Art & God (2)

I read this excerpt (from the book Why We’re Not Emergent) over at Challies blog and wanted to run this by you, Jason, to hear your thoughts:

The event’s emcee is a faculty member at Calvin, who explains that the conference, in essence, is “a profound apology from the Christian community for doing such a poor job of engaging art and culture in the public square.” He adds, “We don’t have a lot of answers.”

This is an apology I’ve heard made several times before, and I’m still a little unclear as to the reason. Is it because churches aren’t displaying art on their walls? Neither are insurance companies, but nobody is up in arms about that. My hunch is that there is this feeling that churches aren’t adequately “supporting” artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) in their midst. However, I don’t exactly see churches “supporting” software designers, salesmen, or farmers either. That’s not the church’s purpose. And it seems that the artists who are making the most noise about “not being supported” are the ones who may not have the talent to really cut it in the marketplace anyway. I don’t know of any working artists (musicians, actors, writers, painters) who complain that their church doesn’t “support” their efforts. Art is tough. Making a living at art is tough. It’s tough on families and marriages. That’s simply the nature of the game.

Read the whole thing.

My primary question has to do with why the Christian culture seems to have an inordinate amount of guilt with regards to art and cultural engagement. In other words, it seems like the art community has had such a voice in chastening the Christian culture as of late. Is it a reaction against fundamentalism’s pulling out of the arts? I am sure that we need to apologize at some level for poor art we have contributed to society. Stuff Christians Like has become a new favorite in my RSS feed. If we read this blog more often, we would have more than art to apologize for. Why is it assumed that to reach the culture, we must be artistically engaged?

These questions, I know, betray my naivete. Inform me, please.

4 Comments

Filed under Art, Books & Media, Church, Culture

4 responses to “Art & God (2)

  1. Ben

    Matt,

    I would guess that the guilt is not over not hanging art on the walls, or over not supporting artists. Art is an important aspect of spirituality and gaining some sense of the transcendent. However, in many ways evangelicalism has turned away from the value of that sort of experience.

    Thus, the Emergent church in some ways answers a deep desire many have to be Christians who value aesthetic experience and the emotionally explorative side of life.

    Try asking the question this way. Has the church provided opportunity for deep, meditative, philosophical faith? I say no, and it’s a huge reason so many philosophical types (think Elizabeth Elliot’s brother or the more recent ETS President) leave for the Roman Catholics. People want depth, and too often Evangelicals are about as deep as a child’s wading pool.

    This is a bit of a hot-button issue for me. It drives me nuts that we’re supposed to be engaging the philosophical struggles people have, yet we almost never actually read the philosophers! Reading Nash on whomever doesn’t really count. We as Christians ought to be able to hear the world crying if we want to know how to communicate the joy of their only hope-the gospel.

  2. Thanks, Ben. I agree, the symptom of artistic problems lends itself to a larger sickness of superficiality. Anecdotally speaking, I agree with people leaving to go to the RCC because of lack of depth. “Make a decision for Jesus” does not continually nourish the soul like contemplation on the word of God and social engagement.

    My rub stems from thinking that a depth in artistic prowess means depth is present. How many artists do we see who have great talent for interpretation of the world around them, but special revelation plays no part in their view of the world?

    I am pushing for a holistic overhaul to how we view our mission as the church – not to merely have art galleries, but to have ministries that reach entrepreneurs.

  3. Matt – I will reply to this in a post later today. Great topic.

  4. Pingback: Art & God (3) « Off The Wire

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