Human Dignity is Core to Our Humanity

Respect – why is it a necessary social value and what does it have to do with creativity? We especially recognize how essential respect is when someone treats us disrespectfully. Consider how fundamental respect is. Someone can’t say he/she loves you and yet treats you disrespectfully. While love and respect are not the same things, respect qualifies the authenticity of love. Can you imagine someone telling you he/she loves you but belittles or demeans you, making you feel like you are not worth much? Disrespect makes love suspect. On the other hand, you can still respect someone you don’t love or like. You can rightly say, “I don’t like you, but I respect you.” Opponents can disagree and dislike each other but still respect each other. This illustrates respect is a core social value. Respect is a core value because it is rooted in a core property of our humanness – dignity.

Humans were designed to have inherent dignity as image-bearers. In the practice of making things, made-objects will by the least bear the skills of its maker. On another level, made-objects will bear the thoughts, ideas, and visions of its maker to varying degrees. On the most personal level, if an object is made to be a direct reflection of its maker, like a self-portrait, it bears a unique honor by possessing characteristics of the maker and representing the personhood of the maker. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God chose humans to be his self-representation. Using himself as the model and paradigm for our design, he poured himself into humans to bear resemblances of his attributes, being a representation of his character and glory. Our dignity is connected to the personhood of God. People weren’t just made with skill and vision. People were made in the image of God. We, therefore, have an image-based dignity, not a dignity based on merits, credits or societal comments. Image-based dignity is grounded not on our achievements but in God himself. That makes our human dignity sacred, and it should not be violated. Since our human dignity is founded in our design, our dignity is inherent. We are born with dignity. Human dignity should be assumed in every person, from the chief operating officer to the homeless person. A person passing me on the street does not have to earn a base level of respect from me. A person deserves my respect simply for being human, because we are both image-bearers of God. Respect is a core social value because our human dignity is inherent.

Who likes being disrespected? When we’re disrespected, we sense a property that is true and precious in the core of our being has been denied. Extreme disrespect becomes more clearly an act of dehumanization. To see my human dignity as something less than yours is to make me sub-human. To deny my dignity is to deny my humanity. Racism denies human dignity. Slavery denies human dignity. Abuse denies human dignity. These injustices attack our image-based dignity, attacking the image of God we possess. Human dignity is a reason for social justice.

On the positive side, when respect, honor, praise, courtesy, and regard are given to one another, we edify each other’s beauty, worth and importance. A wonder of our humanity is in God’s original creativity we were forged in his image to bear dignity.

To dig deeper into the theme of “Human Dignity,” visit Creativity Catalyst at http://www.creativitycatalyst.la

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Beauty This Christmas

The Christmas season is a time that’s both celebratory and somber for many, as we celebrate hope and joy and close the year, like ending a chapter.  We tend to wonder about the worth of the past year and feel the excitement and intimidation of being at the threshold of another new year.  I find there’s one thing we desire to be the sum of ourselves through the journeys we travel — that is to achieve beauty.  Beauty, however, is more than a superficial covering, but a triumph over the broken, meaningless, hopeless, and regretful.  This is beauty marked by truth, the good, wholeness, and dignity, under the rich classical notion.  This beauty is fought for by ourselves and, at the same time, bestowed on us by those who treat us with love and respect.  To fight for beauty in ourselves, in our lives, and in our journey, we need the fierce courage to create beauty in our lives and the humility to find and receive beauty from others.  So as we come to the closure of a year with a celebration of joy, hope, and peace, I invite us to capture the beauty that was gained this year.  Do something this Christmas that makes you more beautiful.  Relish in the beauties of this year.  Marinate in the company of those who nurture greater beauty in you.  Above all, wherever your path has been as you arrive to the conclusion of 2016, allow this Christmas to remind you that you are far more loved than you could possibly imagine by a creative God who has envisioned a beautiful life for you.

