Have you ever noticed that so many of the inspirational Bible-verse-in-a-box images that get passed around on Facebook and Twitter superimpose the words of Scripture over a majestic nature scene?
A mountain peak reaching into the skies. “I will set my eyes to the hills – Psalm 121”
Ocean waves crashing on rocks as the sun rises. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold – Psalm 18:2”
An endless plain blowing with amber waves of grain. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. – John 14:27”
The message from these images (and from their ancestors, the inspirational Bible verse poster sold at Christian bookstores) sends an indirect yet clear message – God is found in the far-off, in the majestic, in the distant nature scene.
This is terribly sad, of course, for a people who follow a Lord whose name is Emmanuel – God with us. God might be with us in our theology, but in our popular imagery we see God as far off, in nature, away from people.
To be sure, Scripture uses nature imagery to describe God, and even Jesus and Moses ascend mountains for moments of retreat and prayer. Yet, such imagery is neither the dominant nor the only metaphor or model found within Scripture to describe the community of faith and its relationship with God.
The preponderance of majestic nature scene images in our popular expression of faith reinforces an unhealthy sense that we must “get away” from human community in order to commune with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul’s discussion of the Body of Christ and of the importance of the Christian community, in 1 Corinthians 12, attests to that.
Take a look at the next several inspirational Bible verse in a box images you find on Facebook or Twitter – how many of those images include people, include the “us” with whom our God is?
We are a people whose hope-filled imagery of God’s promised future is one of a holy city descending from heaven, and a bold declaration that “the home of God is among mortals” (Revelation 21). Jesus spent lots of time among crowds, and from the beginnings of the salvation story we see God choosing and acting within a community of people.
I think our popular imagery should reflect our theology.
I like beautiful images from nature, but our collections of faith-inspiring imagery should also include pictures of people, of urban and small town landscapes, of the communities that God so loved that he sent his only Son into them. I’m sure some such images exist, but in my experience they are few and far between. We can change that.
I’m not a very creative person when it comes to graphics, but I dabbled with some photos on Flickr to see what it could look like to superimpose words from Scripture on images of people. Here are two that I created.
What can you create? Find photos with people, or take your own photos of friends, family, neighbors, and join them with words of Scripture.
Tag the photos #photoverse and share on FB, Twitter, your blog, or wherever else you share photos. Let’s expand how we see, imagine, and share God among us.