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Church art is either really old or really bad or, (and this is the worst option I believe) non-existent.
The only art allowed in the church of my youth was the corporate acappella singing. That means no musical arts (our corporate voices is all God desires), no performing arts (we don't perform), no visual arts (too Catholic), no literary arts (we have the Bible, don't we?), and no architectural arts (since a church building was essential to salvation) - stripped down, bare & fucntional.
The closest thing we had to an artistic outlet was the Bible Bowl, which was the best symbol of all, exposing the deeply entrenched values of my church - content knowledge of scripture.
I learned of performing arts through the dramas (skits) done by the York College skit group, Soul Concern, when they would visit Flaming Pine Youth Camp (Here is a new blog for the camp) and do their thing. They blew me away. Funny, striking, irreverant, and deep. I felt like I was sinning just wathcing them and laughing while "in the assembly" at the Lodge.
Kathy (Bergmann) Osborne at camp would play her guitar and sing what I considered quasi-spiritual songs and I could not believe that she could get away with something like that. Dennie (THE DIRECTOR) would do the same thing. I never told on them because I liked them so much, but there was this guilt that kept after me.
But for these few exceptions outside the hometown church, art was effectively banned. If it wasn't considered sinful, it was certainly considered excessive if not completely unnecessary.
The problem is that there were no outlets whatsoever for artistic people. You ask why so many young people leave the Church of Christ (or many evangelcal churches) after they graduate high school? I bet you will find many of them are artistically gifted with zero outlet for their gifts.
These artistic people are born and raised in a religious context that constantly insults their God-made hardwiring. How long can you last in a context that is perpetually saying how insignificant you are?
Folks, on art, we are divided. Yes, at conferences and special occasions we bring in the Jesus Painter or see Jack and Jill Maxwell work their wonders, but what about art being a normal part of worship? Where are the art galleries in the church building? Where are the chapbooks of pslams being written? Where are the performing arts even given a chance? Where is good architecture (if you must have a building)?
If there is a chance of connecting even within our own people, then art is not merely a neat idea, it is essential for those artistic people to feel at home within their church family.
Ah, but it goes farther than that. We have oodles of people waxing eloquent on the knowledge level, but few poets, mystics, and artists challenging us to utilize our imaginations and plumb the depths of the unspoken and unutterable life of our souls. Knowledge is shallow and can only speak about meaning. Art is meaning.
In 500 years we will be known for our art. Doesn't that frighten you?
Believing Thomas picks up the story here.
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