What could Thomas Kinkade possibly have in common with Quentin Tarantino? Both of these artists are famous for portraying only one side of reality. Which means that both give us a deficient view of the world. Of course, artists can’t present every aspect of reality in every work, nor should they try to do so. Nevertheless, both of these men consistently give us a distorted picture of reality. One overemphasizes the dark and terrifying, the other overemphasizes the bright and cuddly.
Both are equally dangerous.
Grab your popcorn, dim the lights, and curl up on the couch with your date to watch Reservoir Dogs. Or Pulp Fiction. Or Kill Bill. Things aren’t going to stay romantic for long. These films are dark. They’re disturbing. They’re unsettling.
Tarantino is on to something. He sees something about the world truly. People are messed up. Things don’t go the way we want them to. All around the world, human beings are oppressed, tormented, washed up, burnt out. They crave relief. But just like a Tarantino film, no relief comes. The world has a dark side, and Tarantino captures the heart of it beautifully.
But if we only talk about evil, then we aren’t seeing life for what it really is. The shadows belong in the picture, yes, but the picture is more than shadows.
N. D. Wilson addresses the Tarantinos of the world with these hard words:
“Cute things exist, and they are objectively cute. The movie isn’t over. I’m sorry to tell you this, but the world will end happily. Sorrow goes down in a barrage of bullets, and Grief is executed after a fair trial.” (Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, 157)
Surely Kinkade’s painted worlds are better. Stroll through a Kinkade Gallery. Light erupts from every candle as though it were a splitting atom. Smoke artistically wafts from every stone chimney in every quaintly-crafted cottage, drawing our attention to the cozy, problem-free families within.
Kinkade, too, is on to something. He sees beauty in the world, and tries to capture it. He longs for an unstained world, and he finds it by putting oil to canvas. This world is a beautiful place. We read about light waves in science books, and yet there is still something about a sunset that can’t be communicated in an equation. Every day people experience comfort, acceptance, and warmth. We crave these things.
But if we only talk about the light and fluffy things in this world, then we aren’t seeing life for what it really is. The picture is full of light, yes, but light creates shadows.
Wilson warns the Kinkade lovers:
“The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.” (157)
Here’s the point. This world is an amazing place. But we don’t help things when we try to portray it as something other than it is. To be clear, we need to have hope, and the Bible does promise us a world where the lion lays down with the lamb. Equally so, evil is real, and we see the effects of darkness all around. Pretending that this world is all one or all the other is a mistake. Ultimately, the Light did not overcome the darkness by ignoring it, but by entering into it and taking it upon Himself. Our mission is to see this world as it truly is and to do something about it. The Light is working all around us, and He calls us into the work that He is doing.