Why Vincent Van Gogh Should Be Studied in Sunday School and Religious Studies
I recently read a piece on Van Gogh’s relationship with God. The link is at the very bottom and I highly recommend you read it! Below are my thoughts after reading it myself:
This piece reminded me of when I went to Passion City Church. I received a message that I have since been relieved to hear: that you don’t need a clerical title or to work for a religious organization to work in the name of God. Naturally, after attending a Methodist affiliated college, I have made several friends that were religion majors and are currently youth leaders, missionaries, etc. Wanting to pursue God myself, I was often concerned that my desire to work with art and music would make me a lesser being in the eye of God; that I could not properly “prove” my devotion to God with a career that was not involved in religion. Ironically, I’m currently working for a religious organization, but this may not always be the case.
This article shows that this struggle of loving God and loving you work is not only common, but is an ancient issue, one that even Vincent Van Gogh faced. I, like Van Gogh, thought about a clerical career, but I too am a terrible public speaker, and I don’t have the patience or energy of a youth pastor. Luckily, in this day and age I am not shunned for being unfit for those jobs like Van Gogh was by his family. I did not come from a line of pastors, but I am the only one in my family that has pursued a career in the arts. In that sense, Van Gogh and I have had similar struggles.
Van Gogh, however, will always have something that neither I nor anyone else may ever find: a genuine artistic site of God. It’s almost eerie when you think about it, especially after reading this article. I picture the world through his eyes as a world of extremes. Extreme light. Extreme darkness. The site of evil and bitterness, but also beauty through color. It was God-given.
When he hit his low point, at the hospital, experiencing seizures, when he painted Starry Night (the famous one), everyone thought he was insane. Imagine seeing the good the bad and the ugly of the world through vibrant color. Simply envisioning one’s surroundings in that intensity could send one into an epileptic state.
Van Gogh is a hidden prophet in art history. Perhaps he saw the world as God himself does, something that could drive any earth dwelling species to insanity.
Read the section An Eye For God again. He wanted his work to have the halo effect past artists achieved, but he wasn’t known to paint Jesus or Biblical scenes. He painted every-day sites, through abstract eyes, sites that every person sees. He wanted to speak, or dare say preach, to the typical soul.
The article concludes with a popularly sore subject among Christians. Even the Bible asks us to be open, but many Christians and other religions have a habit of closing their hearts to new and different things. While we have improved since the era of Vincent Van Gogh (a time where his inability to express his faith to the people resulted in his suicide) our idea of faith is often classified as simply going to church.
We have to accept that God receives everyone in every occupation. Vincent Van Gogh is not a biblical character, but he is a vibrant prophet that should be studied in religious courses and Sunday schools. He represents a creative outlook on how to preach to the world without adding “Reverend” to one’s name.