Thursday, March 02, 2006

Representing Christ

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It's amazing what passes for a story about religion these days. This article from the Los Angeles Times last week is clearly filed under "Religion" yet the story is about Thomas Kinkade, an artist known as the Painter of Light. The report is about the outcome of an arbitration case where a couple of Kinkade fans became Kinkade Gallery owners, then felt betrayed by Kinkade's company, lost money, closed the gallery and took the Painter of Light to court to recover damages. The couple's initial investment was $122,000. Through hard work, they made up to $60,000 one year. Their arbitrated winnings? $860,000, although the amount may be inflated to around $3.5 million when interest and attorney fees are figured in.

The crux (pun intended) of the story is that the couple alleges that Kinkade and his associates used his faith to get potential gallery owners to trust the painter's company. The panel stated that besides failing to disclose material information to the potential gallery owners,
...Kinkade and other company officials used the artist's familiar Christian-oriented themes to create "a certain religious environment designed to instill a special relationship of trust" with the couple. ... "Media Arts through its agents Thomas Kinkade, Ken Raasch and Barnett, in particular, held itself out to be acting on a higher plain," the panel said in its written opinion, adding that the men frequently used terms such as "partner," "trust," "Christian" and "God" to convey a sense of "higher calling" to [the couple].
So the focus of the story (but a secondary focus to the arbitrators) was that of using Christian faith to build trust where none was deserved. Let's face it, the story is pretty boring otherwise. People are deceived in business deals all the time. Still others are too naive to ask good questions or do good research before sinking a ton of money into a business. But when Christianity is involved, then it's a story. Man bites dog. Hypocritical Christian swindles (misleads) gullible couple.

My point is not to condemn or defend Kinkade and company, nor to belittle a couple who trusted people without checking out the situation very well. My point is not even in the outrageous amount of money awarded by two of three court-appointed arbitrators or the cut taken home by the attorneys. My point is that as professing Christians, everything we do is seen in the light (again, pun intended) of our belief system. And any chance to show Christians as anything less than what we purport our Savior to be is cheered by the world like the villain's demise in a melodrama. After all if Christians are just as bad as everyone else, then nobody needs to be bothering me to read a Bible or say a prayer or waste my time and money going to church.

It's tough to take the name of Christ upon us. It's impossible to live up to. There is precious little earthly reward in the eyes of the world. Oh, those eyes... watching, waiting, hoping to see us slip up. Because when we fail, it's not personal news, it's not business news. It's religion.

11 comments:

Jennifer said...

My pastor calls this taking the Lord's name in vain. We take his name upon us, then shame it. This couple felt that Kinkaide's company wasn't operating according to biblical principles. Well, isn't there something in the Bible about not taking fellow believers to court?

julie said...

"My point is that as professing Christians, everything we do is seen in the light."
I particurlarly like this pun.

:)

julie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Edelen said...

A few thoughts:

1. Business is business. Businesses fail. They bought into Kinkade's biz and they didn't manage it well enough to succeed. That's not Kinkade's fault. You've got to be a little touched in the head to open an art biz anyway. Sorry, I don't feel for the business owners in this case. I'm tired of seeing the mentally-challenged suing others because they themselves didn't think something through. And that leads into my second point...

2. I hesitate to use Christians who personally identify their business with their Christianity. I've been burned too many times by being as wise as a dove (rather than a serpent) when taking on these folks--and that's my fault. I once had legal counsel drop the ball on an important case of mine because they were spending all their time working as a volunteer for the Billy Graham crusade. Grr! And that's not the only time I've encountered this kind of thing.

1. To the world, I'm a writer who is a Christian. I don't plaster my Christian faith up as advertising. If it comes up, I will certainly talk about it. But I don't use it as a means to garner business or "sanctify" my work. To Christians, hire me because of my skills, not because you think you'll get brownie points in heaven for hiring a brother. Christians need to let their work speak for itself.

Dan Edelen said...

So, of course, I make a typo at the end of that comment!

God has a sense of humor.

Yes, I do better editing on my client's work.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Rev, you pegged it on the watching/waiting/hoping to see us slip thing. Thanks for this.

rev-ed said...

Dan, your point #1 (your first point #1 ;) ) is why I'm not going to tear up Kinkade on this. His company may have made a show about his faith, but that's not excuse for someone looking to sink a chunk of money into... an art gallery of all things. Of course to the world, it's a lying hypocritical Christian...

Jennifer, that's what taking the Lord's name in vain really means -- dragging it through the mud. Tom had a great post on that at Brain Twitch the other day. The link is on the UB Blogroll on my sidebar.

Not Crunchy said...

Ed, I think the only reason this made the L.A. Times is because Kinkade is such a big name - that is the real story. I really don't think that dragging Christians through the mud was the intent.

Not Crunchy said...

P.S. regarding Christians suing one another: I'm taking torts in law school right now and you wouldn't believe the number of cases we read where a congregant is suing either the church or another congregant. My favorite was a slip-n-fall case at Bible Study. Sad.

rev-ed said...

Alice, it was listed under "Religion" in the paper. Check the link. What made it news to these folks was the religious angle. Had they not have labelled it as "Religion" I would have ignored the whole thing.

And, yes I've read too many of the "Christians taking the church to court" stories too. But attending church doesn't make one a Christian any more than it makes someone act like a Christian, sad to say.

John said...

I like Dan's second point. The Christian faith is not a mutual aid society for the development of our bank accounts. If we wear the label of Christian to spread the gospel, fine. If we wear it to attact business, shame on us.