by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
It looked so real, but there was something—something just slightly off. A field of flowers, row upon row stretching back to the horizon, drawing the eye to that tree on the horizon, its leaves and branches so sharply defined against the sky—surely too sharply defined. Was that tree really there, or did the photographer photoshop it into place using computer magic?
I used to be able to tell if a picture had been retouched, but these days photos can be altered so cleverly that it is difficult to tell whether what you are seeing reflects the true picture or is the result of manipulation of the elements in the design. A photograph is no longer indisputable evidence of what was actually present in the original situation. Fascinating, but a little scary! How does one know when to believe what he is seeing?
I am a big fan of special effects, the use of technology to create a credible illusion. The science of computer-generated imagery (CGI) is beyond amazing. Every year brings new advances in the artist’s ability to generate believable effects—even to make such images appear to leave the screen to interact with an audience. I am awestruck by (and a little envious of) the intelligent imagination and creativity behind such effects.
As much as we might admire special effects, there are many places where such deceptive practices are frowned upon. For example, the use of a photoshopped photo or altered video image as evidence in court, with the intent of deceiving the jury into believing something untrue, is not only unethical but illegal. Photoshopping the image of a person into a picture that would make him appear to be in a potentially embarrassing or degrading situation, or engaging in a criminal action, would almost certainly have adverse consequences—and quite possibly subject the artist to legal action.
Using deceptive imagery, picking and choosing the elements of a picture with the intent to deceive the viewer into believing something is true may have its place in the entertainment industry; it may even be admirable. It has its time and place. A ”photoshopped” profession of faith is a different matter entirely.
Spiritually, we need to be aware of the temptation to pick and choose those elements of life that we wish the world to see. It is natural to want others to consider us as exemplary Christian. We tend to feel a need to “retouch” the imperfections, to manipulate even the expression of our personal feelings and thoughts, to conform to the image of what is expected of a Christian. We try to present ourselves to the world as happy, satisfied and godly people whose every need has been met in Christ. And we weep at our own inadequacies.
A valid Christian testimony can never be achieved by trying to “photoshop” what people see in us, with the hope that they will never see us as we really are. People are not won to the Lord by seeing in us the image of what a good Christian ought to be. They are won through recognizing the reality of the image of Christ in us, the expression of his reality living in his man, his woman, his child.
It is a fact, though we would like to forget it: You, me, all of us—are human, flesh and blood, fallible, frail, subject to the pressures that surround us. Though we have sincerely given ourselves over to God, and experienced the joy of his salvation, we are not immune to the weaknesses, failures and disappointments of human existence. The triumph of the Christian experience is that even though we are human, and experience the pressures of human existence, we can be conquerors in Christ, and we can share that awareness with other lost and confused individuals looking for alleviation of their misery.
The image of Christ is not a photoshopped image, superimposed to hide the imperfections of our humanity; it is not a computer-generated image, created to make us believe what is not real. The image of Christ is a reality within, and can be seen only as we allow him to inform our hearts and minds with his truth. He loves us as we are, but we are being transformed in his image, moment-by-moment, day-by-day. As Christians, what we need to project is not the image of a saintly individual who does not appear to be subject to human frailty, but the unretouched reality of one whose interactions with life have been tempered and been given a clearer, more satisfying perspective through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.