easy as it sounds, it actually was not. I’ve been known to have some eerily accurate observational skills when it comes to people. I thought I’d apply that to a city and see what would happen. After spending 2-3 hours cruising the neighborhoods, watching what few people I saw, and observing the properties themselves I came to a few conclusions (or confirmed a few things I already knew).
1. Gretna does not play in Gretna
2. Kids are shipped elsewhere during the day or don’t play outside
3. Gretna has money as evidenced by the two cars in most driveway
4. People feel safe enough to leave open garages unattended
5. Gretna spends money. Saw more than one box for a flatscreen TV (it was trash day)
6. The spiritual presence is evident by the still growing, massive Catholic & Luteran churches
7. Money is moving into Gretna as evidenced by the new housing developments (i.e. Covington)
8. Gretna has no culture of its own
9. Old town Gretna still has the small-town mentality. You should’ve seen the looks I got.
10. Sports and children are about the only thing Gretna keeps in the city.
So, Ben and I discussed what it is I saw and then discussed strategy. The question became how does one reach the city of Gretna and get into the community. The question breaks down pretty quickly because Gretna has no community to speak of. People live in Gretna and they work and play in Omaha. So, the question then became how does one get involved with the people of the town to possibly create community? This is where my newest interest in street art came in to play. It was quite obvious to me that the church universal has had its mitts on the city for quite some time. So, I thought, maybe it was time to show the city something a little different.
So, we started discussing guerilla tactics.
What does that entail, exactly? I’m not entirely sure but I do know it’s going to involve something that will hopefully be radically different from what this town is used to seeing. The street art influence usually involves doing something illegal so we’ll have to leave that part of it alone but it still opens doors for all sorts of interesting ways of reaching out to the community without putting a necessarily “happy, plastic church face” to what we’re doing.
Unfortunately, that’s about as much as I feel I can tell you right now. There are some ideas in the works but those ideas are ones that involve as little public involvement as possible. But be patient with me and hopefully I will have some really interesting stories to tell you throughout the summer on what ideas we have and how they played out.
We’ve only just begun.
Deuteronomy 6 (Hebrew)
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV)
“Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV)
Until the Light Takes Us
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Rob Bell: Poets, Prophets & Preachers pt. 1-3
Matt Chandler – Colossians (Part 12): Grace Driven Effort
Mosaic: Erwin McManus – Fresh Start on Life
Coram Deo: Bob Thune – Proverbs: Scoffer
P.O.S. “Never Better”
Flogging Molly “Speed of Darkness”
Goo Goo Dolls “Dizzy Up the Girl”
G.K. Chesterton “Orthodoxy”
Hugh Halter & Matt Smay “And”