Saturday, July 24, 2004

Of Texas and the Shadowlands

This morning, I saw Texas: The Big Picture. It was a forty-minute meditation on Texas culture, history, and style.

Full of soaring panoramas and stirring music, the film portrayed an idealistic vision of Texas. In the on-screen Texas, people were content. They suffered no real hardship. The movie gave me not so much Texas as it is, but as we all wish it were.

Like so much good art, it offers a theology lesson.

The Texas portrayed in the film, was not the Texas I've experienced. In the films Texas there was no heat, no dust, no traffic. The discrepancy between the filmic Texas and the experienced Texas is not a problem when we understand the role of art.

Art sometimes re-presents to us reality shaped by the soul. This movie's Texas was a product of longing as much as of geography.

Think of it this way. Everybody's uncomfortable in this world. The world, as we live in it, is full of sin and suffering in every shade between annoying and devastating. The whole creation, including Texas, groans beneath the burden.

We pine instead for another world whose reality fulfills our desires, where dignity trumps greed, and life and love have no end. That's the kind of Texas I saw this morning, an image of what such a place might look like. The final renewal of Texas and every other thing is the promise of Scripture, the dearest hope of the Christian.

Ultimately, that Texas, the one to come, is the real Texas because it is never-ending. All the gleaming Dallas skyscrapers, all the smoky Austin clubs, all the rolling hills and parched, dusty deserts are but shadows, cryptic hints of what lies ahead. The artist, at his best, is one who helps us peer past the shadows to catch even a glimpse of the real thing and in doing so affirms our hopes.

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