Archives For Art and Theology


 ‘The reason why was hazy in their minds[i]

After being summoned by General George C Marshall to meet with him on February the 11th, 1942, Frank Capra,  of ‘It’s a wonderful life’, and ‘You can’t take it with you’ fame, walked into the Pentagon .

Before Capra had received the invitation, he had been in the process of reviewing an offer of a partnership which, in his own words ‘would have made him part owner of “United Artists”. Easily placing him in the multi-millionaire class’[ii] and potentially exempting him from War time service.

In wrestling with the decision Capra wrote:

‘Why trade fame, glamour, and wealth for a number stamped on a dog tag?…I was bored with the applause. Furthermore, I had a guilty conscience. In my films I championed the cause of the gentle, the poor, the downtrodden, yet I began to live like the Aga Khan.[iii]

Responding to the invitation, Capra went from red carpet to khaki green.
Expecting to be assigned to the Signal Corps, he was surprised, and a little annoyed to find he had been reassigned to the newly created Morale Branch (Special Services)[iv].

Despite being uneasy, tense, and apprehensive[v]. His appointed meeting with Marshall on the 11th  of February went ahead better than he’d expected it to. Capra’s straight up honesty and his clear separation from being a typical “Hollywood type” – someone who ‘wouldn’t step on a carpet unless it was red’ [vi] – appeared to have justified Marshall’s choice.

Under his authority and at his request, Capra would produce a series of documentary movies that would serve as training videos for Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and Britain, to help counter Axis propaganda.

Marshall explains why:

‘The assumption of the Axis powers is that our boys will be too soft, too undisciplined to stand up against their highly trained, highly indoctrinated, highly motivated professional armies. They are sure the spirit and the morale of their individual soldier is superior to ours. He has something to fight and die for – victory for the superman; establishing the new age of the superstate. The spoils of such a victory are a heady incentive.
How can we counter their superman incentive? … Will young, freewheeling American boys take the iron discipline of wartime training; endure the killing cold of the Arctic, the hallucinating heat of the desert, or the smelly muck of the jungle? Can they shake off the psychological diseases indigenous to all armies – boredom and homesickness?
In my judgement the answer is ‘Yes’! Young Americans, and young men of all free countries, are used to doing and thinking for themselves. They will prove not only equal, but superior to totalitarian soldiers, if – and this is a large if, indeed – they are given answers as to why they are in uniform, and if the answers they get are worth fighting and dying for’
‘That Capra is our job – and your job. To win this war we must win the battle for men’s minds. I want you to nail down a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films that will explain why we are fighting and the principle for which we are fighting’’[vi]

In response to Marshall, Capra said:

“I have never before made a single documentary film. In fact, I’ve never even been near anybody that’s made one”

Marshall countered back:

“Capra, I have never been a chief of staff before. Thousands of young Americans have never had their legs shot off before. Boys are commanding ships today, who a year ago had never seen the ocean before’’

To which Capra replied:

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make you the best damned documentary films ever made’’

He then turned to resolving the question of how? :

‘‘Shortly after General Marshall ordered me to make the ’Why we Fight’’ films for our servicemen, I saw Leni Riefenstahl’s terrifying motion picture, Triumph of the Will…it fired no guns, dropped no bombs. But as a psychological weapon aimed at destroying the will to resist, it was just as lethal…
I sat alone and pondered. How could I mount a counterattack against Triumph of the Will; keep alive our will to resist the master race?’ [viii]
Capra is by far one of my favorite filmmakers from that era. In his own words he tells us that he wrestled hard with the issues, and in the end chose to fight propaganda with facts. Throughout this initial struggle he credits prayer and the Bible for having inspired his creative direction and determination to see the job done.
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‘I needed a basic, powerful idea, an idea that would spread like a prairie fire; an idea from which all ideas flowed. I thought of the Bible.There was one sentence in it that always gave me goose  pimples: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Did this also mean that the truth would make you strong? Strong enough to stop the Axis powers? What was the truth about this World War?
Well, Fascists and Warlords were trying to stamp out human freedom and establish their own world dictatorships…But how could I know that statement was true? Who proved it to me? Why the enemy himself proved it to me, in his acts, his books, his speeches, his films. That was the key idea I was searching for – on my feet in Pentagon halls, on my back in bed, and on my knees in pews.
Let the enemy proveto our soldiersthe enormity of his causeand the justness of ours!’ [ix]

Why We Fight became the end product of this prayer filled decision. Seven documentaries – or information cinema – were produced. They were Frank Capra’s answer to Leni Rienfenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film, ‘Triumph of the Will‘; something Capra himself called, ‘a blood-chilling super-spectacle; the ominous prelude to Hitler’s holocaust of hate.’ (p.328).

Given the current state of the world and the increasing examples of threats to religious freedom, free speech, freedom of association & freedom of conscience.

