Here’s the YouTube link to our CP review of the Chosen TV series via This Is Straya. I enjoyed being part of this. Grateful for the opportunity.
Here’s the YouTube link to our CP review of the Chosen TV series via This Is Straya. I enjoyed being part of this. Grateful for the opportunity.
Powerful and unique are two of the best ways to quickly describe season one of ‘The Chosen’, a ‘pay-it-forward’ episodic, visual chronicle of the life of Jesus.
The series is free to watch via an app, with the options of paying for the entire season or paying as you go. Meaning that each episode watched has been paid for by someone else, and it’s now up to you to pass that kindness on.
The pay-it-forward option also invites viewer ownership in the continued success, and advancement of the series.
There’s a list of things to like about ‘The Chosen’.
It isn’t Christian kitsch. It’s not bumper sticker theology, nor is it a grind to push through. It’s not cringe-worthy to watch, and it’s careful in handling the events revealed in the New Testament. The pay-it-forward method is ground-breaking, and the expositional bridge brings together a thought-provoking, historically accurate, multi-ethnic retelling of Jesus, as would have been witnessed by the New Testament’s original audience.
The music also deserves a mention. Like a lot of art, music takes words further than words and images can go. This is reflected in the ‘stomp and clap’ theme song ‘Walk on the Water,’ elevated by Ruby Amanfu’s vocals. Even with the theme song’s much brighter tone, it’s overpowering nuance has an engaging impact reminiscent of Fever Ray’s ‘If I had a Heart’ used in the History channel’s Vikings series.
The score for ‘The Chosen’ was penned by composer Matt Nelson and Jars of Clay lead singer, Dan Haseltine. Haseltine said he signed on because he was intrigued by the way in which director, Dallas Jenkins was drawing out the human relevance of the New Testament’s record of the life of Christ.
Haseltine described the creative inspiration behind the music as a fusion of slave spirituals, blues, and middle-eastern music; calling it ‘a combination of three textures, which aims to create a very human sounding musical bed for the show.’
Nelson (rightly) gave a thumbs up to ‘the raw, slightly out-of-tune sound’ saying that it ‘gives the series an authenticity’ that ‘brings out those [raw human] elements in the presentation of the story.’
Dallas Jenkins describes the series as being about a ‘mix of pain and hope. [That in midst of] immense suffering, [there is] also this dignified beauty that came from the hope in this belief that God was actually present and that there was going to be rescue. That’s something that I think was also taking place two thousand years ago.’
Experienced actor, and Christian, Jonathan Roumie plays the role of Jesus, telling Catholic Weekly that his focus for the role was God’s ‘infinite compassion and mercy. Otherwise it’s just a very pale representation of who I understand Him to be.’
‘The Chosen’ builds on the quality production standards set by the Visual Bible’s 1993 Word-for-Word ‘The Gospel of Matthew’, Dreamwork’s’ ‘Prince of Egypt’, Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’, ‘Risen’, ‘The Nativity Story’, ‘AD: The Bible Continues’, and ‘The Young Messiah.’
Roumie’s on-screen portrayal of Jesus combines the infectious joy of Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal of Christ in the Visual Bible, with the gravitas of the Passion’s Jim Caviezel.
The team capture Jesus’ soberness, sass and sense of humour, minus the cartoonish caricatures. They bring the Gospels to life, and invite us to participate in that journey with them.
According to the official website, ‘The Chosen’ is ‘the first ever multi-season show’ of its kind. It’s also the ‘number one highest crowd-funded media project of all time at $10 million from over 19,000 people, translated into 50 languages and counting.’
Season one of ‘The Chosen,’ with the option of paying-it-forward, is free to watch via the app in app stores.
Image: VIDANGEL Studios
© Rod Lampard, 2020
Back in early February my family and I came across one of the Australian War Memorial’s W.W.2 travelling art exhibits. Random find, but we’re always keeping an eye out for opportunities to learn. We’d been out doing our somewhat PD.H.PE routine (hence the rough around my edges look in the pic). Then wound up viewing some of Australia’s most significant art, created by some of Australia’s biggest painters.
One definite highlight were the Russell Drysdale artworks. I’d come to learn about Drysdale in senior high school. The reason for my initial attraction to his work was how surrealism influenced his style.
