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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Power and Art


There is an interesting passage in the first chapter of Zechariah that goes like this:

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.  I asked, “What are these coming to do?”  He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”

This is one of those passages we might be tempted to read right through without stopping, thinking, and reflecting. I read this awhile back and was deeply struck by something that I think is very important, and it goes back to my post on an aesthetic apologetic. I'm still thinking a lot about the necessary changes in our apologetic that are necessary for Christians in the world we live in today. I was struck again by this recently when reading about The Rise of New Atheists in Salon. I'm still toying with the idea of two books - the first Beyond Apologetics: offering hope beyond reason and An Aesthetic Apologetic: art, faith, and life. This passage reminds me again of thoughts I've been working on in this vein.

In the Scriptures, the word "horn" refers to power. Here Zechariah is shown 4 powers. There are a lot of interpretations around this - the four powers being ancient powers that scattered Israel and exerted powerful influence or even brutality over their lives. These are often thought to be Babylon, Persia, Greek, and Roman powers. (cf. also Daniel 2 and Nebachadnezzar's dream - probably envisioning these same powers).

However, what interests me here is not so much the end-times interpretation, but the interesting idea that it is the craftsmen who overcome or throw down the horns. In other words, it is the artists, the creatives, the dreamers who overthrow those who use pure power and force. In a world in which (still) the will to power seems to reign (read Syria), it is the creative power of goodness and beauty that ultimately overthrows even brute force. Think for a moment of the terrible beauty of the cross. This most tragic of moments is a creative staging of humility and disgrace that is turned into the most powerful overthrow of evil we can imagine. It is God using - not the horn of power - but the creative power of his unimaginable humility that ultimately overthrows the powers of darkness. It is the power of goodness in the beauty of restoration that comes through death and resurrection that overthrows the horns of power in this world.

I wonder what would happen if we truly believed that we could meet the horns of power with the strength of beauty and truth. Would we see the true power of the craftsman (read "creator" or "artist") overcome the false power of the abuser, the violent dictator, the hegemonic bully?

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