Doug asks us the poignant question, 'why have we, the Church, embraced mediocrity in the arts, and can we ever recover?'

Doug Giles
Doug Giles

"Whenever Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have attempted to 'reach the world' through the media - film, publishing and so on - the thinking public gets the idea that, like soup in a bad restaurant, Christians' brains are better left unstirred." (Frank Schaeffer)

Unless you're one of Darwin's droogies and believe that we evolved from the goo, to the zoo, to you, then you're a creationist and believe that God created you and the world you live in. Believing in the biblical account of creation, the believer also believes that he is an image bearer of his creator, that he too has creative juices coursing through his veins. Thus, being a veritable Mini-Me of Jehovah, we should be brimming over with creative, artistic life.

Let's face it; the 21st century Church has a view of art that is lower than a flea hitching a ride on the underbelly of an obese Dachshund. Our view of seeing art as unspiritual or even idolatrous has created an aversion and an antagonism that has effectively alienated us from the world that God has made and the society he wants us to reach.

Traditionally, when the Church was at the top of its game - not burning witches, starting crusades or applying thumbscrews to petty thieves - we had a high view of artistic endeavors. Art itself needed no justification, and for 400 years killer art emerged from the Church. Orthodox, biblically-based, non-wacky clergy and laity enjoyed life, the arts, culture, their own creativity and the creativity of those around them. They got the message that beauty and culture come from God, that it is good and that you don't need a one hour radio show, hosted by a holy smart mouth, to justify it.

The penny dropped for our ecclesiastical brethren: God is the creator, and we are to be creative as well.

Think about it. God created millions of species, and every variety of people with a bunch of funky talents. His imagination not exhausted, God went into orbit spinning some pretty nifty work out in the Star Wars region. If that wasn't enough in all its Buzz Lightyear-like complexities, Yahweh had thousands of bizarre creatures that he made, like the angels and demons presently running around in an unseen realm. From an artistically creative point of view, God is more prolific than Picasso whipped up on crank.

And then the detail of his work-wow! - God's eye for design makes Gianni Versace's past work look like stuff turned out by a boorish Spartan metalworker. You can stack Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Goya, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Pollock, and Warhol all together and, artistically speaking, they have the range of a puny air rifle when butted up against God.

Since God is the self-existent Lord of the universe and accountable to no one, he could have made the world in which we live a steely gray, or a Steely Dan for that matter. He could have been an artistic, non-abstract minimalist. He's God and can do what he wants. Instead, God dumped on us a lot of "useless beauty," expressly for our enjoyment. And you know what - this freaks the altar call driven number crunching, pragmatic, utilitarian, no taste fundamentalist because it seems that such expenditure is a waste of time, space and energy.

As a piece of literature the Bible is incredibly rich and diverse. Sixty-six books written over thousands of years by divinely inspired farmers, musicians, poets, kings, queens, fig pickers, slaves, fishermen, tax cheats, murderers, and adulterers. The entire human spice rack was utilized to cook up the greatest story ever told.

This incredible compilation of literary genius spanned the entire gamut of human emotions-highs, lows, lust, betrayal and sodomy. God created the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. If it were truly represented on celluloid, there is no question the film would be rated R, showcasing characters that make the bar scene in Star Wars look like a Young Republican staff meeting. We see death, hell and Texas; we have a self-revealed God whom you really don't want to tick off; we have sinners who become saints, and saints who revert to sinning. We've got the righteous, the perverted, the saved and the damned portrayed though poetry, proverbs, narratives and songs. Folks, this is not a pallid coma-inducing book full of boring religious nonsense. Jehovah makes Tolstoy, Plato and Homer read like Doctor Seuss.

If it were up to our current anti-art iconoclastic evangelicals, the Bible wouldn't need all that literary fluff at all. We could put our deductions on a small postcard, void of art, narrative and design, with the Ten Commandments on the front and the address of where to send your tithe on the back.

The Bible shows off God's love for artistic endeavors and creativity as much as it scares the heck out of the general public with the moral law.

My ClashPoint is this: Where has the brilliant art gone? God hasn't changed, we have. Where's the mind-blowing art . the painting, sculpture and music that make you drool your Guinness down your shirt? Where're the books that are weighty and transcendent? Where in the world is clever and tasteful Christian media?

Why have we, the Church, embraced mediocrity in the arts, and can we ever recover? Here's the simple truth: if we don't recover, if we stay removed from the arts, creativity and human expression - we will have just tossed the car keys to the Marilyn Mansons, the Robert Mapplethorpes and the Michael Moores.

Guess what, Christian? Guess which road we'll be taken down?  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.