Thursday, October 23, 2014
...[A] work of art may be solidly biblical in content, yet have little or no artistic merit. Christians should not allow themselves to develop sloppy aesthetic judgment by accepting low-quality religious kitsch just because they agree with the message. When I was growing up, the typical religious art exhibited a saccharine Victorian sentimentalism.
What makes this sentimentalized art and music so insipid? It equates Christianity with sugar and spice and everything nice. The poet Paul Claudel pilloried the sweet-and-light style by asking, "If the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? With sugar!"
When generations of children are nourished on these sugary images, they lose a sense of Jesus' true character. In the words of Dorothy Sayers, "We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah," turning Jesus "into a household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies." Yet in the first century, this so-called "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" was so adamant and inflammatory "that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and public danger." How will the church portray that Jesus in its art?
Today's parallel to Victorianism would include praise music that mirrors the vapid emotionalism and egocentrism of pop culture. I once visited a church where I was startled to hear the congregation sing lines like "You are my all desire," and "I want to feel the warmth of your embrace." The lyrics made no mention of God or Jesus. No reference to salvation or justification or any other theological theme. Nothing to suggest that the song was anything but a love song to someone's girlfriend. The lyrics were such an extreme example of the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend genre that I wondered how any man could sing it with a straight face -- though as I looked around the room, I saw several men with their eyes closed, arms raised.
Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning, p.270-271.