Once I realised that what we were looking at were Drysdale originals, I was awestruck. It may sound shrill, but goosebumps and a chill accompanied the importance of what hung on the wall before us. The weight of significance was inescapable. The moment caught me. It wouldn’t be all that wrong to say it was a breathtaking moment. I paused in the presence of history.
‘Soldier’ has many different angles. It communicates a paradox: a cold urgency, and the calm, maddening boredom of war. Drysdale’s use of colour gives off a sense of anticipation, and mystery. Is the soldier returning from the front? Is he about to depart? His choice of background colours wrap around the soldier, as much as they splash light around his relaxed posture. Hands in his pocket, face forward, the impression is that he’s warm, but calm, but contemplative.
Noticeably, there’s an absence of any cigarettes, food or water. This adds to the idea that he is waiting. There’s an innocence, an order in the midst of chaos, almost a sense of relief mixed with anticipation. Like Drysdale is either saying this is the calm before the storm, or the war is over.
Drysdale’s genius (another reason for my appreciation of his work) is how each painting, including the Crucifixion, has a Christian like reverence for life, even in the midst of suffering; a complex, well thought out theological grasp of the world around us. The context for Crucifixion was the Holocaust and Hiroshima. Events relevant to the era he lived in (1912-1981).
There’s a realism to Drysdale’s work – call it gritty humanity, call it an awareness of human frailty and the infinite qualitative distinction, ‘God is God and we are not’ – a kind of warts and all hope, covered in dry, red dust, with a cautious optimistic attached that looks towards the promise of rain in the storm clouds breaching the horizon.
Drysdale’s art captures Australian identity. Instead of creating a disfigured caricature, his use of surrealism captures Australia’s character, and its free, barren, surreal landscape. Drysdale puts a mirror up to the face of every Australian. Revealing every spot and blemish, and unlocking its beauty. Drysdale tamed surrealism. The pioneer, battler, convict, outcast, wounded, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. He doesn’t create an Australian identity, he awakens Australians to it!
This helps explain his importance as a painter. Drysdale doesn’t just see and communicate what others have missed. He observes and points to who Australians are, based on what Australians do. It’s because of this that his art, his voice, is a national treasure. It’s why, standing before ‘Soldier’, I was awestruck. Brought to a standstill by the realisation that what was before me wasn’t just a painting, it was a poignant reminder that Australian identity isn’t determined by activists who would rather divide us, than unite us.
As a theologian, I see within the fabric of his work a rich prophetic hope. The equivalent of Johnny Cash’s separation of the sacred from the silly, an honest, raw, restorative, non-violent iconoclasm. The real Jesus confronting the faux Jesus we create in our own image. John 14:6 and Romans 6:4 come alive. The unequivocal: Without Christ, nothing. With Christ, everything.
Drysdale captured the emotion of this dry continent, its land and the resilience of its people like no one did before him, or has done since. His work isn’t drenched in politics or activism; it simply communicates the story of Australia and Australians, going to a depth that words seem unable to go. He ‘didn’t incorporate literary subjects and characters from external sources into the Australian scene but sought to represent people in their places.’ (Australian National Dictionary)
To be in the actual presence of his work is like standing on the same ground he stood on, hearing the same things he heard; being invited to grasp the same appreciation and love he had for Australia and its people. Though the message is sometimes confronting, there is nothing joyless about his work. In my opinion, Drysdale was/is Australia’s best painter, Sydney Nolan comes in at a close 2nd.
Below is some of the follow up work I did with my homeschoolers yesterday.
©Rod Lampard, 2020.
I’m not one of the beautiful people
(Front row seats are for people without broken feet);
The charmers, greasy grinners, snake-oil cliques.
I know my place, it’s in the shadows
The darkened corners of polished sanctuaries
I’m the too-hard-basket-case;
Reluctantly delegated space.
Thus, my light-less sanatorium,
My assigned placed in the Saint’s auditorium.
Distanced like a plague survivor
Because the horror of my past existence
Pierces these pews;
Turns up the noses of the middle-class,
As though I’m as putrid as a witch’s brew.
Exiled to an asylum,
High society’s life sentence for uninvited suffering.
I’m the brother of Quasimodo, and Monte Cristo,
Of priest and ashes, both betrayed and abandoned.
But as long as we stay in the dark,
We’re sure to be quietly welcomed.
My story too deep!
It’s to be quickly dismissed,
Even though I know what it feels like to
Be held by grace over the abyss.
I understand this too.
