By Ron Halbrook
In Isaiah 5:20 the prophet of God thundered against the perversion and perverts of his day,
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Such men pile sin upon sin, perversion upon perversion, and struggle to drag this ever increasing load of ungodliness through life as an overloaded wagon. It is pulled by cords of falsehood, to which they have harnessed themselves (v. 18). They defy God to do anything about it, laughing at the threat of his judgment (v. 19). No one can rebuke or restrain them because they “are wise in their own eyes” (v. 21). Their moral vision is dimmed not only by arrogance and conceit but also by intoxicating drink (v. 22). They “justify the wicked” and “take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! ” (v., NAS 23) God said their root and their blossom would rot, and be consumed “as the fire devoureth the stubble” (v. 24).
Those who call evil good in our time proclaim sexual perversion and pornography as “art.” Robert Mapplethorpe was a photographer and a homosexual who died of AIDS at 42 in March 1989. A collection of his photographs has toured America with the help of tax money from the National Endowment for the Arts. It appeared at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio in the Spring of 1990. On 7 April the arts center and its director were charged with pandering obscenity and displaying children in “nudity-oriented material.”
In addition to harmless pictures, there were male and female nudes and homoerotic images. Two portraits of children display their exposed genitals. Five photos involve sadomasochism (seeking pleasure by inflicting pain on oneself or others). One of these is a self-portrait of Mapplethorpe with a bullwhip in his rectum. Another shows two men with one urinating into the mouth of the other. Three additional obscene pictures similarly explore Mapplethorpe’s homosexual perversion. These seven were the basis of the court case.
“Jury acquits art museum in obscenity case,” even though “. . . They were gross,”‘ read two headlines in the Houston (TX) Chronicle (6 Oct. 1990, p. 1A and 7 Oct., p. 6A). On Friday, 5 October 1990, the jury returned “not guilty” verdicts. Jurors who admitted the homoerotic Pictures projected a lascivious or “prurient interest in sex and depicted sexual conduct in a patently offensive way” decided the pictures were legally protected by their “artistic value”
(7 Oct., p. 6A). Ann Tucker of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts agreed that Mapplethorpe’s homosexual and sadistic pictures are “legitimate subjects for art if done by an artist in an artful way.” The artist must express his “thoughts and feelings and experiences,” she said, and, “If it’s art, it’s not obscene” (“MFA reacts to victory in Cincinnati,” Houston Chronicle, 6 Oct. 1990, p. 18A).
This is all very enlightening! it turns morals into semantics. Hocus-pocus, evil is art and if it’s art, it’s not evil. Now you see evil, now you don’t – it’s “art.” What if an artist’s “thoughts and feelings and experiences” lead him to cut off parts of his body or the body of another person? Let him record the images on film and circulate the photo collection with the help of tax money. “If it’s art, it’s not mutilation.” Rape? Put it on film, circulate the pictures, and, “Presto! If it’s art, it’s not rape.” See it? Get it? “If it’s art, it’s not murder.”
Talk about a new morality, this could eliminate all crime! If a choreographer waltzes into a bank and robs it, it’s not robbery, it’s art. The pictures are not evidence of a crime, they are a collection of images of the robbers, er, I mean, artists’ “thoughts and feelings and experiences.” Another show can go on the road with tax money. Actually, every U.S. Post Office displays the pictures of such artist’s faces at government expense, so why not display photos of their “work” too? Think of it: every post office can be a cultural center of art!
Prisons need culture, too. How else can inmates be rehabilitated? Art collections depicting bank robbery, rape, and murder will be v-er-y popular and educational. Prison overcrowding will be solved – prisons will soon be empty. Criminals will become “artists” who record their “thoughts and feelings and experiences” on film. To interfere with the recording and displaying of their “work” would be “censorship.” (If some Bible-thumper retorts, “If it’s art, it’s not censorship,” tell him to sit down and shut up before he gets us all confused. We can solve all the world’s problems in the name of “art” if we can keep the Bible out of it.) Culturally deprived policemen may try to arrest some poor artist at work, but the criminal, er, I mean, artist will be instructed by the National Endowment for the Arts to recite his rights in the creed of fine arts, “If it’s art, it’s not a crime.” All activities from the work of petty thieves (er, budding artists) stealing hub caps to the work of professionals running drug cartels are “legitimate subjects for art if done by an artist in an artful way.” The con artist was just ahead of his times!
