Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Church Exults in High Culture

The intelligentsia, with many advocates in universities founded by churches, have declared war on Christianity and Western Civilization. The normative strictures of our culture have become the targets of a purge driven by ideologies that are too familiar to enumerate. Hypocritically claiming that injustices are perpetrated by the very ideals that define justice in Western democracies, academic nihilists pretentiously deprecate the Western literary canon line by line. Music has become the domain of a well-funded coterie of directors who make operas into travesties of the heroic ideals they once celebrated. The visual arts have been in regression to barbarism since Picasso.

In 1952, in an interview published in the periodical "Libro Nero", Picasso conceded:
"In art the mass of people no longer seeks consolation and exaltation, but those who are refined, rich, unoccupied, who are distillers of quintessences, seek what is new, strange, extravagant, scandalous. I myself, since Cubism and before, have satisfied these masters and critics with all the changing oddities which pass through my head, and the less they understood me, the more they admired me. . . Fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortune, riches. And today, as you know. I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt were great painters. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries."

We’ve gone several stages beyond the modernism of Picasso. Postmodernism debases every aesthetic standard by reference to which Picasso could still lament the decadence of his art. This destruction of norms has resulted in moral anarchy. If it continues, the basis of rational thinking will be undermined until formerly sensible people completely relinquish control of their minds to pretentious ideologies. Oligarchy was, long ago, justified in an imperial church by religious dogma. If Western Civilization can be deconstructed, the intelligentsia will step in to fill the void. They are already justifying their creeds as a means of preserving order in the chaos they helped to create.

In the decadence of historically Christian culture, the church can have an enormous impact by sustaining high culture. Herbert Armstrong brought the Vienna Philharmonic to Ambassador College during the heyday of the Worldwide Church of God. People are still talking about that concert! There were many such things in that church on the fringe. A talkative salesman in Seattle told me he used to go to the concerts. His favorable impression of a dubious church survived all the negative press and the scandals of the Armstrong empire. Now denominations claiming to be orthodox with vastly greater resources squander them on pop culture that only reflects postmodernism as it is being marketed to the masses. If any of the mega-churches within ten miles of my home would spend as much on orchestral music and opera as they do on pop music, they could turn the propaganda of the arts mafia against itself and revive great art to the glory of God.

This unapologetic argument for high culture is based on the conviction that many of the finest things in Western Civilization are Judeo-Christian in their inspiration and meaning. Artistic masterpieces reflect a relationship God has sustained with people and civilizations in a tradition that goes back to Abraham. None of the denominations of the church have been faithful to everything God has offered them, but the wealth of virtues He reveals have made it impossible that some semblance of the Kingdom of God not be achieved in the world. Heroic art provides both an understanding of history and visionary hope for the future. May the church, before long, recognize its heritage and exult in it.

1 comment:

Jason Silver said...


I can't help feeling slightly insulted though.

I am a professional musician, recording artist, song writer; I have not been trained in this music style of high culture. I have little interest in the dry tones of music written decades or centuries ago. It's great for putting my children to sleep, or for reading to, but I'd rather create new music, reflecting the culture within which I live.

Surely you're not advocating that everyone like the same kind of music you like? Do you wish the church to drop it's attempt to ornamentally relevant, or to stop sponsoring art in its current cultural form? Should we not, as the church has done in the past, seek to redeem the popular artform in the present?

I think balance, moderation and temperance is appropriate in this instance. We should preserve some, and we should conceive some.

Thanks for a great blog!