What’s the Difference Between Art and Propaganda?

Daniel Siedell observes in “Art and Culture: Or, Politics by Another Means — Evangelical Style“:

Evangelical participation in the arts and culture is, on the whole, graceless. It is characterized by an excruciatingly puritanical preoccupation with four-letter words and nudity, turning films, novels, and even paintings (although rarely) into means for political ends, presuming that the making of art is simply another form of politics. And so in their rush to use art and other cultural practices for political agendas, evangelical cultural critics and commentators simply fail to recognize the presence of grace in art.

Art shapes culture, and cultural change often precedes or creates the groundwork for political and legal change.  All of this is true.  I do not disagree when Christians make the case that we need better art — better films, better television, better music, and so forth — that shows the true, the good and the beautiful as revealed by God.  The grace of art is in its excess, in the way it overflows the utilitarian, in its for-its-own-sake.  That will have an effect that does, eventually, precipitate into cultural and political change.  But it should not be shoehorned into a political agenda.  There’s no swifter route to bad art than to transform it into propaganda.

Read the rest of Daniel’s insightful post at our Cultivare blog.

When you have Jesus alongside Adam, Eve, a tiger and a giraffe, you know it isn’t art.

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  • Dan

    Need more dinosaurs.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    Hell, when Adam and Eve are both White and American you know it’s not art either. At least with Jesus you can sometimes give the benefit of the doubt because I still can’t figure out what a Hebrew “looks like,” even with all of the racist caricatures.

  • Cynthia

    I think of art as, primarily, the process of human beings posing questions they can’t necessarily answer through various media. Propaganda, on the other hand, has all the answers and presents them to you often in direct and graceless ways.

    This really struck me one day when I was visiting a modern art gallery one day. I saw art work after art work, and truthfully, I thought most of them were a sham. But, then, I looked at one of the last pieces. I stared at it in contemplation, and it slowly dawned on me: it wasn’t a piece of “art” at all. It was the window transom. Viewing those artworks had made me interested in contemplating such a mundane object as a window transom, and thinking about it in new ways.