Dear brothers and sisters,
Among the many crises we are facing today in the Church in the Western world is the obliteration of Christian art. One might immediately be inclined to ask, “How did we get here?” Indeed… How exactly did we go from Dante and Michelangelo and Mozart to having trouble differentiating churches from communist buildings?
As interesting as the answer might be, that is not the point here: the point is that however it happened, it happened – and now we have to fix it.
We can’t blame others for the void which we ourselves now allow to exist. No, it is NOT the “spirit” of Vatican II’s fault that we have not done more. No, it is NOT some inherent fact that Christian art can’t be popular today and so isn’t worth doing – good Christian art continues to be one of the major forces in global tourism, and since good Christian art always glorifies God, it is always worth doing. If you build it, they will come. Beauty is captivating in every generation. The human spirit is ever aspiring to the transcendent, and since we are in the unique position of having the fullness of supernatural truth, we are also in a unique position to reveal the fullness of supernatural beauty.
It is simply a matter of the diffusion of responsibility… “Someone else will do it.”
Well guess what? We are still able to complain because not enough people are doing anything about this crisis! You and I are the problem with the world of art, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton.
Put on sackcloth and ashes over the fact that Tolkien and O’Connor are gone, and there hasn’t been anyone like them since. Well, if you are a writer, stop churning out fan fiction and start planning the next great Catholic epic – or short story.
Don’t like the Year of Mercy logo? If you draw or paint, what materials did you offer your parish to supplement (or replace) that image in flyers and the like?
Whine all you want about the Gather hymnal. If you are a musician, what are you doing to contribute to the solution? Do you at least help at your parish?
Moan and groan til the cows come home about the rock people in Noah, the liberties taken in Exodus: Gods and Kings, or, saints preserve us, the acting and writing in almost all films made “by Christians for Christians.” If you are a filmmaker and aren’t looking to break in to help, then guess what: you are part of the problem!
There is an interview with Barbara Nicolosi over at Aleteia. It is provoking – how exactly do we fix the mess of Christian film, both in Hollywood and in the indie scene? How do we raise the standard?
The answer is clear: good artists need to go there. The world of art, and film especially, is a 21st century mission territory. You don’t need to go to Sudan or Borneo to do the work of evangelization – you can just go behind a camera… or in front of a canvas.
In all this trouble, there is little more frustrating than the persistent “response” genre of Christian YouTube… What the digital world needs isn’t a couple of witty poems countering some kid’s mediocre ecclesiology or spiels about how wacked-out Buzzfeed’s idea of Christianity is. What the digital world needs is…
TO SEE THE GOSPEL FIRST.
If all the digital world gets from us is apologia and defense, there will never be a real kerygmatic moment… It is as if we have forsaken the sword to take up the shield alone. We need to be first, forcing the responses and defenses. This is especially true in the digital world, where few people bother to look into responses, as thoughtful and artsy as they may be. Clicking is hard, after all, and to click a second time so that you can actually be challenged to think? Whew, that is a lot to ask of the average millennial.
Our material needs to be seen before the Devil’s. And what we put out there needs to be worthy of the call.
The pen has always been mightier than the sword. So too has the paintbrush, and now the camera and microphone are as well. If we continue to allow the world to be polluted both with the dangerous art of secularists and modernists and with the even more dangerous art of untalented or misguided Christians who harm the Church’s credibility in the eyes and ears of those who so often encounter our art without knowing the soundness of our doctrine, we may as well have set loose the next great heresiarch. This is a real battlefield that we have been put on, and the law of the land is, “Fight or die.” Right now, we are dying.
If you are a struggling artist, you are finding out there’s not much money to be had anyway. Why not make all your non-money doing something for the Lord? He might just deign to bless you in this life and the next for your labors. If you are a successful artist, then why not turn your expertise toward God, the highest object of all? We are in desperate need of your talents… Don’t bury them in the world. Come join the fight!
Featured image: The Battle Between Israel and the Amalekites, Nicolas Poussin