Scriabin and Starbucks

Alexander Scriabin. Russian Composer, 1872-1915Along with Bach and Schumann, Scriabin is one of my favorite composers. His piano work are full of colors and sensuality.

But Scriabin is not just known for his unique musicality. He is also famous for believing himself to be God (or a being greater than God). He once tried to walk on water on Lake Geneva as Jesus did. Some say it was a result of his mental illness; some think it was a result of his obsession with mystic cults.

But so what? Rene Magritte wrote, “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.”. Much of Scriabin’s piano work have only sucessfully revealed more of the splendid mystery of the Lord to me.

But, I did once wonder if I would be disapproved by some Christians for playing Scriabin. I know it may seem ridiculous on the surface, but with the logic practiced by the Starbucks (or other companies)-boycotting Christians, it makes perfect sense, unless there is, as usual, a double standard. I really hate to use this example because it brings out the worst (intentions) of believers. In the words of Russell Moore:

“It’s just that, in this case (and in many like it) a boycott exposes us to all of our worst tendencies. Christians are tempted, again and again, to fight like the devil to please the Lord. ” -Russell Moore

The mindset is simply, because Starbucks supports LGBT marriage, which has been defined as a sin or an sin-affirming act, “biblical” Christians should boycott Starbucks. Unfortunately, this mindset does not at all express the Lord Jesus Christ, but points to the idiocy of hypocrisy and legalism. While the matter of LGBT marriage is another big debate that has divided Christians, let’s suppose we all view homosexuality as a sin for the purpose of this post. Does holding this view mean I have to boycott Starbucks?

Well, following the same logic, I probably have to give up shopping at most stores because the majority of people, myself included, are sinning or affirming sin everyday, according to Paul’s numerous lists of sin, the most common ones being premarital sex, gossip, greed, etc.

And, following the same logic, I probably have to give up learning and performing Scriabin’s music because of his extreme idolatry. He basically violated the first three OT commandments. Does it mean I have to loathe him and his work? Does it mean I have to stop performing his work? Does it mean you have to stop listening to his work? Does it mean the Lord cannot use His music to touch people?

In the universal Body of Christ, members commit gossip, greed, drunkenness, and sexuality immorality everyday. Does it mean I have to boycott greeting one another in grace? (I do not intend to get myself involved into the topic of “excommunication” here).

In my neighborhood, my neighbors commit gossip, greed, drunkenness, and sexuality immorality everyday, and they affirm a different set of values other than I do. Does it mean I have to boycott loving them as myself?

You can always get healed through the hand of a doctor who has a different faith from yours. You can always adore beauty of nature even more through the work of a photographer who has a different faith from yours. You can always learn from a teacher who has a different faith from yours. Your body can always get nourished by the coffee and pastry from Starbucks or other similar companies. God manifests Himself in every way and is not limited to who, when, or where. “Boycotting” a group or a person cannot be further away from the truth revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, for it forsakes compassion and communication, friendship and fellowship, humility and hospitality. It is ultimately, an act of the devil, no matter how “righteous” your motive seems.  Again, in the words of Moore, it is “to fight like the devil to please the Lord”.

Finally, music is certainly one of the most powerful mediums that the Lord has used to reveal His mystery to mankin. Because art is just a medium. Because artists are just vessels. When I see a beautiful Chinese ceramic antique that was once offered to a king in whatever dynasty, I can still admire its beautiful colors and shapes to appreciate His, not men’s, greatness without condemnation in the same way I can eat freely food sacrificed to idols to sustain my physical body (1 Cor 8).

But of course, when artists or lovers of arts begin to worship themselves as the “divine creators” instead of “image-bearers”, that’s another story. In the word of Francis Schaffer, “God’s creation and mine differ, of course. God can create out of nothing, by fiat. I cannot, because only He is infinite. In creation, He is limited only by His own character. I am limited not only by my character but also by my finiteness. When I create, I bring forth in the external universe that He has created”.

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