Black and White

Many years ago we adults were in a room talking about television.  We were talking about current television shows and someone mentioned an old show.  Their son came walking through and added to the conversation, “I don’t like gray shows.”

Gray?  We always called them black and white.

But they are not black and white.  Black and white pictures are comics.  They don’t really bear much connection to reality–mere sketches of our world.  We prefer gray photos and films because they are more real.  We want real.

Like my friend’s son recognized.  Gray is not as good as color.

We all have color televisions now.  We would rather watch television in color because our world is not black and white and it is not gray either.  Our world is in living color.  We prefer color over gray because color is more real.  We want to real.

The rage in the theaters is now 3D.

In fact, electronics stores are filling with 3D TVs.  We would rather watch movies in 3d (and pay substantially more) because our world is not black and white, not gray, and not merely color either.  Our world is 3D.  We prefer 3D because 3D is more real.  We want real.

3D color films are great because they are the most real media we have.

But they are still just films.  The characters still speak rehearsed lines.  The stories are still scripted.  The scenes are still staged.  They are still not real.

However great our technology, however clever our writers, they still only partially capture the depth of reality.  Reality is far too complex to capture by exposing film or compiling pixels.

Reality is, well, real.

I wonder if there are people out there insisting that the best films are comics.  I wonder if there is anyone who insists that comics are real and real is somehow inferior.

I doubt it.

I remember loving black and white theology.

Black and white seemed so good to me.  But at some point, I realized my black and white arguments lacked some connections with reality.  It seemed that there were more dimensions to reality than simply black and white.

I had to be careful even thinking such things.  I was afraid admitting shades of gray would make me less of a Christian.

The more I lived, the more I realized that reality was actually more complex than even shades of gray.  There was color.

Black and white, shades of gray, and even color began to feel less and less real.  I wanted real.

It was easy having a black and white theology when I was a teenager.  It was easy having a black and white theology when I was in college and everything was theoretical.  It is not so easy now.  Deeper theology begins to take into account the nuances of shades of gray and then color and even 3D.

But it is still rehearsed.  Scripted.  Staged.  It still lacks something that makes it real.

When you actually do ministry, when you actually start putting all of that theology to work in the church, you find out the missing element was people.  Real people add a depth to theology books and preachers can only dream of–even if they dream in 3D.

I grew up frightened that I might slip off the narrow path of orthodoxy and lose my salvation–so I stuck with black and white.  I am not there any more.

It is not that I don’t believe in right and wrong, nor is it that I am soft on understanding, it is simply that I recognize the world is far more complex than black and white. God is bigger than my comic book depictions of Him (which is why the Sherwood Baptist Church movies are so hollow.)

As I have come to know people who have variant theologies–some charismatic, some liberation, some ultra-conservative, some liberal, some Calvinistic, some Wesleyan–I have found believers in all of those groups.  Their theology does not line up with the black and white theology I subscribed to when I was younger (not even necessarily with my current theological constructs), but when I see them in flesh and bone Something is different.  What is different is that these are real people with real faith.  Their faith is very, very real and they have helped me follow Jesus with more integrity and passion.  Real is better than black and white.

Black and white is the stuff of comics.  It is not the substance of faith.  Faith is real.

About shepherd

I am a pastor at a local church.
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3 Responses to Black and White

  1. Josey says:

    Color comes into play with Biblical ethics all the time. “Thou shalt not divorce.” Easy. Black and white. What is the husband is abusive? More difficult. What if he is only mean and totally diminishing who the wife is? Now there is gray.

    Thou shalt not kill. What about when cancer has totally ravaged the body and it is only a matter of days of tremendous pain? And, we increased the days of life by accepting treatment. Wasn’t that playing God?

    Good post, Shepherd. Thanks for making me think.

  2. vernon says:

    b/w is great for photography. It enables you to take something and make it art and leave stuff to the imagination instead of knowing. It is amazing to me that we can take this same term that is so fascinating when it comes to photography is so heinous when it comes to theology. Relationships are filled with what ifs. Even someone like you or me that has been happily married for decades (ok only two but it still counts as plural) has to admit that even when we love our wives passionately the feelings ebb and flow. sometimes my wife that I love annoys me or irritates me or even the worst, disagrees with me. even though we do not agree on one hundred percent of everything, it does not matter because in the big picture we love each other more than the small things matter. in the words of the velveteen rabbit, the worns spots are love. Art is beautiful, life more so.

  3. vernon says:

    I remember the day that my wife and I sat down with you and said ‘we are going to have a baby boy and his name will be shepherd.” you looked at me and said “in all the years you’ve known me not once did you tell me shepherd was one of your family names” I said “it’s not you moron we are naming him after you!” I was amazed at your humility. I am proud to think of you when I call my son. I am blessed by your words both written and spoken. Thank you to your family for sharing their life as well as you with me and mine. I am honored to call you brother and grateful to call you friend. I hope and pray my son grows to be the man that the man he is named for is.

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