It’s easy to believe we live in a “post-Christian” world. People aren’t tied down by Scripture strictures the way they used to be. Sunday mornings are free for lots of people. We don’t spend our time hunting for heretics. One thing that might not be obvious, however, is that our underlying culture is deeply Christian. Beyond mere assumptions, this goes down to the very presuppositions of the way we think. While society might not be overtly Christian, it remains so at a deeper level. I’m reminded of this when I’m out and about (which is starting to happen again) and able to hear, or overhear, people talk.
Grounds for Sculpture is a whimsical, fun space to visit in New Jersey. It consists of acres and acres of a former fair grounds with sculptures of many different kinds scattered along the shore of a small lake on one end and a busy road on the other. Many of the statues were designed by Seward Johnson, showing people in a wide variety of activities. Since the displays change over time multiple visits are rewarded with new insights and displays. It seems to be a popular place since pandemic restrictions have started to lift. So much so that the usual seclusion that is part of the charm of a visit is somewhat stifled. In a typical art gallery, the visitor has some space to reflect and contemplate. The sheer number of visitors leads to a “wild animal in Yellowstone” situation where, if a creature dares appear, it’s immediately swamped by city-dwelling humans who’ve never seen a bear in the wild before. This leads to some interesting overhearing.
One of the sculptures I don’t recall having seen before is “Mystical Treasure Trip.” It is a fantasy scene in which a couple, attired in what could be biblical garb, is sailing across the water in a boat filled with gold. Perhaps it’s the dress of the characters. They look like Mary and Joseph, perhaps fleeing from Herod, but with a boat full of gold. Overhearing others commenting on what they thought it was I heard “they’re going to the ark.” Admittedly, this is something I would never have come up with on my own. Noah, according to Genesis, was six centuries old at the time and was commanded to collect animals, not gold. Material for trading would’ve been pretty useless in a world devoid of other people. Still, when our imaginations stretch for the interpretation of something we don’t understand, often they reach for the Good Book. It’s its own kind of mystical trip, really.