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Christianity and the Arts

August 9, 2007
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Camille Paglia writes about how the arts need religion.  (hat tip to Joe Carter)  I found this really interesting, especially considering the discussions my brother and I have had about this subject.  This is the most important quote:

I would argue that the route to a renaissance of the American fine arts lies through religion. Let me make my premises clear: I am a professed atheist and a pro-choice libertarian Democrat. But based on my college experiences in the 1960s, when interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was intense, I have been calling for nearly two decades for massive educational reform that would put the study of comparative religion at the center of the university curriculum. Though I shared the exasperation of my generation with the moralism and prudery of organized religion, I view each world religion, including Judeo-Christianity and Islam, as a complex symbol system, a metaphysical lens through which we can see the vastness and sublimity of the universe. Knowledge of the Bible, one of the West’s foundational texts, is dangerously waning among aspiring young artists and writers. When a society becomes all-consumed in the provincial minutiae of partisan politics (as has happened in the US over the past twenty years), all perspective is lost. Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.

It is interesting, because you see this going on in the culture at large.  However, I’m more interested in how Christians are engaging in the arts.

Over the centuries, Christianity has produced some of the most powerful pieces of art out there.  The Catholic church still possesses some of the best architecture, paintings, and music.  The Protestant tradition has also produced amazing music over the years, and has also nurtured some great oratory.  However, it seems that most Christian art now tends to be mediocre at best.  Christian artists produce the same pop sound as the soft, gooey pop culture out there.  It seems that Christian artists are failing in the same ways as mainstream artists.  I have to wonder if this is because they are being seduced by the self-seeking spirit of this age, and not looking to Christ to provide the inspiration for their art.

I know my brother has more thoughts on this issue, and I hope he posts on this when he gets back from the Clash.  (I also want a report on the Clash – Chris, you’d better deliver!)   I see some good Christian art out there, especially what is being done with some of the really deep, poetic worship songs.  However, the mainstream Christian culture doesn’t really seem to encourage this kind of art, and I hope and pray that changes, because if Paglia is right, there is a void here that is aching for Christians to fill.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2007 3:42 am

    I have found this useful on this topic:
    http://alan.hardy.id.au/Letter_to_a_Christian_Artist.pdf

    It’s an article from a L’Abri newsletter.

    Alan

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