Glenn’s New Book – The Church is NOT Shrinking!

MODC Covers5

Are people leaving the Church in droves?

Is Christianity shrinking in the United States and around the world?

Most people believe they are because they’ve heard this news time and again from the mainline press and countless Christian leaders.

The truth is it’s not true.

In this new book, The Myth of the Dying Church, I carefully demonstrate just how untrue this is. I do so, not by drawing from a study here or a survey there, but from looking at the large and impressive work of the leading sociologists of religion. Their findings are actually quite encouraging.

Liberal churches are hemorrhaging members. Churches that are bailing on Christian orthodoxy—those denying the deity of Christ; rejecting the reality of sin; doubting the historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection; and embracing abortion, gay, and gender politics—are all in a drastic free fall. People are leaving those churches as though the buildings were on fire. They can’t get out fast enough.

Biblical churches are holding strong, even growing. Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. Some are seeing steady growth and others are exploding. No small number are pressed thin with the good problem of figuring out how to manage their growing crowds. You likely know of a few in your own community; perhaps you even attend one of these churches.

Church attendance is at an all-time high. More Americans, in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population, attend church today than at any other time in our nation’s history, including the colonial days. That’s hardly scary news.

More young adults attend biblically faithful churches today than attended nearly fifty years ago. According to some of the best sociological data, the percentage of young adults regularly attending evangelical and nondenominational churches has roughly doubled between 1972 and today.

Atheism and agnosticism are not growing wildly. Both have grown in the last few years, but they are an extreme minority, counting for just about 7 percent of all US adults.

The Nones are not new unbelievers. The infamous “nones”—those reporting to have no particular institutional faith—are indeed a growing category. This has been widely reported. But there is something very important to note here: they are not a new category. They are not folks who have left a once living faith but rather are those who merely had a cold or lukewarm family history of church identity and now feel more comfortable saying, “I don’t really identify with anything.” It’s not a change in belief. Instead, it’s an honest explanation for where they’ve always been.

Global growth of Christianity is booming. The number of Christians in the world today is larger than it has ever been in the history of the world and will continue to increase through the coming decades. The story here is incredibly positive. Scholars studying this phenomenon use words like explosive and mushrooming to describe Christianity’s global growth, particularly in China and Southern Asia, Africa, and South America.

Passing on Faith to Our Children is Not a Crap Shoot. Christian parents who want to build a lifelong faith in their children only need to do a few important things. Doing so is not rocket science or a secret formula that must be applied just Your chances of success are remarkably high.

The Myth is Based on Bad Theology.  It’s the Holy Spirit who runs and drives Christ’s church across time and throughout the nations. He is unstoppable, unquenchable and inherently life-giving. He is not nodding off, sickly, or on vacation. The work of His heart and very character will not be thwarted. He is God. To believe the church is dying is deny these truths and judge God either confused or a liar.

These things describe the true state of the Christian faith in America and around the world as recorded by leading sociologists of religion who employ an array of different means to study the phenomenon and who have no particular commitment or interest in reaching any specific finding. They are simply looking at the numbers as honestly as they can and reporting their findings.

The Myth of the Dying Church tells the story of these findings—examining important details, uncovering critical nuances, and explaining how conclusions are reached—and what it all means for the future of Jesus’s church and its life-giving mission in the world.

Order six copies each for all your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. They will love you for it, so will I and my publisher really will.

Posted in atheism, christian faith, cultural analysis, culture, God, religion, sociology of religion, theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is Science Our One True Source of Finding Truth?

scientistsWe are hearing, especially in the midst of the COVID crisis, that science is the only true and reliable means of finding truth. But is this true? Ironically, the statement itself is not one of science but philosophy, even religion. It is actually a new type of fundamentalism

Is Christianity “anti-science”? We are hearing this a great deal as well today. Such an accusation demonstrates a very mistaken view of the history of both science and Christianity.

I address these issues in this new article I have over at The Federalist.

Posted in atheism, christian faith, commentary, cultural analysis, culture, first things, God, philosophy, politics, religion, science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Nice Praise in the Midst of Curses

I am well used to getting trashed on the internet. It comes with the job. And truth be told, I started to enjoy it long ago. So I am not used to seeing something written up about me that is actually kind. Here is one of those. I’ll take all I can get.

