Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Image and Text - a marriage of necessity

Beginning Thursday night, Bethany Community Church, in conjunction with Gage Academy in Seattle, will be hosting art seminar. I'll be opening the discussion tomorrow night with a session the relationship of image and text among people of faith. The seminar continues on Friday with a presentation by Dr. Read Schuchardt, of Wheaton college, as he addresses the relationship of form to content, the objectivity of beauty, and the expropriation of the sacred.

The relationship between art and the church has been strained at some points in history, beautiful and symbiotic in others. In our time and place, the relationship is strained for several reasons:

1. Modernity has been obsessed with the text in a way that has crowded out the role of beauty and image. This will be the focus of our discussion tomorrow night, but for now, I'll note that one of the encouraging signs of our time is the resurgence of image as a means of authentic communication. The church must wrestle with how to encourage and affirm creative expressions that are subjective, non-linear, and able to communicate to a different part of the soul.

2. Art in the church has often been limited to utilitarian expressions. In other words, a manger scene is a worthy subject, but not a still life. The church must wrestle with the value of images that aren't directly linked to Bible stories, asking herself if God is able to speak through other forms?

3. There's often been a sense that, when it comes to the church, creative expressions are necessarily second class. I remember auditioning once for the Opera orchestra in Fresno while in high school. I played timpani and one of the jury members hearing me said, in a phone interview prior to the audition, "this isn't some church thing we're doing here - this is the real deal." I'll never forget his juxtaposition of 'church' and 'real', as if to say that expressions of creativity in the church have a different quality standard than elsewhere. Would you rather have a poorly created painting of Mary and Joseph, or a high quality impressionist landscape?

4. The church is still wrestling with dualism. We say Jesus came in human flesh. We say the body isn't inherently evil. We say that the hierarchy between invisible and visible is false, that God is in it all. But I'm not certain we believe it. An entire conversation needs to follow this simple observation, but that will be up to you, at least for now.

Thoughts on the church and art, dualism, the relationship between image and text?
7:00 PM tomorrow at Bethany


At 12/11/08 13:41, Blogger Kevin said...

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At 12/11/08 22:45, Blogger Kristie Vosper said...

I would love to listen to this discussion if you happen to record the lecture. Love that you're discussing this in the church. I think of the conflict in "My name is Asher Lev" between Art and Faith.

I also think of the time I went to a Coldplay concert at the Hollywood Bowl with a friend. I came home and told friends that it was one of the most spiritual expressions I'd been to in a while. I said "it felt like deep worship to me" and they told me it was foolish and blasphemous. I told them I didn't want to be their friend anymore. haha.

At 13/11/08 10:40, Anonymous TessaD said...

I, too, am hoping you record the lecture. I'm thankful that the church is discussing this connection. I long for the church to "reclaim" excellent artistic expression.

There are so many times I've left dance performances, plays, and concerts knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God met me in that performance. More frequently, actually and unfortunately, in "secular" performances. Thankfully, God isn't limited by the secular/religious labels we put on things.

At 13/11/08 12:06, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some Natives uses Are,Crafts to express their theme in churches or how we express Art through Spiritual means. As a Native myself i see Spiritual Arts in how i see the Creation and i am glad to come in a chruch who does addresses the importance of art. i am excited to be listening,learning what you have to say.
Thanks so much.Michael


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