Monday 11 August 2014

Christianity and beauty - how can we do it? (when the mass media, including the arts, are hostile and corrupt). Easy!


I have been listening to Peter Kreeft speaking on some recent YouTube videos - yet again impressed at his excellence as a Christian evangelist and apologist.

One thing he mentions is that one big, but neglected, reason that Christianity lost the culture wars was that the anti-Christians and non-Christians have - for several generations - not been doing beautiful and inspiring work, and most of the best 'art' (in a broad sense of the word) has been anti-Christian and non-Christian.


In my view, this is mostly due to the apostasy of the intellectuals - which led them, en masse, first into atheism, then adding to this Leftism; so that nearly all intellectuals including artists (and especially the most influential and powerful) have long been anti-Christian, secular Leftists.

But HERE AND NOW there is an opening for Christians (and those creators on the political Right); and this opening has been opened by the fact that anti-Christian Leftists have all-but abandoned beauty: they do not even try to do beautiful work; and are indeed mainly concerning with doing ugly work.

They first used-to claim that their deliberate ugliness was actually beautiful in some deep way (e.g. Picasso, Schoenberg, Joyce); but in the past couple of generations do not even pretend to be interested in beauty - but only in challenge, subversion, radical politics and the like.

Where there was beauty, there is now a vacuum.


Since the Mass Media are nowadays the root and origin of anti-Christian, secular Leftism there is near-zero possibility of any overtly Christian work becoming widely known via any of the mass media.

And when a Christian work does slip under the radar (such as the Harry Potter series of books) then this can be hidden, denied, ridiculed, re-framed - and, as in the case of JK Rowling, the artist can be subverted and turned-against Christianity and absorbed-into mainstream secular Leftism by relentless pressure of bribery, co-option, intimidation and distortion.



1. It is very important indeed that Christians become artists and intellectuals and produce beautiful work.


2. This cannot be done via the mass media.


The implications are that Christians need to work outwith the mass media, which means via personal contact and small scale production - yet uncompromisingly of the highest possible quality.

1. Christians cannot make a living from intrinsically-Christian arts and intellectual activities - because this must be outwith the mass media therefore small scale therefore non-money-making; so they must be amateurs.

2. Since they are amateurs they need not be concerned by the size of the audience, but only by the quality of their work.

3. Since they are not concerned by the size of the audience, they do not need the mass media - they will work by word of mouth and personal recommendation/ distribution.


In sum, this situation is very favourable to sincere Christian creators of beauty; it means that Christian arts are wide-open - and only await creative talent (and NOT money, publicity, marketing, hype, spin or propaganda).

If there is willing talent, and the mass media are not needed - then there are no significant obstacles to be overcome. The Christian artist can simply get on with it: that is, he can get on with making beauty - as best he may.

And if you make beauty; ultimately, the world will beat a path to your door; because beauty is something we all crave, and cannot we cannot help craving.

And beauty will point us at God.



Random commenter said...

"1. Christians cannot make a living from intrinsically-Christian arts and intellectual activities - because this must be outwith the mass media therefore small scale therefore non-money-making; so they must be amateurs."

I don't agree. See "the long tail".

Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce, very interesting essay, though I am confused by your reference to the Harry Potter series as Christian... Several other equally valid sources describe the Harry Potter series as anti-Christian. Mainly I assume due to the glorification of witchcraft. I believe this is the opinion of the chief exorcist of the Catholic Church, Father Amorth. I would be interested in hearing your opinions on this, Thanks, Confused in Cambridge.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Rc - I don't accept the validity of the LT argument - insofar as it was true, it was a 'blip' caused by early users of the internet. But as far as the arts go, it isn't true. The long tail is insecure pocket money and needs supplementing from Dad to enable survival!

100 years ago every large town had professional musicians, people who made a living from performance. Up to the mid 1990s, I used to be able to earn a proper salary from freelance journalism. Both these sources have dried up.

Bruce Charlton said...

ANon (please use a pseudonym) if you word search @harry potter' on this blog, you will find abundant evidence that the HP series is deeply Christian. The fact that the mass media have given the opposite impression and have amplified the criticisms of ignorant fanatics is significant.

Or just listen to this entrancing talk from a Calvinist Seminary Professor (Jerram Barrs has the most hypnotic voice since Bob Ross):

(Can you think of any other situation when so many of the elite despised group of numbskull Christians have been handed the mass media megaphone for so long? But in this situation they discredit Christianity while misrepresenting Harry Potter as being anti-Christian - so from the secular Leftist perspective it is win-win.)

Bruce B. said...

Bruce, have you seen Kidist P. Asrat’s Reclaiming Beauty website? She was an Auster reader and frequent commenter.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Yes I saw it when it came out - but it wasn't really on my wavelength.