A (Neon) Light Shines in the Darkness

Ya gotta give me a break regarding the quality of this photo as it was done with my cell phone, which is not amenable to taking pictures in low light. It is my plan to go back with a better camera. For now, however, I wanted to post it, as I just plain like it. It evokes a sense of American Christianity with its use of a sacred symbol that borders on kitsch in its use, or perhaps misuse, of technology. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see neon I can’t help but think of a bar or a liquor store, and although I do think beer is one of God’s many blessings, somehow neon and religion just don’t quite fit for me.

10 Responses to “A (Neon) Light Shines in the Darkness”

  1. Roger Green  

    Your post reminded me:
    JEOPARDY! #5952, aired 2010-06-29 SAME FIRST & LAST LETTER $1000: A noble gas, atomic number 10

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – At least neon is a “noble” gas, which I guess is suited to a symbol of the Lord.

  3. Simon  

    Seems perfectly ok to me. American Christianity is surely represented by the like of Sarah ‘bat shit crazy’ Palin and Pat ‘show me the money’ Robertson. It’s a gaudy religion that seems to me to display all the quality and character of any other neon lit establishment.

    If you ask me, I think most people groan and rolls their eyes when they think of Christians, especially those freedom lovin’ “Murkan” ones where you gotta love ‘freedom’ just as much as you hate the gays.

    Personally I think all churches should be required to adorn themselves with neon in quantities that directly relate to how much money the church has. I think a Smiling waving Jesus on the Cross would be better anyway!

  4. Anthony Velez  

    Simon – I like the idea of Churches adorning themselves in neon in direct proportion to their annual monetary intake, it would be a kitschy and surreal way to establish financial responsibility. Of course the real deal is not so much how much a church takes in but what they do with it.

    Having said this, I have to confess that these kitschy crazy people are my people. I mean, I have spent quite a bit of energy trying to disassociate myself from such people or “that type” of Christianity, but in the end, there is a part of me that just wants to embrace them, not as an endorsement, but like Jesus embracing the whole of Israel, and this was a diverse and at times crazy group of people during his time. I am not sure how to express this, but perhaps a beginning point is to say that I am tired of judging the judgmental, and the quirky conservatives, and the heavy-handed dogmatics, and the culturally backward fundamentalists, and all those whose expressions of Christian faith (some of which is genuinely distorted) don’t match my supposedly more intelligent and sophisticated brand of faith.

    Maybe when you come for a visit I can try to unpack and make sense of what I am trying to get at, both for myself and others, in what I said above.

  5. K.L.B.  

    Beautiful color, Anthony!

    You discovered “the Blue Hour”! That dusky-dark time as the sun goes down when the sky yields the most beautiful cobalt and royal navy blue hues!

    And, in keeping with the tenor of spirits…

    May I present:

    “Slowing Down the Fall”
    (guest appearance by Willie Nelson)
    performed by
    Hot Apple Pie

    ASCAP Work ID: 493006878 
       TROY H. SEALS



        1111 17TH AVENUE SOUTH
        SUITE 201
        NASHVILLE, TN, 37212
        Tel. (615) 329-2729

    Watchin’ the neon flicker
    Familiar smell of liquor in the air
    It’s late an’ no one knows my name or face
    Think I’ve found the perfect place to disappear

    Me an’ Freddy Fender, the bartender
    The last teardrop falls on the couple on the floor
    Hearts that can’t recover
    We understand each other behind those swingin’ doors

    I just need some time to think
    Somethin’ strong to drink, a moment to recall
    With this kind of hurt, sometimes the whiskey works
    Sometimes it don’t at all
    But at least I’m slowin’ down the fall

    This is my chair an’ table
    Sometimes I’m even able to control my life
    Yeah, now an’ then I forget the shape I’m in
    But it all begins again tomorrow night

    When I’ll need some time to think
    Somethin’ strong to drink, a moment to recall
    With this kind of hurt, sometimes the whiskey works
    Sometimes it don’t at all
    But at least I’m slowin’ down the fall

    I just need some time to think
    Somethin’ strong to drink, a moment to recall
    With this kind of hurt, sometimes the whiskey works
    Sometimes it don’t at all
    But at least I’m slowin’ down the fall
    At least I’m slowin’ down the fall

  6. Simon  

    We could start a new movement. ‘Neon Christians.’ You know, that could be like those people who call themselves ‘Jesus Follows’ rather than Christian because they feel the term ‘Christian’ has become so tainted (which I actually think I agree with!).

    I’m looking forward to sitting in your garden and bating this subject, as well as many others, in just a few weeks mate.

  7. Mark Enns  

    Simon – I also like the idea of Churches adorning themselves in neon in proportion to their intake. Of course, that neon would dim quickly as America becomes even more secularized. As we slowly lose our moral bearing the need for more government programs becomes increasingly important (to conservatives dismay) as social services will no longer be provided by religious institutions due to decreased donations. The poor and homeless will be left to bureaucratic government agencies whose revenue is received through taxation or passed on by grants to soulless secular nonprofits (Ahh the liberal’s dream is grand isn’t it…).

    “The American Church” only has itself to blame for this. It spreads the Word in a superficial consumer driven way through mega churches with “Broadway” production services. Christians, with only a basic understanding of biblical teachings, quickly become pharisees who want to impose moral law on secular society. They set aside “hate the sin love the sinner” and rage against the sinner. Not one homosexual will be converted to Christianity because it is made illegal.

    We need to get back to the one true purpose of the Church – convert sinners.

  8. Simon  

    You know Mark, as much as I am glad that churches have programs for the needy, I am also glad that “soulless secular” organizations do too. Balance is a good thing, 🙂

    I think churches had more of a place in the past because communities weren’t as disconnected as they are now. These days its entirely possible to live a life without speaking to another person. Our neighbor won’t trouble us, and the community will not engage us. We can plug into the world via our little laptops and live lonely lives among the masses.

    The modern mega churches are merely a reflection of this surely? Processed faith wrapped up in an easy to consume way that fits neatly into a life sold to us in ads. America has picked up and run with its religion in the same way European countries have run from theirs. It seems to me that the USA has become a land of fast-faith, which like fast-food, it might fill a gap in the instant but in the long run it does you no good.

    It seems odd to me that God hasn’t flooded the world again since Noah’s time. I mean heck, doesn’t he watch cable TV? 🙂

  9. Mark Enns  

    Simon – you make an excellent point. Not only do we have the option of living a solitary life we also have the ability to never hear an opposing voice pipped into our living room with TV, Radio, Internet, etc… all tailored to whatever viewpoint we hold true. (If you have not seen it yet, google “Nate Silver TED” and watch the ending of his lecture. He has some interesting ideas about urban development’s role in tolerance that fit in nicely with your point.) on top of this, viewpoints are now primarily given in “140 characters” in the majority of media people actually pay attention to which doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance.

    I have been lucky enough to have made friends that fill the full spectrum of viewpoints. I think that is where Anthony was making a good point (in another post) about embracing the “crazies” in each party. They only seem crazy because they fear opposing viewpoints and it’s the job of those willing to listen to both sides to be able to articulate those opposing views in a way that is non threatening – reassuring them the world is not out to get them. Although, it seems there are very few who actually understand or even try to understand both sides of any given issue.

    So, what does a church look like that eschews fast food religion?

  10. Simon Jones  

    Embracing crazies… Why do you think I’m friends with Anthony?

    LOL, only kidding Anthony 😉