Art for the Audience of One
Yesterday I wrote about the artlessness of evangelistic driven film, observing that such projects are justified not by their art, rooted in God as creator, but by their intent to promote God as Savior. I pointed out that defenders of the film's artlessness would plead immunity : " The church will argue that this film should succeed because it openly proclaims "the gospel." By this they mean it explicitly includes scenes encouraging "receiving Jesus as Savior."
Predictably I received a response that attempted just such a defense, arguing that 1) I hadn't seen the film (though a respected friend had and reported on it's inadequacies artistically); 2) And reminded me that "Over 280 decisions for Christ resulted after the movie was shown at two Christian film festivals in Boston and Syracuse."
Lou Carlozo rightly pointed out that God's own creativity is not message driven: "Contrast that with the notion that the art must have a message to validate its worth. That in essence is the ultimate form of human hubris, because it amounts to telling God that He had no clue what He was doing when He made the waterfalls, or created the world. Must the beauty of nature have a "message"? A sign hung around it that says, "If you love this, then thank God and ask Him to be your savior"? Or does it touch our souls in a way that makes us thirst, hunger and pant to be close to the force that made all this incredible beauty? "Christian" artists who put the message before the art are not only putting the cart before the horse: They are engaging in prideful, blind behavior. Whether they realize it, they think they know how to advance God's cause better than God does. They are violating the roadmap through, if you will, unintelligent designs."
Evangelism requires a fallen world as its audience and aim, whereas art can be offered to God as the audience of one. Because God does not need to be evangelized art need not be encumbered by evangelistic intent. Evangelism-driven people seem unable to grasp, to paraphrase Rookmaaker, "Art needs no evangelistic justification."
Read the following poem and see in it the artist at work without a human audience, but displaying elegance for the unseen audience. This purity of art glorifies God. No need to embroider John 3:16 on the artist's gown, no need to end the dance with verbiage thanking "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Just the glorious sense of a dancer created in God's image glorifying God through creatively dancing well.
Class is over,
the teacher and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light--
a blue rose on a nail--
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.
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