Threats posed by excessive political correctness, militant LGBT activism, the twisting and quest to “own” science, the placement of feelings over facts, Islamism and its sympathizers in the West; all pushing for the triumph of the will, the will-to-dominate; to satisfy the libido dominandi and it’s lust for power. All tell us that Capra’s work here is not something that should be easily mocked or dismissed.

We can hear the tone his work resound in our ears today reminding us that:

“[In the slave world] men insist that progress lay in killing freedom.” (Why We Fight, 1942)

Like Capra, we are confronted with Jesus’ historical and eternal reminder,

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

And we stand on this, determined to not let the reasons for why we must take a stand, become hazy in our minds or the mind of society. We do this with the same skill, grace and determination because it is:

‘for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’
(Paul to the Galatians 5:1, ESV)

 

References:

[i] General George C Marshall, 1942 cited by Frank Capra, 1971

[ii] Capra, F. 1971 The Name Above the Title Da Capo Press p.314

[iii] Ibid, p.314

[iv] Ibid, p.318

[v] Ibid, p.326

[vi] Ibid, p.325

[vii] Ibid, p.327

[viii] Ibid, p.330

[ix] Ibid, p.330

Pic credit: 

Poster for IAWL (Wikipedia)

Photo of Frank Capra receiving the Distinguished Service Medal from U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall (Wikipedia)

(©RL2017)

If you are among the few readers of this blog, or perhaps among the one or two Facebook friends that are following what I create musically, you may be interested in this.

I’ve managed to pin a melody to some rhythm and bass that I put together a few weeks ago. Sometimes when I’m working on an idea, I’ll come up with multiple different avenues and if they’re good enough, I’ll record those and set them aside for another day.

This particular instrumental came out of some prayerful playing and is as it is. I used three different guitars for this piece and the free play (not pre-programmed) piano option on garage band. The title comes from a poem a wrote a few months back called Soliloquy & Symphony.

Both the poetry and music are original. I was faced with somewhat of a dilemma with the end result. My time spent mixing this split the song into separate versions. Each version is alike.The only real difference being the rhythm guitar section.

I had a hard time deciding on which tune to stick with so after much consideration I’ve decided on posting both.

I’ve also thrown in a poem for good measure, and in case you’re wondering, a bagatelle is a short piece of music written for piano.

Let me know which version you prefer. I’m partial to version 2, but also really like the more full, gritty sound the rhythm provides in version 1.

Pax Vobiscum.

Version 1: with rhythm.

Version 2: without rhythm.


(©RL2017)

Some songs come together. Others morph into new things with new beginnings. I tried a few different paths with this tune and ended up siding with simplicity. After my last few songs this year, I’ve worked hard to improve the mixing aspect and keep to the basics where possible. Using the same equipment and software, I’m aiming to the best with what I’ve got.

Let me know your thoughts 🙂

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How many white pages remain blank?

Ink, less applied,

.  an empty space.

Quiet and inkless.

Wisdom left aside.

Abandoned as worthless?

This divorce between mind and matter.

No longer weaving together;

.    leaving what was woven

.     to yesterday’s empty praise.

Worthiness splattered over the blue and white walls of false applause.

Oppressed by the easy choice of scroll, repeat and ignore.

Condolences distributed for dignity,

.     shattered, then gathered up, then strapped to the service

.     of insincerity.

Pinned, posted, paraded;

.     contributions constantly measured against sterilized pixels.

Beauty soaked and shivering;

.     beauty left drifting;

.         beauty become hostage;

.            lost, gagged and beaten.

It’s pain become high-priced entertainment footage.

Beauty longing for its pain to be known,

When from ashes, beauty rises with new strength to carry its own

Deep within, the Word moves and lifts the injured,

now flightless,

beyond its cage,

Beauty freed, breathes life onto the page.

No longer vacant, this paper wraps itself around wounded words

Under God, clear vision.

In Jesus Christ, one commission.

Through His Spirit, the death of oblivion.


(RL2017)

‘…I will not leave you as orphans’ 

(John 14:18)

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God paints with nature.

Though He isn’t a picture,
He’s involved in it.

Though behind this art,
He chooses to remain hidden;

choosing when and where to make Himself known
to His creation.

Revelation incarnate.
Spoken and unspoken.

Word made flesh,
via covenant, grasp and gracious breath

The knowledge of God begins with acknowledgement,
by way of The Presupposition;
the rock of Truth,
by which all truth is measured with precision.

Still this knowledge is limited.
God exists in freedom
and by this has chosen to voice His own self-limitation.

For the God of hope,
of Christ, joy, love, justice and peace
knows the deceptive heart of His once innocent,
now sin-ravaged beast.

Thus our struggle for an adequate human explanation.

