From my journal: I am romanced by a comment attributed to Henri Matisse. "Artists," he said, "should have their tongues cut out." What could he mean? Perhaps he felt that the artist's message was to be communicated only by paint on canvas. Or perhaps he worried that artists were spending too much time explaining their work and that they should let the painting speak for itself. Maybe Matisse simply thought artists were blabbing too much in Parisian coffee-houses and that anything but painting was a misuse of time. Then again, Matisse may have been saying something else I'm not smart enough to discern.

Might we Christians consider Matisse's advice—that is, having our tongues cut out? While I can think of certain of my preaching friends who would die at this thought (my treasured friend, Tony Campolo, comes to mind, he thought smiling), there is a sublime merit to the idea.

The modern Christianity I know is far too wordy. We talk about what we should do and lash ourselves for what we're not doing. We talk about what we are doing and why we're doing it (or why we think we're doing it). And then, when it's all over, we talk about what we did and what significance we think it had. Oh, and we talk an awful lot about what the "the world" is or shouldn't be doing. I fear that I am a major donor to this palaver. These paragraphs may be exhibit A.

Much of this talking, I fear, seems to be bent on convincing ourselves that we (or our organizations) are significant or that what we are doing deserves other people's praise or, alternatively, their financial gifts. As I said, some of our talk seems targeted on those who have pursued other ways than ours. If we can highlight how bad, how different, how misguided they are, then we can ...

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