Thank you Sam A. Andreades.

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My New Installation at the Met

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about. But it’s super exciting news, so here it is. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has accepted one of my pieces. The. Metropolitan. Museum. Of. Freakin. Art. 

Not only one of my pieces, but the first work I’ve ever done. How does that happen?

Well, let me tell you. In late June, I get a call one afternoon from Phyllis Neusbaum-Finley, head curator of the Met’s “Way Beyond Post Modernism” collection and asked if I was interested in discussing their desire for one of my pieces. It was kinda like when the President of the United States, the Pope, or David Lee Roth calls you to chat and you think it’s your buddy Derek pranking you. But you can’t hang up of course. What if…?

So I ask Ms. Neusbaum-Finley which of my works she’s interested in. (You can’t be a player if you don’t sound like a player, right?) She said she’d heard about the conceptual piece I was calling “Empty Space: A Phenomenological Consideration of Post Structuralist Potentiality.” She said they wanted to make it central in her collection and asked what it would take to acquire it. Totes exploding inside, I played it super cool on the outside. I told her I appreciated her call but was meeting friends for nachos supreme and drinks in just a sec and “could we talk tomorrow”? I called her back three day’s hence. Coy worked.

The installation debuted October 1. Let me tell you about it. This is it. I think it turned out just I had envisioned it down to the Nth degree.

Met Installation

The viewer not only views it, but actually inhabits it. Ontologically, existentially, metaphysically.

I’ve always dreamed of working with empty space as my medium. The work derives inspiration from the experimental intersection of the Hyper Minimalist and Post Content schools. It calls us to consider that art can be literally nothing, for nothing is the biggest something there is. It forces us to ask whether empty space itself and the potentiality it provides can be the purest of all art? It’s a rhetorical question of course. It’s not polluted by anything. It just is. It speaks for itself. It needs no defense.

My work doesn’t force a culturally fixed conception of reality (or anything else for that matter) upon the viewer. It holds no one captive with its expectations or need for interpretation. I resist enforcing the experiential domination of my own limited life interpretation. Even worse, that perspective is historically and culturally determined by my white, heterocentric, gender-binary, male privilege. I’m a man who now gets the senior discount at fast food establishments simply because I’ve lived longer than others. Such favoritism in the capitalist system cannot help but infect any physical art I would actually create myself. So I refuse to use all this privilege as a blunt object of colonialist structuralism upon the intriniscally oppressed who lack the sophistication to realize they are being played by everyone else’s art. It’s my small, humble offering to continuing human evolution.

The power of my art is not so much in what it does say, but in what it doesn’t. It’s mutism. No, Proto-voice challenged. 

I’ve become increasingly troubled by every bit of art ever created and thus it’s artists. The lines. Colors. Structure. The material physicality. Light. Its demand for perception. By their very nature, they are all limiting, controlling, defining, and despotically oppresive. That each piece of art ever created declares “I am this and not that” is self-evident. Every piece of art casts its own judgement upon every other. It’s true. Joseph Havel’s Veil VI denounces Jasper John’s White Flag as far too ambitious and thus imperialistically elitist. 

Duchamp was a power-hungry anarchist. He thought (knew!) his Readymades grabbed his viewers by the throat, slapped them around and dumped their bruised, exhausted bodies where he found them. He believed they were all the better for it. Warhol? Ditto. Pollock. He was particularly thuggish. They each proclaimed “Beauty is an illusion. Anything can be art.” If you happen to see Duchamp’s Bottle Dryer as beauty, he’ll have something to say about it.

Their disciples are the artistic equivalents of the sexualized power structure that required the intervention of #MeToo. They are patriarchal. Self-indugent. Abusive. Controlling. Consumers. In fact, every piece of art ever created is precisely this, however you might choose to define art. In its mere physical materialistic presence it is unavoidlably phallic. It inserts itself, presses itself in upon reality without the viewers clear, spoken or written consent.  All art rapes the sensibilities and does so to the perverted, pleasurable delight of its artist. It’s so obvious, become such a part of art that its no surprise we’ve looked right past it until now. Lee Krasner, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Cassat and their sisters? They get no pass here. They were either willing participants in the oppression or unwitting dupes. Either fact is without excuse or defense. 

