Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Seeing too Much thats not there!

Written by: on November 5, 2015

Seeing too Much

November 5, 15

Reading this week is really not about seeing things in a different perspective to me its seeing things that are not there. I grew up going to a Catholic school full of images and relics and they did capture my attention. But culturally the Catholic Church did not have enough real cultural images that made any dents in who I was and where I was from. This book The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice can take one word out of the whole title and that would be theory. In the real world who is paying attention to idols? What idols? There are so many and some may even be in the church. David Morgan is probably an idealist or just a person who wants to write a book about something he is intrigued by. If he is in the middle of the battle all the imagery he would ever want to see is not that moving. For instance he says, “sacred gaze is the manner in which a way of seeing invest an image, a viewer, or an act of viewing with spiritual significance.”[1] Really? Who has time for that? I don’t want to sound pessimistic about art or the spiritual significance of an image but I am not going to worship something that looks like the Virgin Mary like some Catholics do. They will flock to a supposed appearance and image of Mary by the thousands and it’s not even anything spiritual to it. It’s just the way I see it. Now I love the beautiful things that God has put into the hearts of people to develop things that make you think because of what you see. As Morgan stated, “gaze designates the visual field that relates seer, seen, the conventions of seeing, and the physical, ritual, and historical context of seeing.”[2]

I never see religious images in things I do. I can’t see God so how could religious images mean anything but just images? I am a pastor reality of what I see is when I went to Hong Kong the mother of my church died. I talked to her the same day I went to Los Angeles to fly to Beijing. No pictures no images just what I got to do when I get back to California. I don’t want to sound like I don’t get Morgan’s drift but from a pastors eyes its not about images we face it is about reality and what we have to do too. Images can mean a lot to a person who is looking for them. I am not looking for any images. I am looking for reality and what it is. He may have experienced things I have not. One day I might be able to observe all of the spiritual significances and images that go with life. But now I am learning how to be a pastor. I don’t deal with images of spirituality or images of things that represent it. I deal with real images that are not visual all the time! Anybody who has that much time to pick flowers and right down how it looks are probably rich and detached! I would rather let them pick the flowers and then take them to the inner city and let them pass them out to people who are going through things! Smhh!

[1] David Morgan, The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 3.


[2] Ibid., 4.

About the Author

Travis Biglow

Pastor of Victory Empowerment Center. Regional Chaplain High Desert Regional Center Graduates Azusa Pacific University. Licensed General Contractor B. I am the married with one daughter, two grandsons and one step son.

10 responses to “Seeing too Much thats not there!”

  1. Nick Martineau says:

    Travis, Thanks for honestly sharing your thoughts! Towards the end of your post you said, “I am not looking for any images. I am looking for reality and what it is.” Great statement. So here’s my question for you. Have you seen the reality of God in anything outside of a person? Does the image of the cross stir anything in you? For me the cross is an image that points me to reality. While you might not be looking for any images I would tend to think there are images everyday that stir your feelings one way or another to the reality of who God is. I wonder what images you see that stir your affections for God?

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Hi Nick, i do see images that are spiritual in things but some are just symbolic. I love sacred artifacts, pictures, statues and art in all of its forms. We would not have such a beautiful array of churches without them. I may have came off to brash about it but my main point is that i don’t see everything spiritual as real until it proves real. I am not looking for an image I am looking for whats real and whats not. If an image does reflect the truth and proves real then that image has spiritual significance. Not the other way around.

  2. Mary Pandiani says:

    Travis – your willingness to put it out there forces me to consider what I really believe. Can you help me understand your statement to Nick: “I don’t see everything spiritual as real until it proves real” by giving me an example of one that became real and one that did not?
    I guess I have a Jesuit understanding of God’s presence: God is at work everywhere. So I’m trying to see the difference.

  3. Travis Biglow says:

    Mary, i think i said that wrong i mean i dont see every image as being spiritual unless it has real and true significance. How people see things are important but what the image represents has to be real or have a real truth behind it. For instance some symbolic things that are done never mean that the heart of people have changed after they have did something symbolic. And images are the same people paint pictures to use it sometimes as propaganda and there is no real truth behind the image that you see.

    • Brian Yost says:

      “For instance some symbolic things that are done never mean that the heart of people have changed after they have did something symbolic.”
      That is a powerful statement. It is easier to revere an image than to allow God to change the heart. We see this also in worship, Bible studies, etc. It may be a “moving experience”, but if it affects no inner change, we question the true spiritual value. As part of a tradition that uses altar calls, I see the same struggle. Coming to the altar (which is steeped in symbolism) can be for some a life changing moment. For others, it may just be part of the religious culture with no lasting fruit.

      • Travis Biglow says:

        You got it Brian, i agree. I want to see and experience spiritual things if they are present in images and paintings i just dont think that is where i am going to be looking or where i will necessarily will find them!

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Travis and others,
      This is a great discussion. It reminds me of the fact that Richard and I observe the world very differently and both worship in unique ways.

      I am a highly spiritual and introverted person – things that I observe speak deeply to me. My energy is drained when I spend too much time in social situations. I gain much spiritual insight and direction through quiet time in contemplation or meditation within surroundings that are beautiful to me. Sometimes I read, play music, or do something creative. I may be outside in nature or in my living room in front of the fireplace. Visual space or place is an important part of my worship experience. When I am in social places, I have difficulty tuning out the world to worship. Richard is much different. Space and visual images don’t matter to him. He is a very relational and socially driven person. So, words and relationships have been meaningful in his spiritual journey. He gains much insight from talking to people, watching, and listening to them. Sometimes I can look at a painting and see so much, and he can stare at it and see nothing.

      All this said, I agree that sometimes we can put idols or things over Christ. But, it is also important to understand that visual images are a way for some people to focus their thoughts on Christ, and to tune out the distractions of the world. I believe that images aren’t always bad, but the way that people worship them or interact with them can be. We must not let anything detract from our relationship with Christ. But, we must also leverage means through which we can better worship. For some, this is music and/or images. For others, it is through relationship and dialog with people.

      • Travis Biglow says:

        God bless you Dawnel for bring this out. And you are right because some people gain so much from things other people dont. Sometimes it is important to be able to let atmosphere and places give us a sense of solitude and allow us to reflect and to interact with mode. Contemplation is important in our spiritual walk and journey. I have come to a place in my prayer life where i am not doing all the talking anymore. I like to just be quiet more to hear from the Lord. It is so beautiful and tranquil to be able to listen to the Lord in quiet. I know that we are all different and we should respect each others way of seeing things and relating to things excellent point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Travis, I love the resistance you show to just simply buying into whatever an author is selling:). I think you bring your whole thinking self into the text and react in a real and raw way. I think from your responses to Nick and Mary that you are willing to learn and the reading impacts you and changes you, but that you are not easily swept into a new way or and alternative view, I think, is a strength you bring into LGP5. Again, I do think you change and grow as you go but it is that initial resistance I see in your posts that I appreciate as much as the transformation we all experience and see.

    • Travis Biglow says:

      Thank you Phil, i try to be honest. I love the learning experience it opens your mind to things. I also like the Wesleian Quadralateral that teaches us that we must use scripture, experience, reason and tradition! In this case experience is important. Thanks Phil

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