Friday, April 1, 2016

The Life Cube Project, a burnt offering to a false god

Perhaps you've been invited to this event in downtown Las Vegas this weekend. Or at least you've heard about it on the news, seen it on Facebook or read about it in a local magazine. This is the second year it's taken place in Vegas (last time was in 2014) and as I think about it more and more, I can't help but want to address the worship of false gods in our culture, in our nation and in this city in particular. I know, it sounds like something coming straight out of left field, especially for this blog. But I can't help but not tackle this one. And that's because the Life Cube Project is the epitome of idol worship.

Here's why.

I get it. It sounds innocuous enough. It sounds beautiful and creative and like something the community can gather together around and agree on, especially in such a tumultuous time. Art, right? We can all agree that creativity and art and music are good things. We can all agree that they are beneficial to us and to our children. And I would say absolutely they are. After all, God, the Creator, gave us creativity. He designed us to be creative. At our core we are made to create and to work and to design because we are all made in His likeness and He is Creator. He gave us art and music and they are lovely. And along with that, He gave us the ability to dream and set goals and seek opportunities and work hard for those things.

But there is a major difference between what the Life Cube Project would have us do with those things and what God calls us to do.

So I guess before we look at what scripture would say about this seemingly innocent display of art and creativity, I should explain a little bit about what it is. I know there are many of you who probably haven't heard much, if anything about it. But as it gains popularity I feel the need to educate. Not only because it's happening at the center of our city, or because it's been so popular, but also because the creator of it and his team has been involving our schools, our children, in the project.

Here is what the creator posted about the preparation of the project 2 years ago:

"Last week we spoke to 440 students at a local elementary school and it was a magical moment.  Because of the impact it had on the kids, I have been asked to speak to another 1000 kids at various schools around town. We are also gifting cubes to schools, and meeting with as many students as possible to share the story of the project." source.

And on KNPR last week in an interview, Scott Cohen, the founder of the Life Cube Project, noted that for this year's project they have already passed 200 smaller life cubes out to 40 different schools and spoken to 15,000 children about participating.

That's concerning to me.

So what is the Life Cube Project? In a nutshell, it's a project, a piece of installation art, that this guy Scott Cohen developed, where a 3 story structure is erected in downtown Las Vegas. He has invited everyone and anyone to come and cover said structure in art of any kind over the course of a couple weeks. He also specifically encourages people to write their dreams and goals down on what he calls a "wish stick" and put it into the giant cube.

Then, on April 2 (this Saturday), they will set the entire thing on fire. All of the art, the poetry, the paintings and drawings, and all of the hopes and dreams and goals and wishes of the participants will go up in smoke, or as Cohen says, "go up into the universe" in an act that he describes as both spiritual and magical.

Sounds pretty weird, right? Or cool, I guess. Or, whatever.

But to me, it sounds like a burnt offering.

I mean, consider the language they use to describe the event. In a letter to his volunteers, Cohen writes, "Please plan to stop by and fill out a wish stick with your wishes, hopes, dreams or aspirations. They will be celebrated and sent to the universe in a fiery ceremony." Did you catch that? A fiery ceremony.

Not to mention all of the activities that have been offered and affiliated with the project since it has been open to the public, like sunrise yoga (yes, as a Christian I have issues with yoga, but that discussion is for another time and place), drum circles, Om chants, firedancing, chanting and praying (to whom I have no idea) and half naked entertainment. Sounds to me like the description of the Israelites worshiping a golden calf and engaging in orgies and drunkenness while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Law from God.

Which brings me back to what I was saying initially. There is a major difference between what the Life Cube Project would have us do with our creativity, with art and music, with our goals and aspirations and what God calls us to do. And it's the reason why I submit that no single Christian should have anything to do with this project, no matter how cool it may seem.

Romans 1:21-23 says, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." (emphasis mine).

In other words, man has a tendency to exchange the glory of God for idols, whether things we've created with our own hands or other things that we place as higher than God in our lives. It's what the Romans did then and it's exactly what we still do today. Idol worship these days isn't as blatant as offering burnt sacrifices before a carved statue, but if there is anything that remotely resembles that, I have to say, it's the Life Cube Project.

To worship anything or anyone other than God Himself, the Maker of art, the Maker of ideas and dreams and goals and passions, The Artist, The Designer, is pure idol worship. And we should never be involved in the worship of any part of creation.

And if we can take it a step further, consider that the Life Cube Project would have you lay all of those things down to be burned, as a burnt offering, to be "released into the universe" as some display of "magic" before a false god. Which one? Take your pick. It doesn't really matter. Sounds to me, though, that it's "the universe." The point is, it's a direct violation of both the first and second commandments:

"You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:3-6
We are to worship God alone and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God alone. All of that talent, that art, our creativity, our hopes and dreams, our goals and our aspirations, our work, our ability to design, it's for His glory alone. Not our's. Not anyone else's. And certainly it's not to be offered up to the universe. God alone deserves all the glory and honor and praise.