As sure as I’m an artist, I must object. I refuse to be a part of it, ergo, my present work.

My work breaks us free from the unspeakable abuses of the content-based artists. Pure space is the future of what art and truth are. It is true freedom, pure subjectivism. It is the only form that respects the experience, nay, the dignity and determinative self autonomy, of the viewer. Space truly makes no judgments, demands no conclusions, requests no expectations. Its nothingness harms nothing. It should not be missed that it is the only art form that solves our present apocalyptic problems of climate change, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, plastic straws and people who refuse to use another’s proper pronouns. Its transformative potential is limitless because the art form is. Literally.

And no, it doesn’t bother me in the least that people haven’t been coming to see my work. 

Met Installation 2

I do not take it personally that they don’t appreciate it. So what if they walk by the installation Ihave been working on for the last decade as if it were just nothing.

Met Installation 3

I know what they’re thinking: “Uhm, I wonder what’s going to go here?” That’s their interpretation of my work and theirs is just as legitimate as mine. What I care about is that I got them to think and think about space, that space points us toward the potential of the future and our individual and collective places in that future. For the humble artist, that is a good day’s work.  

Likewise, I don’t mind that the janitorial staff comes every other week to dust mop the floor, thinking it’s just another floor to keep clean. The fact is the space provides them the palate upon which to declare to the universe that human labor, regardless of how small and tedious, has great dignity. Isn’t this what Marxism was all about anyway? It provides the stage for their own phenomenological performance art. And their humble mops actually transform the art itself. Its holistically participitory. What artist cannot be touched by eliciting that kind of experience with andreaction from the human soul? Not me.

So please, come see my piece, let it transform you as it transforms the totality of art, past, present, and future.  It runs through Spring 2020. But sure to purchase the exhibit’s official t-shirt on the way out. The uninitiated will think it’s just a $45 white Fruit of the Loom textile, but now you know it is so much more. It’s a declaration of independence from the physical assault of content-based art. 

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Presentation on The Myth of the Dying Church at Focus on the Family

This summer I was able to give a presentation on my new book The Myth of the Dying Church to my colleaugues at Focus on the Family.

I wanted to share it with all of you here. Enjoyand you are welcome to share it with others. 🙂








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Pro-Lifers, Senator Gillibrand Equates You With Racists and Anti-Semites

Gillibrand Abortion


This is just one more example among many of how extremist and tone-deaf leading abortion advocates are.

Yesterday, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told (watch video here) the editorial board of the Des Moines Register,

I think there are some issues that have such moral clarity, that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is unacceptable.

Absolutely breathtaking. Abortion is an unquestionable moral good? How is that for a new fundamentalism?

“…[W]e as a society have decided that [being pro-life] is not acceptable…” Oh really? Half the nation didn’t get the memo Senator.

And without hesitation,  with full conviction, she then compares the pro-life position with being racist or anti-semetic.  That is as vile as it is ignorant.

But she doesn’t stop there. She says the pro-life position is only driven by religious conviction. Sorry pro-lifers, you know nothing of science and reason. A very effecient (but terribly dishonest) way to dismiss your opponents.

Senator Gillibrnad has no idea what she’s talking about and does so shamelessly. She might try meeting a few of her pro-life constituents. Ask them what they actually believe and why before telling us what we believe and why.

The pro-abortion leadership has found themselves in a deep pit because of their tone-deaf radicalness – such as rejecting ANY, even the smallest, limitation on abortion – and they just keep digging. I think they should continue.

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No, Coal Miners and Mary Poppins are Not Racists

The latest installment in “Reality is Getting Crazier Than the Onion” involves coal miners and Mary Poppins. Word is, they are both racists.

A man named Rashaad Thomas has an editorial over at about being traumatically triggered while out for an evening at a Phoenix restaurant.  The problem? This picture which hung on the wall at this establishment.


The problem? Well let me have Mr.Thomas tell you himself.

For me, the coal miners disappeared and a film honored for its artistic merit, despite being the most racist propaganda films ever, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) surfaces, in which white actors appeared in blackface. The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive.

Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.

Note this line: The white owner saw coal miners in the photograph. Therefore, it was not offensive. Is blackface offensive? Of course, it is worse than offensive. Are miners offensive? They were victims too, let us not forget. They worked long hours for pennies in the unsafest of conditions. That soot on their faces also lined their in their lungs, killing many at far too young an age, leaving their family destitute. But never mind all that. Thomas wants us to know that context is not at issue. How dismissive. Thomas continues.

At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored.

A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, “Whites Only.” It says people like me are not welcome.

The operators of that downtown restaurant can choose to take the photograph down, leave it up or create a title card with an intention statement. No matter their decision, I think the photograph should be taken down — sacrificing one image for the greater good.

Get that. The photo of the miners said to him that this restaurant was the equivalent of “Whites Only” establishments from the genuinely evil days of segregation. That picture said he was not welcome there.

Think about that a moment. How did he see the picture? He was there. In the restaurant. The (White!) manager even spoke to him. Mr. Thomas was not tossed out, asked never to return. Apparently he was welcome there. His recommendation as a compromise is to have the owner of the restaurant put a notation on the picture explaining that these are not a group of White men antagonizing and shaming Black people, but coal miners whose faces got dirty because … well, they’re coal miners. That will let everyone know to rest easy, the picture is not a nasty group of Al Jolsons.

But only if this was just a ridiculous one-off. The New York Times noted this week that Mary Poppins might well be a racist as well. Trigger warning: Here is the picture they used as evidence.


No, those smudges of soot on her face are not just innocent residue from her dancing with the chimney sweeps. Poppins is a racist staring back at a racist.

Now, two main points here. One minor, the other massive. First, these are seemingly serious writers making these accusations. Serious journalists and their editors thought these were serious stories, worthy of their valuable print real-estate. Which leads us to the massive issue at play here. If such things can be called racist, worthy of moral outrage, then the nastiness of actual racism loses its very important meaning and moral offense. That is the real crime here.

Mr. Thomas and the New York Times might do well to remember the moral of a story about a young boy and a wolf.

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The Toxic Manhood Gillette Commercial: Helpful, Horrid or Hokey?

gillette-we-believe-commercial-controversial-masculinity-5c3da4b79d03d__700It’s been getting a great deal of buzz with a host of varying opinions. It’s a new Gillette commercial showing a shotgun spatter of males acting in all sorts of bad ways, as thuggish bullies, cat-callers and body-grabbers. It’s the latest installation in the well over-stuffed “Men are a Problem to Be Solved” files. Over the montage of all this bad-boyness, Gillette asks us to consider whether this is the best men can be, a utilization of their corporate tag-line. Against the visuals of their ad, it’s a dumb question. Only a thorough-going sexist would say yes, this behavior is the best we can expect from men. That would be to conclude that men are less than animals. But Gillette, who wants men who shave to be their friends, thinks it’s a question worth asking.

Of course, there is no problem with the overall effort of the piece: Men, don’t be bullies or sexist pigs. Any man who can’t get onboard with that is not a man. But let’s be blunt. The ad itself is an inexcusable train wreck. Four reasons why.

First, it trades in dramatic stereotypes. Great vengeance and furious anger would rain down upon Gillette if they had portrayed any other group of people solely by their worst behaviors and told them to improve themselves. Now, real men don’t whine about being victimized, but this demands being called out. Replace Gillette’s presentation of men with the worst stereotypes about Muslims, Jews, African-American youth, or Hispanics. It’s unthinkable and for every good reason. For some reason though, it’s gloves off on men and being ok with this simply makes us selective sexists. To employ Gillette’s own question, is this the best we can be?

Second, it man-shames, ignoring what masculinity actually is. The totality of Gillette’s message is most men do bad things and good men stop them. Men can and do act like horrible cads sometimes. No one should tolerate it, especially other men. But to define the virtue of manhood as merely the correction of ubiquitous male toxicity is to reduce manhood to its own homeroom teacher. Minimalist masculinity. This is precisely what Gillette is selling here.