I’m not one of the beautiful people.
Sometimes the past still bleeds:
Pebbles of blood, drop from inwardly formed,
Grotesque scars which sometimes unexpectedly seep,
These old wounds make others uncomfortable,
Emotional vomit from them unavoidable.
And so the steeple chimes,
As the mechanism claps in time
The production begins,
The show. The politics. The pretence and cheers.
But in this dark corner there are no celebrities,
The broken, are not broken in.
The bruised, broke, and bent
All kneel, instead with cries of lament
All seem to be more aware of their own sin.
Cohen’s hymn of cracked glass, and ‘how the light gets in.’
Just like Lazarus we’re all carefully seated,
Assigned to rows without names,
Easily overlooked, seldom greeted.
We who don this imposed darkened gown,
Are met with suspicion, and sometimes with frowns.
I’m not one of the beautiful people.
but my name is written down by Christ through His blood.
Where I’ve been healed beyond measure,
By God’s undying Fatherly love.
Though meant to distance them from us,
My darkened corner
Appears to have saved us from them.
Which is why I’m not all that surprised when I hear people say,
“I’m thankful that Jesus is bigger than Sunday.”
©Rod Lampard, 2020
This is my response to a Facebook share and tag invite. Instead of posting one beloved book each day, for seven days, here’s the complete list all in one read.
I don’t normally do these, but the premise is worth supporting: “No exception, no reviews, just covers. The idea is to promote literacy and a love of great books.”
The list is harder to compile than it looks. By no means is the list definitive. The list does, however, reflect some of the texts I consider to be essential reading. The wooden bookcase they live on, would be the poorer for not having them in it.
Gene Veith once wrote, ‘secularists are genuinely unable to tell the difference between art that has aesthetic merit and art that has none.’ His words were part of both a critique and lament of the ‘State of the Arts’, and what the world of art has become.
Calling art ‘the plaything of the rich’, ‘art is now considered to be whatever the artist does.’ Art has become a slave to the post-modern mind. Under the foppish, vain lordship of the unhinged, vague emptiness of moral relativity, art has lost all meaning. An ‘impersonal, dehumanised’ and desensitised public, is no longer capable of distinguishing between good modern art and bad.
Rather than speak of and to the human condition, the art of this post modern world is ‘anti-art’. It ‘rejects humanness’, worships ‘the cult of the artist’, and is controlled by the often contradictory ‘elitism of the art world’, whose global membership only amounts to the ‘size of a very small town.’ Where the ‘wealthy elite’ pose as proletarian, as they patron ‘bohemian’ artists in an irony that ‘combines Marxist poses with upper class social snobbery.’
Veith’s criticisms and lament is justified. Notorious examples include ‘a performance artist in Milwaukee who entertained his patrons by screaming abuse at them, stuck fishhooks under his skin and cut himself with razor blades’; and partially U.S. Tax payer funded artists such as, Anne Sprinkle, a self-described “post-porn Modernist” ‘masturbates, then invites patrons to come up and inspect her genitalia with a flashlight.’ [i]
Add to this the masochistic art of Robert Mapplethorpe, Andre Serrano’s ‘Piss cross’, photographs of a crucifix in his urine’, Duchamp’s 1917, urinal entitled ‘Fountain’, and more recently Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian‘ – a banana taped to a wall with duct-tape.
Last week, Cattelan’s duct-taped banana, called ‘Comedian’, was sold to a French collector in Miami for $120, 000 (175k AU) U.S. dollars. The banana was then eaten by David Datuna, a performance artist.
Gallery officials questioned Datuna then asked him to leave the event, later stating that the performance artist didn’t actually destroy the ‘Comedian’ because the banana is meant to be replaced. As SBS noted, ‘the value of the work is in the certificate of authenticity.’
EJ Dickson for Rolling Stone adds that the Art Basel festival is ‘one of the biggest and most prestigious art shows in the country, even if few know about it.’ The saga didn’t end with Datuna. Dickson stated that after the banana heist, artist, Roderick Webber arrived and wrote on the wall: ‘“Epstein didn’t kill himself” in red lipstick.
Unfortunately for Webber, Datuna’s destruction in the name of art appears to have been more appreciated. Webber’s attempt at protest art saw him ‘arrested on charges of criminal mischief.’ With police escorting Webber out, he could ‘be heard saying “This is the gallery where anyone can do art, right?”