And as the creator of this project says himself, the act of burning these art displays, these dreams and these aspirations, watching them go up into the universe, is a "powerful" and "spiritual" thing. The underlying meaning of this whole project, whether we want to admit it or not, is spiritual and worshipful. There's no denying that.

As my husband said in a recent conversation we were having about on this topic, "What's next? Burning babies as a sacrifice to this god, also known as the universe? Oh wait, they've basically already been doing that in Oregon."

Or what about temples being erected for Baal? Yup, that's happening too, in New York City.


3 comments:

  1. Definitely. A co-worker mentioned this to me. Instantly creepy. Reminds me of Burning Man, which is even more blatant with the dancing/praising/orgy part.

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  2. An interesting post. Since I do not know you, and do not think we have met, please allow me to introduce myself - I am the Scott Cohen you are writing about, and did create the Life Cube Project. The founding principal of this art installation is to get people to write down their goals, dreams, wishes, and aspirations. To try and write down what you want to accomplish in your life. I've been doing this since I was a teenager, and believe that it can have a positive impact on people's lives. I grew up in the 60s in the middle of the riots, in a lower middle income household, and less than good circumstances. It has been a long journey, but I do believe that writing down what I wanted to accomplish in my life made a difference. There is a second mission to what we have created - and that's to involve as many people in the community as possible -- this includes the homeless, the rich, the poor, the kids, the artists, burners, church-goers, people from all walks of life. We have had people from the neighborhood church join us well. We welcome all to come play, create, and enjoy. We offer nothing for sale, nothing to buy. There are no commercial messages or brands affiliated with the Life Cube.

    The first thing to clarify is that yes, I spoke at a lot of schools, and one of the most often asked questions is "why do you burn it". I offer 3 reasons: 1) This is an end to the installation. I would like to eventually go home, and burning the installation does offer a finality; 2) that I think (emphasis on my belief) is that there is a spiritual aspect to seeing all the goals and dreams of the community that participated go up to the universe; and 3) it is really fun.

    Second, there's no naked dancing -- at least not that I have seen. No worship, no sacrifices. We offer the community a place to come together and create - paint, play music, dance, sing, read poetry, write, draw, yoga, drum, or just watch artists paint fabulous murals and write down their goals and dreams. So while I may find it spiritual, I do not worship the Life Cube and do not expect others to either.

    I am also baffled by your issue with the term "fiery ceremony". The definition of this word includes: "a formal act or event that is a part of a social or religious occasion". This is a social occasion. It is not and never been a religious endeavor.

    With regard to your husband's comments about burning babies, Ido not even know what to say. This is a fun family friendly event. 100s of kids have been inspired to write down what they want to accomplish in their life. Many have painted tapestries on artist canvas to express themselves. I explain that as their space in the universe too.

    Wishing you peace and joy in your life. I hope that you find it in your heart to accept that other people celebrate things in different ways, and we welcome you and any of your friends or followers to come join us.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Scott. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my post. My intention for this post was to address Christians who were considering participating in the Life Cube Project, no one else. On this blog, I often address things going on in our culture from a biblical perspective and challenge my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to consider their participation in those things based on what the Bible says.

      I have absolutely no issue with writing down goals and dreams and aspirations. I do it often. I'm a goal setter and a list maker myself. But as I say in this post, as a Christian, I am to offer those things up to God and to Him alone. I am leery of any act that would counter that call. Also, I completely respect your intention in creating this project and wanting to bring the community together (as I mention at the beginning of the post, I admire the effort in doing so!), and especially your desire to encourage creativity and goal setting. I think those are all wonderful things, innate in all of us, placed there by the Creator God. But again, there are aspects of it that make it something that Christians, based on scripture, should not partake in.

      Simply put, I (and fellow Christians) are called to not to take part in worldly things. I reference several examples like fire dancing, Om chanting, and yoga. All of which are of Eastern religious origin. I link to either articles or photographs of all the activities I mention including the “half-naked entertainment”- again something that Christians are to have no part of. Burning hopes and dreams and releasing them into the universe as a spiritual act also fall into the category of worldly activities.

      Lastly, the comment about burning babies was my sarcasm in addressing the report of Oregon waste facilities burning the remains of aborted babies. It’s in reference to the cultures who used to burn babies as an offering to Baal. I was in no way asserting that your project would ever partake in such a horrific act. Only that our culture is already partaking in such acts without us even realizing the full gravity of it.

      Ultimately what this comes down to is two different worldviews. I did not write this piece in judgement of your worldview, but simply to challenge fellow Christians to be sure they are living their lives according to the truth of scripture and viewing what they partake in through that same worldview.

      Again, I appreciate your comments and your time. To reiterate, this post was addressed to Christians and I hope that brings some clarity to what I wrote.

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