Saturday, October 20, 2007

Christianity & Art

A woman from church wrote and sent this out this week. I think it's spot on. Enjoy!
The Weekly Encourager - October 19, 2007 - Christian Art

I was surprised by the dismissive attitude of dear Christian friends who had no interest in going to the modern art museum with us because so much of the art would be "non-Christian." They seemed to have jumped to several conclusions at once. Did they make a wise choice, or did they miss an opportunity?

In exploring the question of what makes art Christian or non-Christian, renowned author Madeleine L'Engle says that it's not whether the artist or even the subject matter is Christian, but what God's Spirit does through the art. If the artist has captured something that is true, it resonates with those who are of the truth. She believes "Kandinsky and van Gogh say more than they know in their paintings," whether they were Christians or not. "We may not like that, but we call the work of such artists un-Christian or non-Christian at our own peril. Christ has always worked in ways which have seemed peculiar to many men, even his closest followers. Frequently the disciples failed to understand him. So we need not feel that we have to understand how he works through artists who do not consciously recognize him. Neither should our lack of understanding cause us to assume that he cannot be present in their work."

A second disturbing thing is that so many Christians think that because the artist and art are "Christian" it's good art. Furthermore, they see no need to apply to Christian artists the commonly accepted standards of what makes good music, art, or writing. Our Christian friends who are also professional musicians cringe with us when we hear most of what passes for praise songs on Christian radio. It's an embarrassment to the honor of Christ to have some of that stuff on the air, especially in cases where the music is clearly just an imitation of some worldly style but with "Christian words" pasted on. I consider these falsies particularly disappointing.

As L'Engle states, "A sad fact which nevertheless needs to be faced is that a deeply committed Christian who wants to write stories or paint pictures or compose music to the glory of God simply may not have been given the talent, the gift, which a non-Christian, or even an atheist, may have in abundance. God is no respecter of persons, and this is something we are reluctant to face.

"We would like God's ways to be like our ways, his judgments to be like our judgments. It is hard for us to understand that he lavishly gives enormous talents to people we would consider unworthy, that he chooses his artists with as calm a disregard of surface moral qualifications as he chooses his saints."

copyright 2007 janetamarney

Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art, Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980, pp. 30-31.

By the way, just do a Google image search for "Christian Art" to find ample evidence of the sad state of affairs in this regard.

1 comment:

WondrousPilgrim said...

Excellent! This is true for all of the arts. Flannery O'Connor once said about "Christian" literature:

The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns . . . by beginning with Christian principles and finding the life that will illustrate them. . . . The result is another addition to that large body of pious trash for which we have so long been famous."

She also said: "The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode." which is, perhaps, why there is grace in that which is not specifically Christian.