Dickson said that the banana “art work” has now been removed from the gallery due to the “compromised safety of the piece, and those surrounding it.”
Cattelan isn’t new to melodrama. His 18 karat gold working toilet, called ‘America’ was stolen in September, from Blenheim Palace, and is yet to be recovered by police.
The Daily Wire’s Andrew Klavan rightly called the banana heist saga a metaphor for Western Elites, stating,
“These are our elites: where eating a banana someone else paid $120,000 dollars for is considered a work of art, because somebody put the banana on the wall and called it art.”
Klavan then reminded people that this is from
“the same civilization that created the Sistine Chapel, Hamlet and King Lear. Now art is a banana taped to the wall, and someone is willing to pay six figures to do this. Someone else thinks it’s art to eat the banana, which at least is a joke, and then when they put up something that is actually true about our elites, such as, “Jeffery Epstein didn’t kill himself” they cover it up!”
Had Klavan read Vieth’s criticism in its entirety, I think he’d agree that they were on the same page.
Cattelan’s $120, 000 edible banana and 18 karat gold working toilet fortify Veith’s criticism of post-modern art as anti-art. Artists using “art” in the ‘utter annihilation of art.’ (Veith, p.93)
Cattelan, Mapplethorpe, Serrano, Sprinkle, and work that mimics theirs all embody the content of Gene Veith’s lament and critique of the art world today. Although Veith’s analysis is grim, especially when weighed against these examples, he looks to a recovery of the arts where the divine Logos is rediscovered; where ‘artistic talent is not thought of as some innate human ability, nor as the accomplishment of an individual genius, but as a gift of God.’ (Veith, p.107)
To paraphrase, Calvin Seeveld, this recovery will mean the complete abandonment of the foppish, vain lordship of moral relativity, and the subsequent awakening of a desensitised, dehumanised public to an appreciation of the difference between cheap deodorant and good perfume.
[i] Veith, G. 1991. State of the Arts, Crossway Books
First published on Caldron Pool, 11th December, 2019.
©Rod Lampard, 2019
The best and brightest of those registered with the American Gospel Music Association recently celebrated the 50th annual GMA, Dove Awards.
The Gospel Music Association began in 1964, with the purpose of ‘serving as the face and voice of the Gospel/Christian music community, dedicating itself to exposing, promoting and celebrating the Gospel through music of all styles.’
The first Dove Awards ceremony was held in 1969. The awards showcase G.M.A talent and provide a window into the world of Christian music for the broader culture. There are 5 divisions catering for 38 categories, all helping G.M.A ‘accomplish its mission by publicly honouring those persons who have demonstrated excellence or significant accomplishment in the field of Christian/Gospel music.’
Over the years categories have merged, been revised or eliminated, presumably because of style changes or lack of admissions from a particular genre.
For a 50th Anniversary event, things were for the most part uneventful. There were replays of bloopers from previous presenters in between breaks, but the only tribute was a quasi-quartet performance which included a sampling of work from MercyMe, Shirley Caesar, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Ce Ce Winans and Amy Grant.
Despite applause on the night for its wide diversity, some categories from previous years were noticeably absent. “Hard Music” and “Modern Rock/Alternative Song of the Year” were nowhere to be seen. Neither were any performances to mark previous winners who fell into those categories. Such as, in-the-world-not-of-it heavy weight’s P.O.D., who won Hard Music Recorded Song of the Year for Satellite, from their album of the same name.
The lack of any hard rock, alternative or heavy metal categories was compounded by how contemporary “worship” music dominated the night. Showing that feel-good, polished worship, sells far better, than hardened lyrics from a broken heart, vomiting out a sigh towards God, by Spirit-led convicted individuals. I now better understand why Audio Adrenaline decided to ditch alternative rock for the contemporary worship bubble, and why Kevin Max parted ways with them over creative differences.
Now before I get accused of being an organ loving, grumpy curmudgeon, nostalgic for the 90’s Jesus Freak revolutionary era, hear me out. I like Kari Jobe, I’m a fan of Crowder, and I was among the first to predict how huge Lauren Daigle’s album was going to be (just ask my wife).
My problem isn’t with contemporary worship songs, even if that part of the art-commerce-ministry industry, is now largely dominated by cliché sounds, repetitive lyrics, visible tattoos and skinny jeans. The problem is a lack of depth in the diversity of music considered worthy of a Christian’s heartfelt attention.
