Friday, November 10, 2006

Sermons in Drag

Some food for thought:

How does the non-narrative character of evangelicalism and our almost totally non-narrative, reductive, propositional approach to the Bible, affect our ability to understand and appreciate the importance of the arts and the ways in which they can speak to us. Is this one of the reasons why evangelicals have so little patience with works of art which do not preach and why most of the art we produce is basically dressed up sermons?


thekid said...

BOOM! What a great entry to jump-start your blog with again. You've got my mind racing with this question and I don't dare to try and unpack possible answers. I don't think that's what you're looking for here anyway. I think it is interesting how the higher church traditions have done so much better at appreciating the arts. I think it has to do with evangelicals being so focused on morality that they are afraid to have real and true expression. You know, anything that might make me look like a sinner must be avoided.

High churches, of course, have their weaknesses too - don't mean to imply that they are perfect places.

Glad to see you back in action.

Gordon Hackman said...

Thanks sis. I was hoping you'd stop by and see that I'd posted without me having to tell you.

I agree with your assessment that evangelical moralism can often be a hindrance to our appreciating and excelling in the arts. My own perception, however, is that we are not so much afraid of things that will "make me look like a sinner" (though we are afraid of that too), but rather that we are afraid of being exposed to things that could challenge our beliefs or that might portray something sinful in them. I think we are afraid of being "infected" by sin or by false beliefs. I don't believe we can be infected with sin or unbelief from a work of art, but I won't say that these concerns are without merit. I think uncritically imbibing certain things can be harmful to us or can influence us in negative ways. I do think, however, that we need to develop and exercise a better and more sophisticated ability to discern what is good, true, and beautiful, and to discern the goodness present even in works of art that contain elements we disagree with or find offensive.

And, per my post, we also need to learn to appreciate the ways that works of art can speak to us that are indirect and non-(even supra)propositional. I think art is most effective when it doesn't preach, and I think that if we don't appreciate this we impoverish ourselves and our faith is thinner and less beautiful.

Lawrence Hackman said...

Hey Gordy, I've been reading your posts for a while and only now realized that I could actually comment. I have the feeling this is a new feature, because I looked to do this before and couldn't find a way. Anyway, keep up the posts! I always enjoy what you have to say and it's always thought provoking.

About this post: I was thinking recently why the evangelical approach to art was so tasteless. "Dressed up sermons" about summed my attitude towards the various "Christian" TV shows, movies, and songs I've witnessed and deemed void of feeling (though certainly not sincerity). What you and Jen had to say about morality or fear having a part in this really hit the nail on the head for me too.

Well, didn't have terribly much to add, just a prolonged "amen!" See you soon!

Gordon Hackman said...


Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate your prolonged "Amen!" I think a lot of evangelicals, especially among the younger generations, are questiong the role of art in the Christian life and finding the general approach we (evangelicals) have taken thus far to be seriously wanting. I don't know how much hope there is for widespread change here, but I think the most important thing is coming to a personal understanding about it and having your own world expnded and your own faith deepened regardless of what others think.