A new friend of mine posed the question of why in 13 years of Christian School she had never been taught to connect art and faith. I shared a few thoughts and decided to expand on them here. This is a theory based in fact. I’m not sure I am correct but it sure seems plausible.

There was a time when the church, and more specifically the Catholic Church was perhaps the world’s greatest patron of the arts. This is not totally surprising. They had the money. They were surrounded by largely illiterate populations, they needed a way to communicate the Gospel with the masses. Pictures told the stories and the people came to understand through the images and icons. The artists prospered, the church accomplished it’s mission to some degree and in spite of some pretty stormy relationships between artists and church leaders, things went well.

Of course many would argue that the church was far from doing with it was supposed to be doing. Chief among them were Martin Luther and his compadres. They decided (rightly, I believe) that the church was corrupt and needed to change. They rose up and the reformation was born. Part of the reformation seemed to be a suspicion of all things Catholic, this, unfortunately, expanded into the arts. Images and icons once used to tell the story were now seen as biblically prohibited graven images. In some cases this may not have been far off the mark as works of art were venerated far beyond their intended purpose of telling the story. Long story short, they threw out the bath water and out went the baby. For a long time art seemed to have no place in the church out of fear that we might cross the line to idolatry.

Of course all art was not banned from the church. People surrounded by stained glass, sitting in ornately carved pews, beneath decorative banners, reading from beautifully artistic bulletins, surrounded by fantastically beautiful church buildings, which of course are the work of architects who are nothing more than weird artists who can also do math. They could be surrounded by all of that and still not see the use for art in the church, but I digress. In the church, art was banished to the children’s department (which by the way is a great place to start creative ministry).

I, as well as a lot of other believers think that has got to change sooner or later. The artists in the church are screaming we want our crayons back. The time for the church to get creative is now. As it was in days of old, art is needed to tell the story. No longer is this because of illiteracy (though in some cases we are more biblically illiterate than ever before), but because the world around us is bombarded with so many images and message and the Gospel is only one of them. We need to catch the eyes (and minds and hearts) of the populace. Artists are uniquely gifted by God to fill this role (void?). Our churches need to encourage and empower us to do what God has called us to do in the church as well as in the world. We need to become the primary patron of the arts once again and not just so-called overtly Christian art, but art that will speak to a wider culture with the truth that will set them free.

To steal a phrase from my friend J. Scott McElroy, the world needs a new renaissance. It starts with the church. Time to get creative.

  1. Wendi says:

    Reblogged this on Art of Wendi C and commented:
    More encouragement!!!

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