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.