Saturday, October 3, 2015

Which Kingdom?

I came across one of John McNaughton's paintings a few years ago. I found it offensive then....I find it offensive now. Apparently, I am not the only one. If you go to his website, he addresses a laundry list of criticisms about his painting, One Nation Under God. He's gotten complaints from far left, far right and everywhere in between.

Complaints about who is in the painting and who is not. There are not enough minorities represented. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Payne (who he recognizes as Deists) were included. There are complaints about who is standing where. There are complaints about the quality of the artwork, that he explains too much, says too much and that some of this should be left to the imagination of the viewer.

There is not a lot of ambiguity in the symbolism he uses in the painting. A white and gold robed, glowing Jesus is standing in the middle of the painting, in the forefront, and he is holding the constitution of the United States of America.

Yes, really. Jesus is an American, didn't you know? But He is getting fed up with our liberal nation that has taken prayer out of schools, removed nativity scenes from government property, passed Obamacare and can marry. This nation has gotten on his last nerve. And it has gotten on McNaughton's last nerve too.

I spent an hour or so on McNaughton's website this morning. Many of the paintings are interactive so when you rest your cursor over an image in the painting, a paragraph or so pops up on the right explaining the symbolism and his beliefs. McNaughton is very opinionated.

The opinion that shines through in paintings like Obamanation, One Nation Under Socialism (he's burning the Constitution), The Demise of America (Washington is burning in the background), Wake Up America (Obama is giving a speech and the audience is in chains) is that Obama is a terrible president who is doing irreparable harm to America. Some of the symbolism he employs is oblique and vague. Some of it is in your face right wing propaganda.

A more recent painting, Separation of Church and State, shows Jesus (still glowing) sadly leaving a joint session of Congress to boos and jeers. The flag is ripped from top to bottom. Yep....just like the veil that separated the Most Holy Place in the temple. Below is McNaughton's description and inspiration for the painting from his Facebook page.

Separation of Church and State, by Jon McNaughtonOnce a year, the President of the United States makes a speech to a joint session of Congress, reporting the condition of the nation and outlines the priorities of his administration. It is called, “The State of the Union Address." 

I envisioned Jesus speaking to this joint session where all the leaders of our country are gathered. He looks at them from the pulpit; He pauses, and then begins to address the assembly. 

He reminds them of the covenant which was made with the Founders of our Nation that He would protect and bless us if we would remember Him; and then Jesus opens the Holy Bible to Psalms 33: 12, and reads the verse:“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” 

At this moment the Chamber erupts into shouts of anger and disgust, as the body of the joint session turns into a hostile mob - reminiscent of the mob that shouted out to Pilate, “Crucify him!” 

Jesus, with a countenance of gentle peace, although saddened by the rejection of his offer, looks across the assembly at the angry mob. He turns and begins to exit the pulpit. The large American flag rips from top to bottom, like the veil of the temple ripped as He hung on the cross and said, “It is finished!” 

A woman, unable to bear His glance holds her face in shame. Words of mockery, angry shouts and venomous threats fill the hall. 

Above the torn flag, engraved in the marble stone of the Congressional Chamber of Congress are the words, “In God We Trust.” Oh, the irony! A shaft of light from the Courts of Heaven shines upon the word “God” as a reminder of whom they have rejected. O, America – why have you abandoned the rock from whence you were hewn! 

As Jesus exits this unholy chamber he turns to gaze at you, the viewer of this painting, and asks the question, “What will YOU do now?” 

The painting is meant to be a symbol of our government’s abandonment of God and His Covenant; for surely, He has not abandoned us, but we have abandoned Him.

This is all kinds of messed up. Mixing and matching patriotism with the kingdom Jesus revealed is like mixing oil and water. News flash...The United States of America is a kingdom of the WORLD, a political system. Jesus' kingdom is an entirely different place/realm/reality. Mixing His spiritual kingdom with a political system bastardizes it.

“I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry.” Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation

Idolotry, indeed. We all have our idols that we hold near and dear. But there is hope for all of us....because buried within everyone is that "hole in every heart" that longs for the kingdom. THE kingdom. Not the kingdoms of the world....not political regimes or totalitarian governments, not democracies, theocracies, republics....but THE kingdom that Jesus came to model, proclaim and establish. The one he calls us to live in.

Another one of McNaughton's paintings caught my eye. It is called Peace is Coming. It was inspired by Isaiah 2:4 that reads, "They shall turn their swords into plowshares…neither shall they learn of war anymore." 

Again there is a white and gold robed, glowing Jesus standing front and center on cobblestones. The background is a lot of McNaughton's paintings. Jesus is surrounded on both sides by kneeling soldiers and warriors. They are from every era and country. There is a Roman Centurion, a WWII Pilot, a Union soldier, an Egyptian soldier, a Knight, a Conquistador, a Viking, a Spartan, a Samari, a Palestinian.....

And they are all bowing, relief and awe on their faces, hands over hearts, overwhelmed with emotions.. every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Check out McNaughton's website...HERE.