I’ve been reading through the Bible this year with an amazing group of women. Currently we’re in Ezekiel and it’s been quite the ride.
Ezekiel is filled with a considerable amount of imagery and some of it quite shocking. In fact, Ezekiel is very much a demonstrative prophet, acting out warnings and judgments through performance in front of the people. I haven’t heard much preaching on some of Ezekiel’s actions, especially chapter 16.
As we read through the Bible, I listen to various podcasts and teaching on the books as we go. One such episode on the prophets mentioned how the messages the prophets gave were meant to shock, disturb and upset the hearers. I can’t imagine them very popular or accepted then or today.
The Lord was more than weary of the detestable actions of his people. They had lost their story, followed other gods, built their own empire, trusted in their own wealth, strength and military might. They oppressed the impoverished, the needy, the foreigner, the widows and orphans. They did not take care or look after the least of these. They only sought their own comfort, interests, and power.
The Lord was more than done with their behavior and his prophets minced no words in warning the people. They used graphic, explicit, and even disgusting descriptions and comparisons of what Israel had done and what their judgment would be.
As Christians, we can be a bit puritanical and censorious in what we think is acceptable. Especially in the arts. Taking the book of Ezekiel into consideration, I’m not sure why.
Not long ago my oldest son streamed an animated video on his television. It was set to an amazing instrumental composition. However, the imagery and the lyrics were shocking and graphic. As the artist meant them to be.
I’ve always been naturally hypersensitive and often easily offended and I’d simply and obviously back it up with Christian morals and piety. As I read the prophets and their warnings, I had to reconsider this particular artist’s interpretation of the ramifications and consequences of a society not unlike Israel. The creator of the video, like the prophets, used the graphic and explicit imagery to make a point, to even give warning to where it all leads.
I’m still sensitive to these things and probably won’t seek to ingest this kind of content. However, I won’t be so quick to judge, but rather pause and consider. What is the artist trying to say? What experiences is the artist trying to communicate? What is going on in our community, our society, our culture that the artist is addressing? Quite possibly the artist is protesting the problems, the corruption, the harm that has been so long ignored. A strong message is being sent. And maybe instead of judging and censoring, we should take notice, listen, and take action. Like the Israelites should have done with the message of the prophets.