Wounded in the name of religion and church

By Dave Henning / October 16, 2020

“[Van Gogh’s] experience reveals that those who have been wounded in the name of religion and church often struggle to find God there.  For us all, van Gogh serves as a reminder that there is no reason why we should allow those wounds to distract us from our pursuit of God.”- Heath Adamson

“With passion, I pursue and cling to you.  Because I feel your grip on my life, I keep my soul close to your heart.”- Psalm 63:8 (The Passion Translation)

Heath Adamson concludes Chapter 2 of The Sacred Chase with a story about Vincent van Gogh.  Specifically his painting ‘Starry Night’.  A genius who spoke five languages and wrote fluently in three, van Gogh struggled with life, happiness, and also Christianity.  Born into a lineage of Dutch Reformed pastors, van Gogh also trained for this ministry.  But denominational leaders rejected him for service.  Later van Gogh began working and living among the poor.  As a result, leaders pronounced him “unfit for the dignity of the priesthood.”

In June of 1889, van Gogh painted ‘Starry night’.  The painting capture the east view from his asylum room.  And even though he painted this view 21 times, not one painting includes the bars across his window.

Above all, the painting serves as a visual parable.  Deep indigo represents the infiniteness of God’s presence.  Streams and bursts of yellow depict God’s sacred love.  Most significantly, the yellow stars in the sky illuminate all the buildings in town save one.  The church.

Certainly, Heath underscores, religion connotes good or bad things, depending on the condition of the human heart.  Example – Judas Iscariot.  In conclusion, Heath applies this to the sacred chase:

“When I talk about the sacred chase, I am not saying that Jesus Christ himself should become an adjective to you. . . .  I am saying Jesus invites you in this moment to experience the reality of every one of God’s promises in your life. . . .  We must all uniquely and individually own where our story began and, more importantly, what it will all become with God.  There is no limit on your connection with God unless you choose to put one there.”

Today’s question: Describe how you’ve been wounded in the name of religion and the church.

Coming Monday: the October Short Meditation, “Wise and understanding people to help God reign?”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Beyond the veneer of religious performance”

About the author

Dave Henning

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