No apologetic label needed
myself mildly nervous whenever Christians try to ramp up any art
category with a sacramentalizing intensifier: Christian Music,
Christian Novel, Christian Poetry, Christian Painting, Christian
Aerobics, Christian Whatever Else.
Now, I understand this need I think to lay special
claim to Christian this-or-that in opposition to Secular this-or-that
(all those rampaging demons going to and fro in our culture looking
to devour us unwary sons/daughters of the True Aerobics). But
Im still nervously heading for the door. Or, barring escape,
making ready to hold my nose against the wafting odor of cheesy-to-trite
theology, rampant sentimentalism and likely disregard for any
recognized essentials of craft in whatever the hallow intensified
Christian Aerobics aside, we Christians seldom find it necessary
to integrate with sacramental upgrading other noteworthy but apparently
overlooked art forms: say, Christian Surgery, Christian Snowboarding,
Christian Orchid Growing, Christian Bull Riding, Christian Kayaking,
Christian Barbecuing, Christian Scrapbooking, Christian Dog Grooming
... OK, OK, infinite-art-forms-point over made.
I could be wrong on some of this. Maybe there is a supporting
theology for Christian Snowboarding or other art category in need
of spiritualizing. Who's to say? A defending of the faith, an
I was once at a rodeo in Texas where they invoked Jesus to protect
the bull riders not exactly Christian Cowboying, but since
this was Texas the linkage was unmistakably there. Then, too,
there was the Inquisition's auto-da-fé, a kind of artful
integration of faith and barbecuing. I suppose the cultural and
historical precedents are longstanding.
But don't get me wrong, we Christians hardly need embrace (or
create) art, which is antithetical to our faith. And, obviously,
individual Christians have and do make various kinds of art, even
highly regarded religious-themed art. Yet if we are to interpret
and evaluate the world in light (as Light?) of our Christian faith
we must be willing to struggle with the thought, value and aesthetic
patterns of our day, and willing to interact with those forms
and modes of artistic expression speaking to our contemporaries
even if and when our ultimate points of reference differ.
For the Christian practitioner of whatever kind of art, integration
should never be a reductive veneer of the conventionally sacred.
Art may not be redemptive, but for those who insist it at least
try hard to point in the direction of Truth, art is an endeavor
in which the thoroughly honest search for values ought to avoid
the easy answers or stock assumptions that can pre-digest and
sully Truth with shoddiness.
Christian shoddy is still shoddy.
Clearly, all designated Christian art isn't shoddy or necessarily
super-sized with spiritual cheesy. Still, I remain nervous. I
prefer the latent over the explicit. Any directly apologetic work
needs to show me the difficulties we are up against.
Like faith itself, art ought to struggle. Maybe more so if produced
by a Christian.
We don't need superficially Christian Art. We need art by Christians
that requires no apologetic label to be recognized as genuine
aesthetic and spiritual Truth.