Monday, December 28, 2009
The Artists' Sermons
To most people this concept of being deprived of exposure to artistic works, and being middle aged, just doesn’t’ make sense. However, I was raised in the Bible belt where even the public schools had been greatly influenced by the notion that the fine arts have little value.
Then, about the time I was graduating, I became a firsthand fundamentalists. During my college and graduate school years, we were so Dualistic in our thinking that certainly fine art was so insignificant and unspiritual that it wasn’t even on our radar. If every art museum and library in the country burned to the ground we couldn’t have cared less. It would have been further proof that the second coming was at hand . . . something we all longed for.
To make a long story short, I never really started to include forms of fine art into my Christian world view until I “met” Francis Schaeffer (I use “met” in quotes because he had already died before I got involved with the group). Dr. Schaeffer was a lover of the fine arts, especially paintings. He taught me that no only can you be a good Christian and love the arts, but loving the arts was in some ways a prerequisite for being a good Christian.
Besides his emphasis on art in his books and films, during one of the very first LAbri meetings I attend in Rochester, Minnesota, we had a reading of the original Harry Potter book. At that same time, we were being told in our own church setting that Harry Potter was the next great attempt of Satan to steal the souls of our kids.
But since then, I’ve attended LAbri conferences on the visual, musical and literary arts. They taught me to love art for art’s sake. It doesn’t matter if the artist is a Christian or not, he or she still shares the same creator as we all do and that creator is just that . . . a creator.
I think I next started to appreciate the visual arts. My sister is an artist but I had taken her work seriously until then. Then I bought several coffee table picture books of art work. Now, whenever I visit a major city, rather than seeking out their sports stadiums, I seek out their fine art museums.
I’ve told this story before of how my kids introduced me to literary art just a year ago. I know it sounds crazy that I’ve lived so long, so deprived . . . but I fear that I’m not the only one.
Since my recent posting was about my personal feelings of sermon fatigure, I wanted to move on and talk about this other arena of sermons, out of the mouths, pens, and brushes of the artists.
Now, I’m not being totally humanistic here. I mean, just because it comes from the mind of the artist doesn’t mean that it is inherently good. Just like with the preacher from an Evangelical pulpit, you have to be discerning. There is music that uses hypnotic words telling you that you are ugly, worthless and should end your life. That can’t be healthy.
I remember Francis Schaeffer telling a story once about this very issue. I can’t remember if it was in one of his books, one of his films or one of the hundreds of lectures I’ve listened to. But in summary, he went to an art museum in Rotterdam, I think. It was either a museum devoted to modern abstract art or at least that was their major exhibition during his visit.
He made the comment, although there was not one written word in the museum—save the title of the works—and certainly no spoken words, by the time he was finished, there was a powerful message written on his soul. The message was simply, all is chaos. God is not there. Life has no meaning. As he exited the museum he commented that he personally felt far more vulnerable to sin than before he went in. He felt more open to lying, adultery or you name it.
So I am not attempting to glorify art for art’s glory. However, my dividing line between healthy art and unhealthy art is far more skewed in the direction of art verses what I experienced during my upbringing. Harry Potter was just the start. I love to wander the museums and stare at the creative beauty. The true abstract art has its own beauty as well. I might be hesitant though to surround myself with ONLY abstraction and art created in random chaos, such as Jason Pollock. Even Jason could not create totally random art for he, the thinking artist choose the colors and the "machines" for producing the art. And the influence of gravity has its own order.
So what are the sermons of the artists? As I’ve been reading great novels, I see the writers, at least, as field reporters sent to cover the human condition. The look, they observe and they have the talent to craft out words to save and share those observations. This is very important. This is why most of the Bible is made up of story telling and poetry. It has great value and it does not have to come from the hand of a Christian to have value. As I’ve said before, we were humans first . . . then Christians. But this human-ness is not a bad thing, on the other side of the Dualistic divide. But God, Himself created us woman and man. We are as we are reflection the true perfected creation (and thus reflecting the mind of God Himself) as well as the taint-ness of the Fall of Adam.
I hope to come back to this “discussion.”
Posted by MJ at 11:18 AM