I read a lot, see a lot, possess an impressive (some would say annoying) mental stash of utterly useless but infallibly entertaining (at least to me) information, keep up on current events and generally feel very informed.
But upon hearing the news of Thomas Kinkade’s death April 6, I was floored to find out that this wildly popular artist whose serene, light-infused paintings seemed to have been around most of my adult life was a) a committed Christian believer, b) actually a couple years younger than me, c) a multimillionaire and d) an alcoholic who died after a night of hard drinking.
I had no idea; I couldn’t believe it.
Reaching further back in history, I was in journalism school (Franklin College, ’76) during the Nixon Watergate scandals. Back in the 1970s, Chuck Colson, a Christian leader who died April 21, was just another name on a long list of Watergate miscreants whose fierce pride, misplaced loyalties and blind political will helped animate one of our nation’s great, sclerotic meltdowns of cynicism, incivility and civic malfeasance that left a lasting taint on the public’s trust of politicians and journalists.
When Colson, in 1973 after being arrested, “got religion,” I didn’t believe it. And when, after seven months in prison for his Watergate shenanigans, Colson founded “Prison Fellowship Ministries,” I skeptically didn’t believe or trust that either.
Kinkade’s and Colson’s lives are both superlative examples of what lives in Christ can look like. How often those lives are not what we expect, nor easily accept.
Kinkade was a ’70s-vintage California hippie who found his faith in Christ while in art school. In his own words, he made it his life’s work “to portray a world without the fall.” It is a stinging irony that Kinkade could paint beautiful images of a world untainted by sin and corruption, while demons dragged him into a bottle. That makes a lot of people doubt God really exists, because “God wouldn’t do that” to Thomas Kinkade.
In Colson’s 35 years of committed Christian service, his worldwide prison ministry left a positive effect on thousands of the least and the lost. Further, Colson’s theological and intellectual depth made him a leading, loving, lucid voice of Christian evangelism. Yet because of his Watergate woes, some think, “God wouldn’t want him.”
Cynics need to pay close attention to Kinkade and Colson. God’s glory shined through both of their imperfect lives thanks to a perfect redeemer in Jesus Christ.
That’s something you can believe.