Saturday, April 23, 2016

Symbols & the Image of God

"So YHWH created man in his own image, in the image of YHWH he created him; male and female he created them."
Gen. 1:27

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights...:
James 1: 16 & 17

It was about 9:45AM when I heard it on the radio.  MPR said that Carver County deputies had rushed to Paisley Park studios because someone was down.  I thought, "That's not a good omen."

I was out running errands, and had to enter a store.  By the time I returned to my car, it was official.  Prince Rogers Nelson was dead.

Paisley Park studios is about 11 miles from where I live. I thought about driving over there just to take a look.  There weren't that many people over there at that time of the morning.  Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't.  By the time of the afternoon rush hour traffic, thousands of people had gathered over there, and Hwy. 212 was backed up for miles.

By night time, 1st Avenue (The venue where Prince first achieved notice) was holding an all-night dance party.  It's Saturday morning now, but near as I can tell the dance party is still going on.  The 35W bridge across the Mississippi river will be lit in purple for the next week.

Love him or hate him, if you live in Minnesota you have to appreciate Prince.  This is a large State with a small population.  Yet, for some odd reason we have come up with Post-it Notes, Roller Blades, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion, "Surfin' Bird," the Guthrie Theater and Bob Dylan, among many other cultural achievements.  St. Paul can even boast of having the nation's largest occult publishing company, Llewellyn. (Hurray?...)

Yet Prince put Minnesota and the Twin Cities on the map in ways that no one else did.  Primarily because he stayed here.  He grew up in North Minneapolis and chose to move to a western suburb.  He had a massive affect on the local music scene, and it's no secret that he mentored scads of up and coming musicians.

I was in High School when Prince began to gain attention.  I was a senior when I fist heard bits and pieces of the "Controversy" album.  I can honestly say that I had never heard anything like it.  It had New Wave, funk, pop, and rock in it.  Totally original.  Other than some interesting musical styles, the lyrics were the strangest I'd ever heard.

He would combine overt sexual innuendos with spiritual themes. (More on that, later.)  It was shocking, offensive and intriguing all at the same time...with a beat you could dance to.

"1999" came out when I was in college, and that's the album that catapulted him into the stars.  I got to see him on that tour at the old Met Center before they tore it down.

It was the original line up of his creations.  Vanity 6 opened the show.  Three good looking gals in their skivvies singing.  What 19yr old boy didn't like that?  Then it was The Time.  Morris Day and Jerome almost brought the house down.  Then it was Prince.  He only played for about an hour, but it was something else.

Don't tell Prince this, but The Time actually out performed him. :)


So what does his death have to do with a blog that explores the church in modern America?

To be honest, I had a hard time with a lot of Prince's music.  Some of it was so overtly dirty that I just couldn't handle it.  I recognized that he was a musical genius, but those dirty lines really turned me off.  Still, unless you chose not to pay attention, there was clearly something more going on...

There are folks out there who have a difficult time with the ancient language and culture of the bible.  The nuance and profound depth can confuse and bother them.  They keep wanting to make the bible fit our modern cultural and scientific context, and it simply wont.  I think it's much wiser to let the bible be the bible and speak it's ancient wisdom on it's own terms into ours, whether it's modern America or 3rd World Nepal.  If you let it do that, you will find that a good deal of the time, it is smacking us "Moderns" over the head and essentially saying, "You think you so baaaaaad?  You don't know jack!"

"In the image of YHWH he created him"

The term "The image of God" is used at various times in the bible.  In James and the aftermath of the flood account in Genesis, referring to humans as image bearers is what gives all humanity value, worth and dignity.  However, in the first creation account, baring God's image is what gives humans function and purpose.

Read through it.  
If you let it speak for itself, without an agenda, it's really fascinating.

You may notice that when God brings living organisms into existence the phrase, "according to their kind" is stated and restated as the agenda and purpose for plants and animals.  They are to recreate themselves.  But when it comes to humans, that phrase is dropped.

