Recently I hung out with a lively group of Christian art students at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL).
|Art and discourse near the shores of Lake Michigan|
I was swept away in a vigorous two-hour conversation with them over a lovely dinner. Why I get to have all the fun, I cannot explain.
Their main concern?
Art just doesn’t seem that important to evangelical Christians (exceptions: scrapbooking and music). Beauty is merely frosting on the cake, playing no integral role in our spirituality.
We could, I suppose, write off their complaint as the typical grousing of “misunderstood” artists.
But that would be a mistake.
Art, whether beautiful or arresting, “needs no justification,” as Hans Rookmaaker famously said. That is, we should be creative because God is creative. We should love beauty and poetry and music because we are made in the very image of God.
But for many evangelicals, decades of preoccupation with conservative social issues and “practical” approaches to ministry have crowded out any appreciation for art. . . and thereby crowded out something of our essential humanity, I would argue.
My hope is that we do not crowd out these young NU artists and their kind. If empowered, they could help transform our physical environs–and our core spirituality–into sacred, crown jewels.
The effect on those outside the kingdom?
I believe they’d be drawn all the more to (and in some cases, repelled more violently from) the Beautiful Savior, Lord of the Nations.
Indeed! There is a reason why it's not “practicality, truth, and goodness.”
Coincidentally, I'm loving the reading I'm presently doing on theological aesthetics by Hans Urs von Balthasar.
Patrick, as usual you have pick-cued my interest. I'm not familiar with Hans Urs von Balthasar. If you tell me he's also a second cousin of mine, I'll truly be embarrassed.
Rick, your story reminded me of the book THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND which I just starting re-reading. The author points out the lack of evangelical thinking about many areas of experience including the arts. Thanks for your blog.
Paul Nyhuis, Care Pastor, Crossroads Church, Woodbury, MN
Hi Paul, I've heard of that book but not read it. One of my goals is to “think Christianly” about every aspect of life. My friend Denis Haack introduced me to that phrase many years ago.