Creative Urge: I Gotta Do It

Ideas float through our minds like an autumn breeze carrying colored leaves. Inspirations revisit our thoughts, stirring our imaginations to feats of wonder. We move on with our daily functions, taking care of practical needs, but we ponder over the ideas again. Though we forget about them during the humdrum of our routines, we’re aware of the ideas sitting in the recess of our minds. Whenever they visit us in our daydreams, we sense the urge to embark on the ideas that have taken residence in us.

The urge is a natural compulsion towards creativity – to paint that painting, write that story, make that craft, learn that instrument, design that invention, build that construction, or test that recipe. The idea calls to us because ideas desire to go from conceptualization to birth, to be giving life by manifestation into tangibility. The idea does not want to remain invisible and aware to the world. It wants to have form and function, where it can be seen, heard, touched, used, and experienced by others, including yourself. The urge comes from our God-given calling to creativity (Gen. 1:25, 2:15). The urge does not come from a fluke or superficial part of us. It comes from a core part of our identity that stems from the very design of who we are by God’s intention. God went from ideation to creation in the invention of the world. As image-creatures of the Creator, the creative call renders us unsatisfied with remaining in ideation. An urge moves us toward creation.

I encourage us to create. If our ideas will promote the good, making someone’s day a bit more fruitful, adding a little more effectiveness to someone’s productivity, simply giving a measure of joy and peace in someone’s heart, or illuminate a view of God’s character and gospel, you ought to satisfy that creative urge. It will require commitment, application, and investment. These are necessary to satisfy the urge. You may procrastinate. You may get lost in the pragmatics of life with bills and taking out the trash. You may distract yourself with mindless activities because you tell yourself you need to relax. But the creative urge will revisit you, begging for birth. You will keep hearing yourself saying, “I gotta do it,” until it is done.

Call For Creativity in the Present Destruction

The recent 7 deaths got me thinking about creativity as it pertains to righteousness. The good is the intimate outcome of creativity. When the good is devoid of righteousness, which is inseparably related to justice, the good is compromised. The good may still be there but compromised in its realization. The final consummation of the good is still not fully in our grasp. As Creativity Catalyst seeks to bring about the good of human flourishing as intended by God when he called us to be His stewards of the earth as His image-bearers, the specific aspect of righteousness in society has to be addressed in light of society’s brokenness. Creativity has to speak about righteousness, justice, mercy, and moral goodness into the destructive forces charged by fear, anger, insecurity, and hatred.

When I read about the Dallas sniper who shot 5 officers who did him no harm but they were shot because they were of a certain profile that fit his overall paradigm of hate, I’m gripped by the seething brokenness embedded in our society. Then when I read that he served our country as a veteran and in the Army Reserve, the murderous actions made even less sense to me. I thought about my father who, as an immigrant, served in the Armed Forces for over 20 years for the protection of our country. And here we have a fellow military service personnel waged war on other officers in uniform who were also sworn to protect people.

Our nation has been shaken to reconsider the state it is in. Technology and medicine advances, but souls are still in dire desperation and seeps into societal rampage. If we are to be creative – truly creative, we have to create works that presses forward towards goodness in the real context of present destruction. But the destruction is far from simplistic. It’s complicated and muddy. There’s a lot to be sorted through. A lot to be understood.  The creative process has to knead through the messiness of brokenness that motivates wrongful actions as well as to inspire redemption of our society.

So I call on my fellow Creativity Catalyst team to be creative in speaking into the present darkness. Draw drawings, paint paintings, write poems, shoot a series of photographs, make 30-second videos, compose a song, or video record a jogging journey that speaks about righteousness, explores brokenness, and grasps for goodness. Come up with something medically related, an educational component, or a business product that creatively addresses the social ills reflected in the specific destructive incidences. Let our creativity be a voice that speaks into the darkness and illuminates light. I’m calling us to create something by August 15 that we can share. Our creativity begins in silence, is formed in the studio, and then is voiced in society. So that, we might press forward toward the good.