I love art. I teach it. I try to preach it to others. My faith is truly alive due to artists – both old and new. They imbue hope, life, and peace. Rembrandt and Michelangelo, Goya and Picasso, and more recently Wooster. These are my commentaries upon the Scriptures.
As a Christian this often lands me in two worlds simultaneously. One foot in church related things and the other in creative arts. I’ve found the bridge is most often me. I enjoy mixing it up in both worlds, but it would be truly fantastic to see the church and the artist working together, inspiring one another.
It’s been that way for centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution. The most beautiful and inspiring art was religious. I’d like to think that religion inspired the art that beautified the religion. This symbiotic relationship flowered for centuries making a glorious worship environment in which artists could dream, pray and live.
But something tragic has happened and I don’t know what will become of this sullied marriage. Like the rapidly approaching steam engine depicted by J. M. W. Turner. Something changed in the blink of an eye. My family splintered in two. One left the other I have been told over and over again. Often religious folks see the church remaining steadfast and faithful – a Hosea figure – while the arts played the role of Gomer, prostituting herself with those “dirty” and “worldly” subjects. That’s the version I heard growing up. But as I looking into this relationship myself I saw another side of the story. The “pornography” was frequently a reaction to Victorian priggishness that stifled human sexuality. Any parent knows that the forbidden fruits always seem the sweetest. Rather than navigate through the changing times the church tried to be an all-controlling partner who suffocated the life and liberty out of the arts. It sought to conform the other into itself. But church needs art to be art and art and vice versa. This connection has to be mutually reverent.
And so, the rift remains.
Since the mid-1700s the two have grown further apart. Every once in a while a toe tips from one into the other. W. David O. Taylor is one of my favorite elder brothers in this torn family. He sees better than I and has written about it so very well.
But this divorce has been long and hard and bitter. I am a child of a broken family. My parents have chosen sides. And, I am the bridge.