Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sacred Art Museums....

At least that was the cut offered about "traditional" churches by one wag.  These "traditional" liturgy, ministry, and outreach churches are nothing but sacred art museums with nothing real to offer folks.  Hmmmm.... it seems that unless you offer folks a pale imitation of their wants, desires, values, and world, you have nothing to offer.

Well, this cut can go both ways.  Many of the congregations this wag would hold up as effective are nothing but modern art museums, canvases that depict the world and its values, the world and its music, the world and its concerns, the world and its wants and desires.  I will be honest.  I am not much of a fan of most of the stuff that passes for modern art.  It seems to me that the artists are mostly scam artists seeking either to shock or scandalize us and then have us pay the bill when they are finished.  I do not insist that everything look like Norman Rockwell or Michelangelo or an ikon, but I am not so sure that stark geometric shapes and bold colors represent the height of mankind's skill and gift.  I won't even go to the shocking displays of vulgarity that often pass as "art" -- where is the art of such displays designed merely for shock value or to offend?

In the same way, many of those deemed most effective in popular Christianity are like museums of such modern art -- the preacher seems to think he is most effective by preaching on good sex rather than the Kingdom of God, when the sermon mirror's the values and wants of the people in the pew rather than the cross, or when preaching itself decays into thoughts and feelings instead of the certain Word of the Gospel.  When we hear the sound of pop music in our ears, warm and fuzzy talk that glorifies what we already think, and view the digital images of the world around us on the screens that mirror our own TV viewing, can you really call it "church?"

It is a fair criticism when churches are merely hiding places from the world around us, when they substitute beauty or artistry for the Gospel, or fail just as miserably to proclaim the living Word of God.  But "traditional" churches have no corner on the museum market and the modern day mecca's of pop culture, pop music, and pop theology are just as out of step with the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified as those they criticize as "museums of sacred art."

It seems to me that "traditional" churches addicted to the liturgy and the great choral music and hymnody of the Church give the Lord more of an opportunity to speak than those who have no corrective liturgy or music to counter the failure of the pulpit or the self-absorption of those in the pews.... 

Just a thought in response to a criticism I took a little too personally...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose this question has been answered a thousand times over, but what about the Church's song in modern music, such as the WELS group Koine, or ChoralConcert, or other type of music? Bach used the theatre music of his day, instead of the "church music."

Anonymous said...

My husband calls it shooting for the bottom. Some gear the service to the lowest level of thought and emotion. It seems trite and superficial because it is. Or worse, like modern art, abstract and grotesque, aka irrelevant.

Daniel Baker said...

Bands like Koiné have a place, but that place is not in the chancel obscuring the altar during a Divine Service. If someone wants a rock band to play the Sacred Liturgy and hymns from a transept or balcony . . . I suppose that is more palatable than some things I've seen, but I challenge you to show me where such a scenario is occurring. Actually, I challenge you to show me where such a band plays while the Liturgy is retained at all.

When it comes right down to it, I suppose you can have the Liturgy and hymns played to whatever musical or instrumental setting you want, so long as the setting is A) not mimicking the radical sects, B) in line with the tradition and heritage of the Church Catholic, and, most importantly, C) always and only keeping Christ and Him crucified as the central point - which should be the thematic content of whatever is being played - rather than who or what is playing. If these three tenets are not being met, then our worship (in my humble opinion) ceases to be Lutheran.

elmhurst erik said...

When confronting a challenge that liturgical churches are nothing more than sacred art museums, I expect to read a response filled with the absolute truth of God's glorious gifts of the Sacraments found in the Lutheran Church.

The angle of comparing contemporary worship services to contemporary art is interesting and worthy of discussion. Contemporary art is indeed built on a fractured foundation of man's wretched sinful nature. However, to dismiss the art industry as a scalawag of scam artists and shock artists is misleading and short-sighted. The contemporary art world offers an incredibly immense, intense and challenging system of theories based on man's creative mind (gift of God) and on man's abhorrent sinful nature.

It always brings me great sadness when people are so quick to dismantle contemporary art. I don't have a problem with people being dismissive of art. It's not to be expected for everyone to express interest in all aspects of life and culture, let alone the aforementioned qualities of today's art world. I do request caution upon the dismantling of all contemporary art for the wrong reasons.

I greatly enjoy your blog and the enlightened insights offered here. However, this specific post struck a different nerve for me. I wrote this comment two or three weeks ago, but hesitated posting it because I really enjoy your blog and didn't want my first comment to be a scolding. But after reviewing it again, I think it's worth sharing.