We must understand, however, with great clarity and conviction, that there is no such thing as toxic masculinity. It doesn’t exist and we should correct those who use the two words together. Toxic maleness? Indeed. But masculinity is a virtue. Ladies themselves know this better than anyone. Imagine a woman set up on a blind date by her girlfriends. Excited, she asks the obvious question: What is he like? They describe him as quite masculine. Would any normal woman take this as a warning? Would she ask if he’s in therapy for it? She doesn’t even ask if it’s the good or bad kind of masculinity. She takes it as a wholesale plus.

As far as Gillette has it, a man merely behaves himself. Manhood is so much more, and women want their men to have it in full measure. It’s not a mental illness.

Third, it’s preachy, authoritarian and guilt-signaling. Americans are increasingly sick and tired of having the people on their televisions tell them how stupid – bigoted – regressive – unenlightened – uncaring – homophobic – etc. they are. Gillette hasn’t gotten that memo. This commercial is very finger-pointy, and the first rule of advertising, I would imagine, is don’t tell your customer they’re the worst examples of humanity.

Fourth, the commercial is creatively embarrassing. There’s a lot happening in this ad, and it’s difficult to keep track of it all. It begins with a “Lord of the Flies” horde of boys chasing another one, calling him a “freak.” They oddly run through a terrified woman’s living room where she is holding a young boy who’s crying for no apparent reason. We are presented with the cheesiest of staged audiences laughing uproariously with all the artificiality of a bad toupee at a fictitious 1970s sitcom scene of a man pretending to grab a maid’s bottom. It’s so bad it keeps you from taking it seriously.

gillette-we-believe-commercial-controversial-masculinity-wrestlingThis indefensible behavior is capped off by a scene of two young Opie Taylor-like boys wrestling in the grass at a backyard picnic. Land sakes! Seriously, all of this put in one steaming pot of male toxicity. It’s all backed by an endless row of men robotically standing behind an endless row of barbeque grills. Each are watching the “violence” of the two boys mixing it up on the lawn, uttering a dismissive, “Boys will be boys” mantra like dystopian Stepford Husbands. Yes, it’s that dumb.

Apparently the great majority of viewers agree. On the official Gillette YouTube page, the thumbs-down votes are more than two-to-one over the thumbs-up votes. I doubt these thumbs-downers are men who don’t appreciate being told not to abuse women. More likely they are both men and women who don’t much care for being talked down to and have a much higher estimation of what real masculinity can and should be.

If you want to see a manly commercial that does masculine aspiration ingeniously, it’s here. If Gillette had called us to real manhood the way Chrysler called us back to American pride, I’d be their biggest fan.

Instead, I just feel sorry for them for being so clueless.

Posted in commentary, cultural analysis, culture, gender; masculinity, manhood; masculinity, masculinity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trick to Understanding the Totally Contrary Truths of Trump

bad good trump

Ever since a particular evening in early November 2016, nearly eveyone on the Left and many on the Right have been atomically gobstopped at how America could elect the man it did for President. How could so many Americans be so stupid? Didn’t they know how bad this man was?

How could 52% of women have voted for him? Were they stupid, blind, uninformed? Hadn’t they seen that video? How could religious conservatives have voted for him and his casual relationship with the truth and his marriage vows? Even as The New Yorker, NYTs, WaPo, HuffPo, Time and CNN stay steadily on their 24/7 civic duty of reminding us all of how bad this man is, people keep supporting and defending him. Nothing seems to make sense anymore.

Well, here’s what makes sense. These middle-American, Walmart-frequenting mouthbreathers are more politically complicated and dare we say, sophisticated, than nearly all the elites appreciate. A very small few on the Left, such as Arlie Hochschild in her extremely important Strangers in Their Own Land, and Anthony Bourdain have slowed down long-enough to actually spend long periods of time listening to these folks, (Hoschild in SoLa and Bourdain in the mining towns of WVa). They discovered and explain with sharp insight how these folks are nearly nothing like the stereotypes their own peers trade in. They are actually very smart, kind and nuanced people. (Bourdain’s comments at the link above are well worth reading.)

Understanding this tricky nuance is the trick to understanding the seeming Grand-Canyon disparity between these folks personal ethics and those of the President they enthusiastically and proudly elected.