For if we had gained His comprehensive capacity
It would intoxicate all of our faculties;
senses driven mad with lust for divine equality,
like a Nazi, I.S.,
or Bolshevik socialist.
God to become another power utility
conquered, killed; dissected in a laboratory.

We know because God speaks,
this is where He has chosen to meet.

This:

The wonder of God’s intention for creation;
God dies for our salvation – resurrection is vindication.
His master plan,
the centerpiece of His revelation
His beaten, torn and crucified Son,
the apocalypse of the anointed One.

Though darkness; Nothingness seeks to devour
to this Conqueror it has had to submit all it’s power.

This, the cross and the end of the abyss.

The final curtain call, where it will no longer exist.

So it is, with horror and jubilation,
creation groans in anticipation.
For rising through darkness is the proclamation

“On the third day God forged
our emancipation!”

Now reason states
that where He speaks, He exists;
therefore, then,
where He has spoken,
we ought to respond with both ears open.

So in faith, we join this decorated Victor
and the never ending chorus
of His decorous vista.


(RL2017)

‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ 

– (Isaiah 52:5; Romans 15:21)

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Flail

The wheat and tares

Flail

The winding, twisted arguments and their hypocritical stares

Flail

.  The grinding edge of the apocalypse;

.  Godspeed the Prince of Peace and an end to greedy politics!

Flail

The revolutionary, veiled promises and their violence that haunts darkened thrones

Flail

. The path of injustice as it drives its warlike wedge toward our homes

Flail

.  The tyrants, who’ve enslaved people to their ideas

Flail

. their sycophants and their flood of empty tears.

Flail

. the superior denier and self-righteous believer,

.      who fails to see no grace for either

Flail

. “parent one” and “parent two” which replace gender specific roles;

.       those who’d kill mother and father,

.       and rob little children,

.       to placate selfish “trolls”.

Flail

. the revanchist;

.           controversialist,

.            who fixes an argument so it’s won;

.            where 4 + 4 equals 5, and its forbidden to correct the sum.

Flail

. vanity metrics and its socio-political funds,

.      where a hashtag can destroy an honest man

.      and any good work that he has done.

Flail

.     the auctioneers and their ideological lunge

.      who play the people’s court,

.      to shoot to kill with a social media gun.

Flail

. the willing beggar who swallows this garbage hole.

. Who then thinks, is, speaks, and blindly does, whatever the bloody-hell they’re told.

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But, hail to the resistance and its gladdening light

Hail to those who’ve not surrendered to the storm, or to its encroaching night.

Hail to the King of Kings,

. The time tense dialectical, piercing presence of the Christ.


©RL2017

 Artwork credit: John Martin, ‘The Last Man’, 1849

On my wall sits a quote from Oswald Chambers that reads:

.                    “our reach must exceed our grasp.”

The apostle Paul understood the kind of motivation this statement inspires. In chapter 12 of his letter to the early Roman Church, he writes, “do not be slothful in zeal, instead be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

In part, we can bridge from Paul and Chambers to say, that though we may find the waters thick and heavy with thoughts of self-condemnation, self-defeat and self-doubt, we should not surrender to them. Even though we may feel past being able to grasp onto something that will take us beyond these, we must still reach, because we have been reached for!!

Whether all three self-negatives be the consequences of words spoken against us or echoes from an internalized pattern of responses long ago set in concrete by abuse, or lies we’ve told ourselves, the apostle’s much earlier proclamation speaks, denouncing all false claims on us:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

It’s healthy to recognize the limitations of our understanding and ability, but we should never let this master us, as though that recognition gives credibility to lords who seek to paralyze, subdue and rule over and against us; as if Jesus Christ wasn’t, in fact, Lord.

To not be slothful in zeal may include taking a step back. Taking time to refocus, or re-calibrate and come back with a different approach in mind; to recognize the struggle as a learning experience; learning through the things that have caused us to become despondent, unresponsive or careless.

Education is in the imperative:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

To be fervent in spirit can involve pushing on through until we grasp that which was once beyond our reach. The proverbial, you have to dig in order to find the gold. In this we hear Dallas Willard’s call to understand that ”grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.” (The Great Omission)

‘To pray without ceasing; to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12). To not give in to the whispers that in darkness seek to stop and condemn us, by saying “be nothing, do nothing, because you are nothing and can do nothing“.

In the face of this opposition, the apostle speaks, ”Let love be genuine. Hate that which is evil, cleave to that which is good”; “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9 & 12:21).

“Do not be slothful in zeal, instead be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!!”

As Chamber’s said, our reach must exceed our grasp. If not, we go nowhere for having failed to see how firmly we are already held by God’s grace and the freedom that exists therein.In Jesus Christ we reach for the One who has already reached for us.

Education is in the imperative.

So with all this in mind, here is my creative offering for this week. It is part one of two posts where I have, as a guitarist, musician, Christian and writer, sought to reach beyond my grasp.