There’s an article, “Free our Churches from the Ugly and Stupid,” from last Thursday that mostly deals with music, art, decor. It is by Anthony Esolen, who has written several books on my Amazon wishlist. (I think he’s Roman Catholic and professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College.) Below is a quote and some of my own reflections on stupidity and the arts.
Today, the word of God is proclaimed in translations that have all the charm and wonder of a corporate memorandum. Must ordinary people be fed the drab and insipid? The politically correct—another thing thrust upon people by their ecclesiastical betters—is always ugly. Get rid of it, period, no excuses, no exceptions. What Christ hath spoken well, let man not paraphrase. Let grace in the word be one humble way in which we show our desire and our gratitude for the grace of God.
We needn’t discuss here the state of the arts in the church according to its current congregations. Still, I think sometimes religious people imitate the secular in the arts on the presumption that is “how it is done.”
I think that is a false assumption on many levels. First, the arts have been held up by the faithful for ever (admittedly with some exceptions). Second, ours is the God who creates, even from absolutely nothing. He is the designer of beauty and its raw materials. He isn’t stupid, and He hasn’t made us to be stupid.
We may not be able to whimsically while away the time deconstructing things like morality and family, like some “exploratory” thinkers, yet we have goodness, gratefulness, gift, hope, principles, perspective, wisdom (I hope), etc. The Church is not hindered in writing and the arts: just the opposite!
Our boundaries have fallen in pleasant places! Let us rejoice. Let us love our neighbors with our hearts, souls, mind, strength, etc. Because even though fallen man tends toward decay into the ugly and stupid, we don’t need to linger there for one moment longer.
Our rebirth, in faith, in art, and in all other ways, is in Christ. Therefore, our renaissance isn’t limited by what people are doing now, or even what people have done before us. We have this life, these neighbors, this creation, and all the resurrection to come! We needn’t follow trends. We needn’t struggle to fit in. We can simply explore the gifts God has given to us and how they can serve others. Thanks be to God!
We needn’t oversimplify or caricature to use the ugly and stupid for our own purposes. We can speak the truth, tell stories, weave narratives and explore characters. 🙂 And, you know, avoid spreading or cultivating the ugly and stupid!