As Kanye West proved with the content and straight-up release of his latest album, ‘Jesus is King’, depth and raw, well thought out lyrics win.
Carefully placed tattoos or all the right buzzwords in lyrics, skinny jeans, and a safe cliché sound, are no guarantee of authenticity or theological legitimacy. It sells, and as such may help you win a Dove Award.
The absence of metal, alternative and hard rock categories undermine the diversity of the awards. Bands may have rejected invitations, but if the excuse is that artists who could fill these categories couldn’t be found, I’d say the G.M.A organisers didn’t look hard enough, and I’d question if they’d bothered to look at all.
Back in the late nineties my coming-of-age, Guns n’ Roses, loving self would have seen the Dove Awards as a sanitised, narcissistic celebration of privileged talent, and tuned out. By all appearances, the awards lend themselves to a theology of glory, a world away from the grit and sweat in what Lutherans rightly call a theology of the Cross.
There was little to no sanctis cry de profundis which screams through the darkness, a holy cry up from the depths.
The kind of music Charles Spurgeon called startling and stimulating, saying, ‘my heart, be not thou always craving soft music…life is a conflict, and thou needest battle music to thee up to fighting pitch.’ For there is a ‘time for the trumpet and the pipe!’[i]
One of the only exceptions to this was Toby Mac and Ledger, who kicked off the ceremony with the Neon Feather, remixed, collaborative version of T.M.’s song ‘The Elements’.
Where were Narnia, Skillet, Lacey Sturm, Stryper, Guardian, Jars of Clay, Kevin Max, Sleeping Giant, Thousand Foot Krutch, Theocracy, or Decipher Down, among others?
Despite the applause for diversity, the Dove Awards wasn’t as musically diverse as it could have been.
Asked why Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Alternative and Progressive Rock categories are absent or never have been, Director of Sanctuary International, a vibrant multi-platform Christian ministry to the Metal Community, Pastor Bob Beeman, said,
“The Christian Industry stopped being about real ministry a long time ago. Somewhere along the line we replaced the real hard-core ministry aspect of it with “feel good” lyrics and musical style. Christian Metal doesn’t sell as well either. Not in Christian Book Stores anyway. It is difficult to promote there. Many Mom and Pop Christian Book Stores still have a problem with it. It is the same thing we have dealt with since the beginning in the 80’s. But honestly, I am happy we are not included in GMA. I have always felt our strongest ministry is OUTSIDE of the Christian Industry. That is why we have fought so hard all of these years to work with secular record companies to take the music where it really needs to go!”
The same “ethic of niceness”, its smiles, hi-fives and its polished bumper sticker version of Christianity, that I rejected in Churches as a teen, who showed no care or interest in me because my baggage didn’t fit the profitable profile, seems dismally alive and well. The kind of Churches where putting on a good show, is more important than follow through or theological substance.
As for diversity, there was a lot it, both ethnically and musically. However, I walked away with the impression that G.M.A could have done better.
As if to make my point, Dove award winner and long-time member, Kirk Franklin, was angered when the televised version ‘cut out his outspoken remarks on Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old who was shot and killed in her home by a Fort Worth police officer.’
Franklin is now said to be boycotting the event over the decision. For which, GMA President and Executive Director Jackie Patillo, ‘apologized’, even though she made it clear that the edit wasn’t racially motivated. The decision was ‘due to an attempt to fit everything into a 2 hour broadcast window.’
The 50th anniversary of the Dove Awards was a diverse city, just not musically diverse enough. I like the Dove’s, I always have. The sad fact is that this year’s anniversary in no way showcased the wide range of musical talent the Church has had to offer over the year or since the creation of the G.M.A. With the absence of artists to fill key categories, it’s fair to say that this year’s awards didn’t reach the full potential of its own mission statement.
The 50th Dove Awards can be streamed for free from the Trinity Broadcasting Network app, upon signing up for a free account.
(Special note, acknowledging the tragic loss of Toby Mac’s son, Truett, and Mary Stampley, daughter of Gospel singer, Micah, and Heidi Stampley. Caldron Pool staff extend heartfelt sorrow to them, and stand in solidarity and prayer with them during their time of grieving).
“For a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17, ESV
[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883. ‘Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden: The Trumpet & the Pipe.’
First published on Caldron Pool, 31st October, 2019
©Rod Lampard, 2019