Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Arts and the Artist- The Christian Misconception

Note: This article is to be credited to another. I typed it years ago with a real typewriter, before the days of computers and printers. I was remiss in not recording the author's name. Whoever he or she may be, thank you for knowing my heart and putting into words this poignant prose. Your words still resound with the truth.

In the arts there should be no segregation of secular and religious subject matter. Reality, like God, is one. This is not an unusual idea . . . Augustine saw the cosmos as one unit divinely infused and all mankind as one brotherhood. He saw reality, spiritual and physical, as moving toward an unfolding of God's purposes.  Reality was cumulative advancement of mankind, materially and spiritually, through time, as history taught God's lessons through experience.  Augustine rejoiced in the goodness of the arts and extolled their virtue as part of God's creation.  To him, all of reality was part of the divine unfolding of history.

Christian artists who agonize over what they should create from the point of view of what is allegedly "Christian subject matter" are engaged in an exercise in futility -- an exercise usually motivated by false guilt bred of bad theology that has divided reality into "secular" and "Christian" and that perceives art as only a useful propaganda tool for evangelism.

For the Christian there is no taboo subject matter any more than there are evil or taboo colors.  Though how we portray each subject is important, as is its context, reality, as it is perceived is fit subject for the artist.  To tell the truth is our only artistic, moral imperative.

There are too few people in the church who comprehend the artistic struggle and encourage Christians to succeed in the arts, there are, however, many Christian guilt-mongers who place burdens on others that they themselves do not bear; their attitude is embolden in the what's -Christian-about-that? school of art critics who do not understand the arts or the daily reality of the artist's struggle.

As artists we yearn for sympathetic Christian critics with a knowledge of art and the historical perspective about art movements necessary to make an intelligent contribution to our work.  Such understanding is, unfortunately, rare.  Instead, we are often subjected to moralistic posturing on the part of Christians who ignorance is only matched by their intransigence.

We as Christians need the help, guidance, and advise of other believers.  But we must be careful, as artists, to have realistic expectations about this human advice.  Just because someone is a believing, practicing Christian does not mean he or she will have the wisdom, knowledge, or sympathy to advise us knowledgeably about our artistic work. Just because someone claims that God has laid something on his heart does not mean God has! The pastor, teacher, friend, or family member may or may not know enough about a particular field of endeavor to give good advise.

Better the knowledgeable advice of a non-believing expert than the heavy yolk of false spiritual guilt imposed by an ignorant believer, however well intentioned. Artistic talent is truly a gift and must be protected, especially against the onslaught of misguided saints . . . It is a tragedy that so many Christians who seek to work in the arts and media receive so little knowledgeable encouragement.

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