Preachers Part of the Problem
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20).
The text well describes the spirit of our age. In our overrefinements we arc losing the sternness of the truth, carefully polishing off every edge and point and corner that might prick conscience into activity. We are toning down moral distinctions until they are becoming quite confused and indistinct; we can hardly tell for certain what is right and what is wrong, what is evil and what is good (Pulpit Commentary on Isaiah, 1:102).
When a jury made up mostly of church members can attach artistic value and legal protection to homoerotic and sadistic photos, our nation has lost its moral bearings and sense of moral outrage. We are puffed up with vain pride and empty falsehood when we get too refined to call evil by its real name. Its real name is not art!
What are churches teaching when so-called religious people will compromise truth and right in the face of the vilest immoralities and criminal acts? The people of America have been fed the moral pablum of situation ethics until “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint” (Isa. 1:5). Preachers have been accentuating the positive until they really have eliminated the negative – not eliminated sin and evil from the lives of people, but eliminated the ability of people to recognize sin and evil. If babies can be murdered in the name of “a woman’s choice,” certainly children can be used and abused as the subjects of erotic photography in the name of “art.” If churches can compromise on abortion, church members can compromise on pornography. If some churches can view homosexual preachers as acceptable though not ideal, some church members can view homosexual pictures as acceptable though not ideal.
As preaching has drifted further and further from the Bible, so the people who hear such preaching have drifted further and further from the Bible. The only solution is to go back to the Bible as the final and absolute revelation of God’s will, and as the final and absolute standard of right and wrong. Scriptural marriage is honorable and right (Heb. 13:4; Matt. 19:9). God allows one man to one woman in marriage for a lifetime, the only exception being that an innocent partner may put away a fornicator and marry another. All marriages in violation of this principle are adulterous and sinful. This is the very same principle which condernns homosexual practices as immoral and sinful. The same Bible which prohibits homosexuality prohibits adulterous marriages. Sodom was the cultural capital for artists and museums which depicted homosexuality and sadism. God destroyed the city with “brimstone and fire” and recorded it as a reminder of his wrath against such perversion (Gen. 19:24-28; Jude 7).
Practicing or tolerating homosexuality is characteristic of men and women who turn awary from God and reject his truth (Rom. 1:18-32). Professing God or religion does not change this reality. Nations which profess God but become engulfed in perversion decay and fail. “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). More serious than the fall of a nation is the eternal torment of hell which awaits those who live and die in sin (Matt. 25:46).
The simple truth is that preachers are not preaching the simple truth. In Jeremiah’s time, wickedness filled the land because the prophets and the priests lied to the people about their sins, saying, “Peace, peace; when there is no preace.” People became blind to their sins and “were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush.” When Jeremiah cried out against their sins and begged the people to walk in “the old paths” of truth, they would not listen because they preferred the positive message of false teachers (Jer. 6:13-17).
People are confused and blinded today by a combination of loving their sins and loving their preachers who speak an uncertain sound and minimize sin. Men will not come to the truth of the gospel of Christ while their hearts are set on sin and on preachers who tickle their itching ears (Jn. 3:19-21; Matt. 6:22-23; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21-23). Just like not everything called art is true art, not everything called religion is true religion.
It is time to call evil evil, and good good. Let God be true. His Word is right. Rather than blurring the line between truth and error, we must diligently search God’s Word and take our stand for truth and right. The Bible settles what is right in matters of morality and in the realm of religion. The Bible is right when it calls sinners to believe in Christ, repent of every sin, confess Jesus as God’s Son, and be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 4, pp. 112-113
February 21, 1991