I wont bother going into detail about what the Hebrew words "Radah" and "Kabash" mean, but suffice it to say that humans were created to be CO-creators with God.  We were built to work and make things.  As God's stewards on his good earth, we were made to tend his good world and bring even more creation into it.

Which is why it always galls me that the majority of "Evangelicals" in America don't think that pollution is a big deal.  "It's a socialist myth that farting toxic fumes into our air could possibly have nasty side effects!"

Not in any way that we are to think of ourselves as Mini-gods as Oprah might.  However, we bare His image.  We are naturally creative.  We bare HIS image in a way that nothing else in creation does.  How could we not be creative?

I don't "Get" a lot of modern art.  But I still like to see it.  Even stuff that might rub me the wrong way.  I figure if it is purposely offensive, then it must be that way to challenge me on some level.  Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of junk out there.  I've got some artist friends.  They are the first to say that a huge chunk of artists are simply posers who want to live the whole Bohemian life style...and have the tax payers fund it if possible.

Still, sometimes I will see a painting, drawing, photo, or hear some music, and I will swear that I glimpse a piece of God in it somehow. (Could be that I'm just plain nuts.  Meh.) I remember seeing Neil Young play "Like a Hurricane" live and I KNOW I heard the image of God flowing out of him.

"You are like a hurricane.  There's calm in your eyes."
It has since become a very personal hymn for me.

And that's where it gets interesting.  You can be a complete raging, militant, Jesus-hating atheist...and you are still made in the image of God.  You can have little to no overt knowledge of Christ, but he still created you, he values you and you share some of his characteristics.

That's why I can see God testifying to humanity and to himself 
when I see his image doing creative works.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above..."

It breaks my heart that someday those very qualities will come back to haunt those who reject Christ when they finally stand before him.


Prince.  An interesting fellow.  I don't recall the name of the Lutheran church in Minneapolis, but in his teen years, he did attend the youth group there.  Later in life, he became a Jehovah's Witness. (There are stories, which may be urban legends, of him showing up at people's doors with his bodyguards to hand out Watchtower tracts.  And that's funny!) I know that he changed the lyrics to his dirty songs after he became a JW.

Like I said before, if you were paying attention to him, you could see that there was more going on then simply dirty lyrics.  Why else would someone meld sex with spiritual thoughts?  Prince was looking for something.  I don't know if he ever found it, but I'll give him credit for at least looking.  Most folks don't even bother to try looking for more.  That's beyond pathetic if you ask me.

I'm not one to judge most folks in their last moments.  Who can tell what was going on in their heads at that time?  I recall that when the militant atheist, Christopher Hitchens, died, his close friend, a Believer, refused to condemn him.  They had been friends for a long time and often debated publicly.  Hitchens knew the Gospel message.  In his dying moments, perhaps he cried out to Christ.  It is not for me to condemn.

So Prince?
His last minutes were spent in an elevator at his home/studio.
Did the image speak to him?  
Did he hear the dove cry?

Do you? 




Incase you're curious about truly talented Prince was, take a look at these two videos.  Prince could play around 30 instruments with perfection.  I think about that when I here a whiny fraud like Kanye West talk about his own "Art." (Sure buddy, you forgot to add the "F" to the beginning of that term.)

You'll have to wait a bit on this first one.  But do give it a view.  I don't know who the first guitar player is, but contrast that with what happens around the 3:30 mark



  1. So what did the Prince symbol mean? That's what I thought you were going to comment on. His shocking lyrics helped get people's attention much like many celebrity comics do today. side note religion and sex are the two most popular subjects for "crazy " people.

  2. As I understand it, that symbol was supposed to be a play on the "Male & Female" symbol. (No surprise there)

    He had issues like we all do. Hopefully "Grace" won out.

    BTW: Thanks for being one of us Crazy People. :)