It’s a question probably dating back to the days when the first overhead projectors entered the church building on Sundays. Or, perhaps, it’s not a question dating to back then. Probably it’s not even a question today. Either way, I don’t care. I ask instead: What’s your image of God? Not so much how you imagine Him, but how you see Him visually at church, on the camp, while you read the Bible to your kids…
Being actively involved with photography for more than two years now, I’ve realized more than ever before how powerful a visual image can be. Moreover, how much an image can reflect and at the same time direct our perceptions of a certain subject. Take a bottle of Coke, for instance – it’s never advertised static, dry and lukewarm, with dull colors… ‘Cause, frankly, who wants a Coke like that. It more sounds like being British tea at 4pm – boring and a thing from the past (for most people, that is). The energetic and fresh Coke image also makes you wish the Coke be that way – it kind of sets the standard for you.
There’s so much thought going into graphic design when it comes to advertising. Sadly, though, there’s little thought put into the graphics and design accompanying our faith.Most imagery selected for church activities, youth camps, or even publishing is chosen based on a feeling… and quite likely, the direction given by imagery seen in the past. It’s not that it’s never thought about, but it’s hardly ever thought through. As long as it’s got a blue sky and clouds, some fancy bright sunshine and a cross – it’s just gotta fit as a background for the songs. ‘Round Christmas we add some red and green, because it’s the colors of the season, and we’re set again. As Spring comes it’s time to pull up the flowers from the gallery – they seem fitting, don’t they?
I say NO. Most of those images reflect a desire for escape from reality. The truth is, our faith isn’t always shining, nor is it always a sweet smelling flower. Furthermore, what direction are these images leading us to? Closer to what God? The one that just sits up in the clouds and listens to good music?!
Properly selected imagery should be leading us God’s way. The way that Jesus walked, the way that the apostles walked, the way we headed on this one day of our lives… but then started wandering along while being a bit confused.
Does the visual content we expose ourselves and others on Sunday actually show compassion? And how about love, endurance, suffering, victory, needs, tears and prayers… Or is it always polished with the effects that only make life look nicer and more attractive?
I believe that there’s enough talent and brain in every church to be able to select visual content worthy of the event and the God it is meant to lead us to. After all, we claim to be living the principle of giving our best for God – we ought to actually give our best in selecting proper images. The only other option is to show none, but there isn’t space for anything in between.