return to religion-onlineReligion and the Arts
The author reviews some insights into humor by several authors writing from religious perspectives.
There are three guidelines in dealing with art and propaganda. 1. An artful propagandist takes into account the ability of the audience to perceive. 2. Artful propaganda works like a deduction rather than a rationalization. 3. Artful propaganda must be “sincere.”
The relationship between artistic interests and spiritual direction is not coincidental. Spiritual direction is usually understood as a matter of the heart, rather than one strictly of the mind.
The life of the artist offers many analogies to the life of faith. The strictness of his way of life, the combination of ascesis and joy, the law of incarnation which limits all false spirituality: such features of the artist's calling carry both rebuke and instruction for the Christian, especially in a time when indulgence and unreality have infected the practice of religion. In today's cultural disarray, moreover, the modern artist in particular has much to teach us bearing on the rediscovery of meaning, the sifting of traditions, the discernment of spirits, and the renewal of the word.
This play, with its pressing enigma of mercy and justice, has at its quiet dramatic center the story of an overwhelming need for faith in the face of malignant nature and one-dimensional culture.
We must somehow become less frenetic in activity and more dedicated to reflection. Maybe we should write less and ponder more, travel less and reflect more, say fewer things but better things. There is so little of this in the church today.
One of the chief sources of difficulty in our time is the common, uncritical acceptance of the dichotomy between judgments of fact and judgments of value, between so-called "objectivity" and "subjectivity." In theology as in art, the question "What does it. mean?" can be answered only after it is reshaped to ask "How does it mean?"
Trotter takes the church’s stake in the arts seriously. Working from the derivation of "religion," Trotter contends that arts have a critical role in "the church’s very existence." Such an understanding has not recently been popular, which underlines the significance of the issue for writer and reader. The implications drawn from this analysis challenge and excite the reader.
The encounter of the gospel with the world, whether in evangelism, religious education, apologetics, or theology, requires a deep appreciation of, and initiation into, the varied symbolic expressions of culture. It is in such manifestations at all levels that the moral and spiritual life of the age discloses itself.
A work of art stands as a creation which, like God’s creation, reverberates into new possibilities that could not have been foreseen. With the exception of the New England meetinghouses which indeed to have a kind of rarefied puritan beauty, Protestantism in America has produced no significant styles of Christian architecture. Protestantism has largely failed to produce visual beauty, it has had to borrow.
Literature itself (no less than religion) is, in this view, an ideology, with the most intimate relations to social power.
The violence, the lust, the despair and finally the darkness of Picasso's art reflect the passion he finds in himself.
Protestants have been inclined to underestimate the power of images in religion. Yet images, symbols and rituals can impart feelings, understanding and aptitude of which we literally cannot speak.
"Wonder" may be an attractive word for us. Trotter reminds us not only what it is, but also provides guides from ancient and contemporary sources in what we have lost, and how we might recover this essential ingredient of our humanness.
The St. Johnís Bible does much to bring together the Protestantís zeal in printing the text on one hand, and the Catholic care for ecclesial art on the other.
Building on Northrup Frye's analysis of language, Trotter proceeds to sketch how much contemporary language has lost the dimension of imagination, leaving us impoverished and yearning for something more satisfying. Trotter proposes three ways in which imagination in religion contributes to enriching human experience. Quoting from contemporary novels and poetry, as well as Scripture, his case demonstrates as well as describes his position.
Speaking to the Indiana Area School of the Prophets in August, 1980, Trotter explores how theology and imagination are related, this time from the perspective of the words a religious community chooses to express what is finally incapable of being expressed in any definitive way. Drawing on novelists, poets, as well as Scripture, Trotter leads us through a perilous issue with a result that opens up new options for religious expressions, as well as warnings about traditional religious language.
A book review about Rembrandt, and a wide-ranging discussion of an era ripe with invention in science, economics and the arts.