Yesterday, I read two articles from two of the smartest and most articulate conservatives in our nation, two men who I would assume have great respect for one another: Hugh Hewitt and Jonah Goldberg. They both have two diametrically different takes on Trump’s track record so far.

Hewitt, here in the WaPo, thinks Trump has done remarkably important and good things for our nation and oversees an extremely effective adminstration if you rise above the daily circus show and look at the actual record. What makes this article important is that Hewitt is no sycophant.

Goldberg, here at National Review,  holds that Trump’s character, or total lack of it, will be his downfall, explaining,

What his defenders overlook is that his insults are not simply an act; they are the product of astonishing levels of narcissism, insecurity, and intellectual incuriosity. Trump’s Twitter account is simply a window into his id.

Here is what flummoxes the Left. Many on the Right understand that both Hewitt and Goldberg are precisely right and that politics is the art of deft compromise. You have to take some good with the bad and a great deal of bad with the good. To put it another way, MAGAers and 52% of women can walk and chew gum politically. They can grasp the critical nuances and live happily in the midst of them.

If you wanna understand the conundrum of Trump and his supporters, understand that both Hewitt and Goldberg are both precisely right and no small number of Trump supporters have long understood this. And they’ve greatly enjoyed watching the coastal elites pull their hair out because of their own zero-sum simplicity and shameless prejudice.

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A Most Wonderful Christmas Meeting

Our reading at Mass yesterday was from Luke 1:39-45. It’s a wonderful and too little appreciated part of the Christmas story. If you were asked “Who was the first person, besides Mary herself, to welcome Jesus and announce His coming?” how would you answer? This reading tells us the suprising answer and its richness is more than mere trivia.

This part of Jesus’ story is where Mary, just after hearing that she, a humble young virgin from no where, would give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to go see her cherished relative Elizabeth, some 90 miles away. Elizabeth was in the 6th month of her own miraculous pregnancy, her womb having closed for business long ago. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens at the very moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. But Mary and Elizabeth are not the only ones involved in the divine drama here.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 

For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a MAJOR event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian Church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time the Son of God is worshiped! And He is worshiped by two people. One very old, one super young.

First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. Elizabeth is the first one to recognize and proclaim Jesus as her Lord. This confesssion, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way that Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another. It was the first Christian creed and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, even before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to a very intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has extremely strong words for the humanity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the Gospel.) John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about His coming in the desert. It was here. It was two mothers, Elizabeth and Mary who were the only ones able to experience this remarkable event. It happened in distincly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home.

It is this glorious scene that serves as the first time Christ is received and welcomed, apart from Mary’s own welcoming reception when the angel Gabriel tells her what the rest of her life will be about. It is the first time the baby Jesus’ divinity and Lordship is proclaimed.

Pensacola-Philadelphia-March-2013-108To be sure, the Christian Church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of it’s actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at His resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a signficant role in it’s founding? I cannot think of one.

I’d like now to move to looking at two pieces of art that illustrate as well as any both of these wonderous events, the Annunciation and the Visitation. They are both painted by the first African-American painter to achieve signficant critical acclaim: Henry Ossawa Tanner. He is a remarkable man and one of my fav painters.

The Annunciation

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not super-natural, other-worldly saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular everyday women they were.

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence and commoness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression that communicates anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is certainly more true to that actual event. Tanner has her communicating all of these at once. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a young teenage girl living a typical young teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcment in all of  the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner is giving us and it’s just stunning.

The Visitation

As wonderful as Tanner’s Annuciation is, his Visitation is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happending here.

“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Tanner allows us to personally witness this very event. Elizabeth certainly did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She is sitting at table having her breakfast just like any other morning when she hears Mary utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine suprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a powerful devise Tanner employs here. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both. This simple scene of a surprise family vistaiton and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and etermity will be about, the worship of the second person of the Divine Trinity, Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son. It is commenced here in this moment.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. And we typically move over it too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger. This one is just as important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s own heart and womb.

Sidenote: I knew that Mr. Tanner lived in Philadephia for some time, so on a biz trip there many years ago I looked to see if his house was noted. It was and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?



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