Saturday, October 24, 2009

art, pastors and the church (o my!)

as a [practicing] artist and follower of christ, i am always interested in the relationship between what i consider my primary calling and the community i am part of.

here is a video by craig detweiler where he shares his thoughts about the role of the "arts pastor":

a wonderfully impassioned speech -- it makes me want to do an arts rant of my own! (and i just might)

there are several things that i like about this video -- chief among them, the role of the [arts] pastor to simply pastor/ shepherd ("release/ unleash") the artist in the local congregation. and
not only the artists, but everyone's inherent creativity. i also like the references to serving the local community/(-ies), not only by releasing the congregation's song in the community but also telling their story (stories?) in an artistic or creative way. this is part of what i consider a primary calling for the artist (christian or non): serving.

the second question - does the church set the artist free? - was more problematic for me. yes, the church was a patron of the arts in times past, but the church also was a patron of
excellence. i think that part of the church's role as a patron also necessarily involves an ability to distinguish and determine (perhaps even discern) what work or which artists are worthy of patronage and support. the question i have is: why exactly was the church the main patron before? what was the impetus behind its patronage? status? power? didacticism? evangelismo? i think we sometimes gloss over the intricacies and context of that particular history of the church and its role in culture. certainly, the church did play a major role - after all, what is often referred to as "the cultural mandate" is part of our calling as fully alive humans - but it is complicated. so why were "the arts" (and there is a history in various aspects of the church for all artforms: music, dance, literature, drama) a focus? and how does that play out now? and what does it mean that the church was a locus? what does that mean for us as part of a community (or communities)?

the last section and its repeated emphasis on beauty was also quite generative. dostoevsky said that "beauty will save the world". beauty as a theological concept is a driving force for much of the theology of art, and there is a moral component to the idea that is crucial to our activity as artists, let alone christians. further, in the last 10 years or so, the notion of beauty is increasingly invoked and explored in contemporary work (and often, oddly enough, in conjunction with notions of spirituality), and no longer ignored or ridiculed. there's something important about beauty. it has a moral rigour to it.
i especially like craig's question:how can we create moments of beauty, truth and splendour that cause us to pause? and, presumably, ponder. reflect. open ourselves up to the possibility and capacity of art to move us.

do wonder, however, about the emphasis that somehow the 21c is purely a "visual century" and of rushing headlong to embrace every form and expression of that visual culture. in his other do you see? video (this one is #2) craig speaks of slowing down. perhaps the inundation of images (depending on your source, we are bombarded with anywhere from 4,000 to 20,000 images a day) is more a matter of incessant demand rather than simply the visuality of our time. how do we/ can we/ will we create or facilitate that place of [visual] rest? i think it's more a matter of finding and presenting the right image(s) for the right purpose (the idea of "fittingness" being another way to look at beauty) than embracing our culture's proliferation of images (iconophilia) or abandoning them altogether (iconoclasm). i mean, images are powerful - they are not, nor have they ever been, neutral. which reminds me, i need to keep reading iconoclash.

anyway, certainly lots of grist for the mill...