Thursday, June 12, 2014

Inspirational Thursday #1: Ezekiel 5:17

Inspirational Thursday

If you've been looking at this project in the last few years, you'll know I'm both fascinated and troubled by the use of quotations from the Bible in inspirational images.  I don't think it's hard to understand why.  To come up with a batch of upbeat phrases that people will want to have on their wall or their screen saver, you have to cherry-pick.  You might argue that you select the most important or most meaningful passages that way, but you certainly don't get anything like a representative look at the parts of the Bible I've read thus far, in which joy and inspiration must be sought in snatches among a great volume of desolation, horror, and retribution.

Why is that important?  That's important because there are probably more people whose idea of what is in the Bible comes from their encounters with inspirational Biblical images than there are people whose idea of what is in the Bible comes from reading the Bible.  Obviously I don't have stats on that, and indeed how could I?  But think about it.  The ubiquity of inspirational Bible images promotes a pop theology of personal empowerment and affirmation.  That may be cool, or it may not be.  But either way, it ain't supported by scripture.

Now I've played with subverting the visual vocabulary of the inspirational Bible image to make my point, but that was really just cherry-picking too.  After all, I was deliberately seeking out passages that would seem bizarre or comical in that setting.

That brings us to Inspirational Thursday: After I prepare my notes on a section of scripture for Monday publication, I will:

  • Use a random number generator to find a verse within that section.
  • Find or create an image that seems to represent the mood and theme of the verse, whether positive, negative, or neutral.
  • Overlay the text on the image, with chapter-and-verse citation.
Some of these might be genuinely inspirational, and that would be great.  Some might be a little disturbing, and that is arguably pretty interesting.  I'm afraid that for my debut effort, the random number generator made it hard for the image to be anything but disturbing.

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