Art and The Protestant Tradition

I haven’t read the book that is the basis for this blog post, but now I really want to buy it.

Seems like today is about art and faith.

Catholic and Orthodox thought is most capable of offering a means to experience creatively modern and contemporary art primarily because they remain believers in art, believers in an aesthetics wrought in the Church, which thus grounds but does not limit the aesthetic outside the Church. This, however, does not mean that Catholics and the Orthodox have good taste simply by virtue of being Catholic and Orthodox. It does mean, however, that they have at hand the theological resources alive in their tradition that makes such taste possible and the theological capacity to participate in modern and contemporary art at the deepest levels.

Yusuf Islam on Music and Religion

Yusuf Islam is Cat Stevens after his conversion to Islam a while back and he hasn’t been in the scene since then. The media didn’t treat his conversion to Islam with any respect, he says, and he talks about the role of music and musicians in Islam. A lot of his points can be applied to Christians in the Coptic Orthodox Church or any other Christian church.

This section spoke to me the most:

AJ: What happens when you give that gift and it is not received in the way you want it to be? Particularly after your conversion, and after you starting making more Islamic-themed songs, was there a backlash?

YI: You go through various phases. Living up to your ideas is not an easy job and when other people have ideas of you that you have to live up to as well, it’s even harder. That’s why we have a clear direction from our Lord as to how to live. As long as you keep your focus on God and his prophet I dont think you can be diverted. It’s all down to that intimate and direct relationship and that’s what you maintain in your prayers. So yes, it was difficult. But I always had my prayers.

Being an artist in a religious community is a lonely experience, especially when your expression and style is not one welcome to your community. Artists don’t see boxes, but rather lines and fountains and waters shooting up in every direction. Communities work hard to preserve themselves. They fear artistic or free thinking that threatens communities. So, they need to operate in boxes and with labels in order to keep things going.

Read the full interview here.

What do you think?

Another Supposed Jesus “Freak”

I got an e-mail from my friend Maurice about an essay written by Andrew Sullivan. I started reading the response by an Orthodox priest, but felt that it’s more correct to read the original essay first.

I’ve read and heard about Mr. Sullivan. He’s all over the blogosphere; I remember him especially from the last US presidential elections.

As Fr. Lawrence points out, Mr. Sullivan’s essay is impassioned and at length. Where it abounds in energy, it lacks in convincing me or even humouring me with anything new. This essay, along with its all siblings, is written by another writer infected by The Dan Brown Virus. Perhaps I wasn’t of intellectual and theological consciouness before Mr. Brown released his book The Da Vinci Code, but it seems like any time any writer, regardless of their intellectual prowess or popularity, starts talking about the politicized, bad-bad church, my brain does three things immediately:

1. “Dan Brown Spawn”

2. “God bless you, Dan Brown.” <braintalk tone=”sarcasm” />

3. “Sigh.”

It’s nothing new and it’s nothing exciting. It just seems too often that people find it convenient to tell me, as a Christian, that the Christ I have been professing for the last 30 years is a fabrication of the evil and bad Church, and that the Christ he knows, simply by reading a few books and writing about it on public channels, is the real deal. It might as well be a deleted scene from The Da Vinci Code or another footnote to the book. It’s the same old droning moaning that I’m right and you’re wrong.

Fr. Lawrence puts it succinctly and with much historical evidence to refute Mr. Sullivan’s points, but my take on it is that it’s irrelevant. If I was to do a find/replace on the original essay, I could apply it to Islam, Buddhism, and the cult of Justin Bieber worship. There’s always going to be the mainstream and the reductionist, the established and the fluid, the orthodox and the ‘gnostic’. In most circles, such tension between these two opposing forces just forces the intellectually honest and mature to never be complacent about their faith, to always seek more clarity and question the received reality, as George Carlin famously said before he died.

But to brand the mainstream as inherently political, fundmentally flawed, and wholly devoid of any value is to be an extremist just as much as the Evangelical Protestants and Catholics that Mr. Sullivan attacks. Mr. Sullivan also forgets, despite any prostetation he can make, that it’s the collective will of the early Church that put together the canon of Scripture. This means that the Bible known to us went through a process of being disparate books to becoming a single canon. The Church made the Bible, the Bible didn’t make the Church.

Yes, this means that the Bible was then susceptible to human error, but what isn’t? Can you apply Jefferson’s methodology to any book? Would you like it if I took your book, one that you spent countless hours on, I turned your pages into an origami, and – because I’m enlightened and not mainstream – then declare that the circumcised pages are now what Andrew Sullivan really meant?

Who gives me the authority to do so? Who gives you or any other proponent of the historical Jesus to do so?

An answer to that question can perhaps start a real discussion on this subject.