I was recently reflecting on the Passion narrative when a line jumped out at me. As Peter is about to strike the high priest’s servant with a sword, Christ reprimands him and says:
“Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)
I thought to myself, “Wow, can you imagine what Christ’s twelve legions of angels would look like?” For a visual FX creator like me, my mind went wild with images similar to the Avengers, or Lord of the Rings. “That would be AWESOME!” I thought.
But wait, Christ goes on to say “that’s not how I do things”. And He often repeats this theme “Your Father who sees in secret…”, “Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing…”
That’s a little depressing. Here I am in living and working in Hollywood, pretty much the center of glory – world-class movie production, beautiful women and home of most of celebrities anywhere – should I even be out here? I mean isn’t that the only point of Hollywood – glory?
I gave it a lot of thought and realized, it’s not all about glory – it’s about beauty.
They are fundamentally different, yet often confused. Glory is the cult of celebrity that watches stars sipping lattes, while beauty is the movie that makes you want to be a more virtuous person. Glory is something that stands up and says “Here I am, LOOK AT ME!”, while beauty we can’t help but look at. Glory seeks to move hearts with force and fanfare; beauty we can’t help but be moved by. Beauty takes a whole lifetime of skill, practice and work to create. Glory takes force and power. One is proud, the other is humble.
It’s no coincidence that they go together in Hollywood culture. Those who create beauty are often given glory, because quite frankly, it’s great for marketing. That’s the whole point of the Oscars after all. Yet we as Christians shouldn’t make the mistake of confusing the two. I’ve seen many a foolish Christian seeking glory, thinking it is the way to make Christ known. But this was never Christ’s way. The Cross is not glorious; it was ultimate of shame in Roman times. Yet that Christ would use this means to raise man to His level is a mystery, a very beautiful mystery. We should stand it awe of it, like any beauty.
As a resident in the “glory industry”, what does this mean for me? It means I’m going to work hard to create works of beauty - works that will draw people towards the truth. And even if my works aren’t public, if they’re beautiful they’ll still reveal God in more hidden way. I’m going to ignore the culture of celebrity, and stop seeking it for myself (not that I have paparazzi following me around or anything!). I will be mindful of what I am drawn to, and whether it’s popular and glorious, or is truly beautiful. Finally, remember what Fyodor Dostoyevsky said: “Beauty will save the world”. He was right. Just like the cross, it will save the world.
Mark Matthews is a graphic designer and animator working in Hollywood. Listen to his “What’s Good About Hollywood?” column once a month on the SLHour. Mark's "Glory and Beauty" column is part of our Easter 2014 edition of the SLHour. Listen to the full show here.