Monday, May 16, 2005

Image or Mirror?

The argument about pop culture in church is not with people who want to experience Christian truth in familiar cultural motifs. It is a defense of education in historic cultural masterpieces. Art should not be self expression such that it becomes only a mirror of its creators. The Renaissance and the Reformation both looked back in time, referring to the greatest achievements of the past in order to inform the art and culture of then contemporary creative efforts. The church looked back to the early church fathers and scriptural sources to critique the hierarchy and restore truths that their negligence had obscured. The idea that ordinary people could interpret the scriptures became a precedent for democracy as scholars discovered it in the documents of ancient Greece. Of course, not everything was worth keeping. Plato’s Republic recommends child rearing by the state.

But no single generation could have invented the ideas found in a literature of several thousand years. Renaissance art was criticized for the pagan origins of much of it, just as contemporary music is criticized now, but the church took the very best from a long tradition. There is a significant difference between adapting historic culture and importing pop music wholesale into church. Protestants remain dubious of the art of the Vatican, but the musical legacy of the Renaissance and Reformation has been generally appreciated. In the effort to communicate using familiar and appealing idioms, we’re losing music that has proven its worth.

Bach and Mozart have been communicating very well to diverse cultures over hundreds of years. Their music is still working in the Far East and in formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe where people were deprived of this legacy for generations. Somehow we have to keep the spirit of the Renaissance alive in the midst of a culture that is largely market driven. Democracy and a postmodern culture have made it possible for anybody to claim that their perspective is as good as tradition. The tyranny of the majority is a new era of iconoclasm, and it is destroying priceless artistic values. If we’re not careful, a lot of virtues will go out with them, as well as such things as human rights and freedom, as is already evident.


Jason Silver said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The comment: "Somehow we have to keep the spirit of the Renaissance alive in the midst of a culture that is largely market driven".

The Age of Enlightenment had more to offer that the Mediveal 12th century Renaissance. The social and political structures of the Renaissance were very steep in provincialism and religious turmoil. It was a period of poverty, warfare and political/religious persecution. Why would anyone in their right mind keep that alive?