Politics, culture, art, faith

Andy at Think Christian cited a stellar article (a lot of which I’m still digesting) talking about the importance of the arts to our current culture. Read the seven page essay via this link; stay tuned for excerpts that caught my attention.

    “Politics reflects culture; it doesn’t direct it.

    By focusing on mobilizing majorities and legislative coercion, these faith communities have alienated their opponents while squandering their cultural and biblical capital. They have failed because the convictions that underlie culture cannot be coerced. They can be proposed, never imposed. Culture changes when a society’s assumptions and aspirations are captured by new ideas and images that are developed by thinkers and artists, expounded in both scholarly and popular forms, depicted in innumerable works of art, literature and entertainment, and then lived out attractively by communities of people who are committed to them. By narrowly focusing on Washington and state legislatures, faith communities have forgotten how to assert cultural influence. Today, most Christians in America are known for self-serving power politics rather than humble service for the good of others.”

    “It is a scandal that non-believers perceive Christians as just another special interest group or market niche rather than those who are drawing on the resources of the kingdom of heaven in order to demonstrate the power of truth lived with overwhelming love.”

    “Our aim is not merely environmental ‘sustainability,’ a hands-off policy of an unkempt wilderness, but rather creational ‘vitality,’ a thoughtful active investment of ourselves in nature’s rich inherent potential — a weeded garden in full bloom, a landscaped city filled with music and art.”

    “Broadcaster Dick Staub writes,

      ‘The early church out-thought, outlived, and out-died their pagan counterparts. This certainly cannot be said of pop Christianity . . . . Bach, Mendelssohn, Dante, Dostoevsky, Newton, Pascal, and Rembrandt are but a few who personified the rich tradition of faith, producing the highest and best work, motivated by a desire to glorify God and offered in service of others for the enrichment of our common environment: culture.'”

    “Ideas that are institutionalized have a greater potential to span two generations. These are the ideas that endure. [Randall Collins] writes, ‘Schools of thought, grounded in intergenerational network linkages, are best able to reproduce themselves when they are based in organizations with material property and a hierarchy of offices.’ Books and speeches alone do not change culture. Ideas must be embodied.”

    “It is imperative to address our cultural crisis correctly. We need a generation of apprentices of Jesus who are called, trained, and prepared to be cultural gatekeepers. Simply getting a job in a culture industry isn’t enough. Simply doing something can easily lead to doing more harm than good. Asserting power as a culture warrior is ineffective and counterproductive. Going solo rather than building institutions and connecting with other networks will not lead to change. And expecting immediate results will not foster faithfulness in our generation.”

These last two quotes I found engaging and personally disconcerting. I am of my generation, I suppose, in my aversion to institutions. This is, in large part, a result of my own experiences with large bureaucracies: Phone companies, universities, observations on American government. But when I stop and think about it, some institutions I do have respect for, such as the Bauhaus and CIVA — even though I’m not for certain these are run any more efficiently.

It makes sense that building an institution is the best way to carry the seeds of cultural change, which are inherently slow to take root, into a fruitful season.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

4 Responses to Politics, culture, art, faith

  1. shush says:

    While I’m wildly averse to institutions simply for the sake of institutions, I’m willing to concede that some can be for the better.

    I find it interesting that the Bible shows so much evidence of the arts being called on to glorify God, and yet Christianity has drifted so far away.

  2. techne says:

    re: “It makes sense that building an institution is the best way to carry the seeds of cultural change, which are inherently slow to take root, into a fruitful season.” — i think that biblical thinking and strategizing involves, nay, requires generational thinking, by which i mean that we nee to think about what impact we can have on this generation but also the next and the next. that’s how you impact, affect, infect a culture – by replicating the kingdom in sons and daughters.

  3. Pingback: Ignoble influence « The Aesthetic Elevator

  4. Pingback: CT on culture « The Aesthetic Elevator

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