This past week I was in Bentonville, AR conducting a teacher in-service for Life Way Christian School. While my wife and I were there, we had the privilege to go through the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was a wonderful experience to tour this beautiful complex and see the amazing art collection.
Even though all of the works of art were fascinating, I was drawn to one particular painting that was done in the 1990s. This work was done by American painter, Mark Tansey. It’s title is simply Landscape – 1994. At first it seems like a piece that depicts a pile of rubble out in some sort of desert wasteland. However, on closer look one finds some very recognizable figures portrayed.
This pile of ruble include visages of Mayan kings, Egyptian pharaohs, the Sphinx, Roman emperors, and a host of other past world leaders. One can find likenesses of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and other leaders of past dictatorships included in this painting. I even recognized the faces of Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln and other leaders from US history.
As I stood and contemplated this unique painting, my mind went to several passages of scripture that reminded me that God has been and is in total control of human history. We are told that He raises up and tears down kingdoms. In the OT, we read how God used pagan rulers to accomplish His will as He dealt with Israel.
When we study human history, we see what happens when man thinks he is all wise and all powerful. Once leaders became powerful and built mighty empires, they thought that they were invincible. They did not have to depend on God because they believed that human knowledge and wisdom had allowed them to become so powerful. Human reasoning and power were the keys to success and world domination.
All of these political rulers eventually faced ruin and the painter suggests that in the end their human ingenuity and wisdom got them to the same place. They are all relics of bygone dynasties that are now on the pile of ruble found in annals of history.
I found myself asking why such men as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were also on the same rubble pile as those who denied God’s existence and thought they could rule the world. Then I realized that we are not guaranteed of God’s continued blessing just because many of our Founding Fathers believed in God and tried to live in line with His Word.
Our country will end up in the same place as these other past dynasties if we forget God and believe that human wisdom and ingenuity will lead us to success. This will be the eventual outcome if Christians continue to send their children into secular educational programs. This is because secular education denies the existence of God and teaches that human knowledge and reason is the only way to true success.
We must admit that we have become a secular society already. I believe that this is a direct result of decades of secular education that is based on self-realization, self-esteem and self-actualization. Man can become whatever he wants to be if he simply tries hard enough.
So when I consider this painting, I come away with some questions. Could this picture be prophetic in where the US will be in the near future? Will we go from being one of the world’s superpowers to one of little, if any, influence? What will we need to do if we want to avoid finding our society becoming simply a “relic” of a once powerful nation? What do you think? Share your ideas about this painting by leaving a comment below.