Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Beginning

Welcome to Neon Cross. In this inaugural post I wanted to begin by simply explaining the vision behind this blog. I thought about doing this directly by merely laying out a list of objectives. But, between you and me, this seems a bit too sterile for the opening words of what I hope is a lively conversation about very important things. So, I’ve opted for a less direct, but perhaps more meaningful approach.

Let me tell you why I’ve chosen the name Neon Cross. If you’re anything like me, perhaps your first impression is that it’s an odd, almost jarring coupling. An ancient symbol of faith and one of the most conspicuous hallmarks of life at the turn of the third millenium.......What gives? If this is what you’re thinking, my response is: Exactly. You get it.

I'll put it this way: The name gives expression to something that, to me, tastes real. It breathes the same air I do. Like me, it inhabits a world where working out deeply held beliefs in the everydayness of living is fraught with all kinds of tensions I’m not sure how to resolve.

Beyond this savor of authenticity, the name Neon Cross really distills the essence of a constellation of ideas I hope characterize this conversation. That is, it captures well the spirit of what I desire to see happen here. You see, my hope for the blog is that, like its name, it will represent the intersection of ancient truth and our real life, now, in all its messy actuality. It's one thing to search out truth and examine it at the safe distance of the abstract. It’s quite another to find out how to map it onto the specific world that you inhabit, letting it shape the way you see everything and do life. This is what I hope we can do together. In this conversation of ours, I want to look for truth that we can live out, truth that can be brought to bear on our lives in context.

In that connection, Neon Cross is a tip of the hat to my own life context, the city of Seoul. For the last year I have made my home here with family and many wonderful friends and colleagues. Now, if you’ve ever been to Seoul, you know where I’m going with this. Arrive here after nightfall and your eyes will meet with a vision that is unlike anything I, for one, have ever taken in, a cityscape forested with what must be thousands of luminous crosses. Whatever you make of the aesthetics of this, a sea of Neon Crosses is a potent and provocative symbol. And, to my mind, paradoxical and strange as it may be, it somehow works.

Neon, you may know, is a colorless, formless, unreactive element. Considered in and of itself, it is the picture of lifelessness. Left to itself it literally does nothing. Nevertheless, as an evening's walk will confirm, when acted upon by a power beyond itself the result is the striking, prismatic brilliance that is so familiar.

From the vantage point of the Bible there is a clear parallel between what I’ve just described and the human condition. Spiritually speaking, man, considered in himself and left to his own devices, is inert, unresponsive. Far from being a source of illumination, he is blind, having no capacity to perceive the great backdrop of meaning that is behind his world. Lost and groping in the dark, he cannot find his way to true life. He is, in a word, dead. Yet, when acted upon by a power beyond himself, the Power that is beyond all powers, the result is, when all is told, unspeakably glorious.

Paul, writting in the New Testament, speaks metaphorically of a kind of veil before the eyes of mankind that prevents us from perceiving truth. Nevertheless, he would have us know that there is hope of emancipation from this unseeing death. He writes:

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

One of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, makes a similar case for a paradigm of living and growing that looks to a source beyond ourselves. “Christianity,” he maintains, “ takes for granted the absence of any self-help and offers a power that is nothing less than the power of God.”

That’s what I want this blog to be about. I’m like you; I can’t give you any wisdom or power to live, because I don’t have any. Rather, my sincere hope is that together we can learn to live in the transformative warmth of borrowed light.


  1. Nice beginning

  2. I like this rendition of the neon cross better than the one that has been living in my mind... garish, brash, and so unlike Christ as He walked here—and yet, it’s a beacon of the Church. I love Christ and I love His church, but I just couldn’t love those monstrous, glowing crosses… thanks for a new perspective =)

  3. A good start, an interesting name. Not sure if you're heading this direction or not, but the paradoxical name gives me a sense that the interaction between faith and culture will be a much-discussed theme. If so, I look forward to it.

  4. That last sentence was powerful brother. Imagine a relationship or community or country or even a world where that could truly happen? The paradox is brother, that you actually can give "wisdom and power to live." You can do it if we truly are living in the "transformative warmth of borrowed light."

  5. You're right, we do have wisdom and power to live that we can pass on. It is, as you put it, a kind of paradox. That is, it does not originate with us, but God can and does use us as a kind of medium through which he transmits knowledge of himself, which is the power to live. In the New Testament Paul describes himself as a "steward of the mysteries of God." That's a weighty description, but I feel good saying that it is true of all who authentically know God and manifest him in the world. To sum up, we are the light of the world, but only because we are in the LIGHT of the world. So it's our light, but, as with all things, borrowed from the giver of all things.


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