Saturday, April 19, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Tim Challies has provided some 'blog-fodder' for me again. If ever I run short of ideas again--see my total 4 posts in 2007--I think I'll just hitch my wagon to his, commenting on every post he makes. Anyway, Tim has read a book called Why We're Not Emergent, which he reviewed here. A few days back he posted an excerpt about the Church and artists. It was by Ted Kluck, and Tim found some humor in the article. I usually agree with what Challies writes, but I read the excerpt, and not only did I not think it was funny, I found parts of it a little insulting.
Am I being hypersensitive? Am I just grousing because, since I would like to write literature, my ox got gored? Maybe and maybe. Still, the excerpt seemed unnecessarily sarcastic toward people who are trying to positively contribute to culture in a self-consciously Christian way. I wouldn't mind if it seemed like the author was approaching the topic with humility. He might have said, "I don't understand this movement of the church toward supporting artists, and I am afraid they're missing the boat in some important ways." Instead he wrote about 20-30 somethings looking like Sufjan Stevens ("skinny, hip, and misunderstood") and trying to "out-dishevel" each other.
For one thing, I ain't skinny. And I ain't hip. And I'm only slightly disheveled. But apparently I am misunderstood, as are the rest of the people who want to support artists in the church. Kluck himself demonstrates the misunderstanding:
My hunch is that there is this feeling that churches aren’t adequately “supporting” artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) in their midst. However, I don’t exactly see churches “supporting” software designers, salesmen, or farmers either. That’s not the church’s purpose. And it seems that the artists who are making the most noise about “not being supported” are the ones who may not have the talent to really cut it in the marketplace anyway. I don’t know of any working artists (musicians, actors, writers, painters) who complain that their church doesn’t “support” their efforts. Art is tough. Making a living at art is tough. It’s tough on families and marriages. That’s simply the nature of the game.
The Church's support of the arts is not about financial subsidies. It is about striving for creativity, about pushing the envelope to communicate God's grace in new forms. It is about creating an environment in the Church that is conducive to producing art that is not 'safe.' It is about having room for Flannery O'Connor and Frederick Buechner and not just Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The latter have their place, though I am not a fan of the Left Behind series, but the former can challenge and transform us in ways we might not have otherwise imagined. The Church is enriched by art, whether the Church enriches artists financially or not.
Many of us grew up in traditions that denigrated art, treating it like sin or a path that leads straight to sin's door. We just want our churches to acknowledge that art and literature are good things when done well.
Challies post is not all bad news, though. The response from those who come from a 'support the arts' perspective has been excellent. It has been measured, humble, and well thought out. They pointed out Kluck's misunderstanding and explained what we actually want in a gracious tone, and that is just the sort of art we can all appreciate.