Wherefore Art Thou, Art?

I was a member of a Christian acting group for nine years. We were led by a team of people with experience, and we worked very hard at what we did. On one occasion, we had a series of training sessions led by professional actors from the local secular acting community. One particular session was led by a man who was a standing member of a large, prestigious acting company in a major city. As part of the training session, the man had us reading various scripts. He knew we were Christian, and he obviously was not. The script he chose for my partner and I was one that was designed to be an outrageous comedy. In what turned out to be a rather awkward point of the session, my partner and I refused to read the lines where they took a child to an orgy. We did not find child molestation to have any humor, even in the pretend world of stage acting. The man thought we were so prudish as to be almost from another planet, making snide comments like “It’s worse than I thought.” Keep in mind that this man was rather openly gay, and was in the process of directing a play about gay men that I had seen years before. It was supposed to be camp-funny, but the humor did not work. It was the only play I can ever recall walking out at intermission, thinking it was so severely un-funny that I did not want to spend another hour of my life watching. I’d rather get home early.

This last year, I bought season tickets to the same major theater company. Two of the plays had a very simple plot line: everyone disagreed with everyone else. Both plays were exercises in different ways for people to get angry at each other and argue. While this conceivably might could be done in a way that could be considered art, the part that was the last straw for me was when one character puked a stream of vomit 20 feet across the stage. Somehow this was supposed to be entertaining.

Do not forget that this is from a major downtown theater company in a very large city. This is the level to which art has reached. I was left wondering how many people in the audience had arguments at home before they came, paid money to watch people argue and puke, then saw winos downtown puke for free on the way home.

Switch scenes to the local Museum of Fine Art, which one year held an exhibition titled “Christ in Art in the Middle Ages.” I took my kids and hoped they would get some appreciation for art, and be exposed to Christian themes. Indeed, there were many fine paintings depicting the life of Jesus, some even rather abstract for that day. But outside of this exhibit there was an exhibit on loan from the Museum of Modern Art across the street. This artist ‘s specialty was showing bent rusty metal that he had collected from abandoned gas stations. I had a hard time explaining to my kids why the trash was inside the building, and had to keep telling them to not touch, for that piece of stuff on the floor was part of the museum. It reminded me of one artist at the local university whose sculpture was indeed mistaken for trash, and thrown out by the cleaning crew. It also reminded me of the museum in Washington where the maintenance men put a pile of trash on display without telling anyone, and it stayed on display for four months before anyone realized it was a joke.

The clash of worldviews is indeed rather severe. I do not see a way for people whose compass is pointing in opposite directions to ever get together. I told the local secular theater company that I would be voting with my dollars and going to the local Christian theater company this next year.

I challenge any Christian artist out there to be the best you can be. Your work will shine above the rest.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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2 Responses to Wherefore Art Thou, Art?

  1. Portal says:

    Just a few questions,

    do you think Christians seem foolish to some in the world?
    If so, our artistic endeavours would also seem foolish to some.

    Furthermore,

    Why do some Christian endeavours (i.e., music, art, theatre) seem so lame and corny in comparison to some “secular” endeavours? I don’t think this is just me??

    Some Christian music doesn’t seem to take risks, seems very cliché, and seems to lack honesty

    (Should note: not all music by Christians are like this)

    How can Christians glorify their Father through art?

    Is art self serving? (I don’t think all art is).

    Is art merely expression?

    Furthermore,

    Is playing in a band self serving? What does this mean for Christian bands?

    If worship bands are on a elevated stage, in front of an audience, with bright lights, and emphasis

    Then…

    Are they the focus of the audiences attention?

    Or is it God?

    Does some “Christian” art add, detract or distract from our committment to God?

    Interested to know your opinion.

    Kind regards.

    • humblesmith says:

      If a Christian does things very, very well, he cannot be ignored. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is recognized as great art because it is done well; Handel’s Messiah is still played every Christmas by secular orchestras because it is good art. If the Christian does something much better than his atheist or pagan counterpart, the art cannot be ignored.

      Whether people focus on the people up front is indeed a problem. We put far too much emphasis on people with gifts and talents that are showy.

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