January 12, 2015
Nobody saw it.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself. It was the “cover wrap” on the Sunday morning paper this week – you know, those funny fold-around pages that are the prime real estate for print advertising – for the Orange County Register. Local papers now serve a niche readership: more old than young; more educated than not; more moneyed than struggling; more Anglo than diverse; that trims the audience…
And, Orange County, California has changed – just like your locale. According to the same daily paper’s report three weeks ago, our 3 million residents are not homogenous: 1 million were not born in America; 30% do not speak English at home. People who were all-over-the-map are now next-door-neighbors, and “public opinion” is more likely to expose a difference of opinion.
I always ditch the cover wrap first, like the peel off a banana. But the ad headline caught my eye and froze my hand: “The Arts Connect Heaven & Earth.” Beneath the headline: “It actually has a bigger purpose! Many cultures have been hurt, drastically. We’re in trouble – all over the world – and we need to bring back ethics and values and allow people to flourish and prosper in a way that really should be. It’s what the world needs to save itself and the people, and I’m very happy that Shen Yun is keeping that alive. It’s more than just dance and music.”
The photos, captions, endorsements and texts are compelling. Phrases like “Experience Heavenly Realms,” “A gift from heaven,” and “If people watch this production, their inner souls will be purified” let you know that this is not just an ad for a Rolling Stones Reunion Tour gig. Just what is Shen Yun?
According to their website, “Shen Yun Performing Arts, formerly known as Divine Performing Arts, is a performing-arts and entertainment company based in New York. It performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance, and story-based dance, with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. The Shen Yun website translates the phrase shen yun as "the beauty of divine beings dancing." Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by practitioners of Falun Gong, the Chinese religion with roots in Taoism and Buddhism.
Thirty years ago, advertising for a Billy Graham Crusade could have carried some of the same promises… while saying, “All Seats are Free!” Shen Yun’s ad sends you to the website to buy your tickets: seats run from $60 to $180 (depending on how close you’d like to be to heaven, I guess).
The Arts Connect Heaven & Earth. That’s an intriguing declaration: can song and dance close the gap between heaven and earth? (slang definition of song and dance: an excessively elaborate effort intended to deceive or mislead).
The Lord Jesus had a lot to say about heaven. His classic declaration about himself: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” (John 3:13)
Jesus’ advance spokesman – John the Baptist – followed that up with even more description: “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:13, 31-36)
Nothing sells like Heaven… but you have to be careful about counterfeits. If only One Man ever came from there to here – and, back again – His perspective may be the only valid information available.
Heaven: Jesus bought all the tickets, and now offers them for free… to anyone who will accept His terms of surrender.