Artists as church extras and secular priests
If you are interested in the Gospel, the arts and the North American church, you must read Makoto Fujimura’s “A Letter to the North American Church” which in part says: You began to believe in the late 18th century that we needed rational categories, to try to protect “faith” from “reason.” Reason began to win the battle in this false dichotomy. As a consequence, you began to suspect the mystery of our being and the miraculous presence of God behind the visible. What you call “Secularism” is your own offspring, given articulation by the division and fragmentation within the church. As a result of this dichotomy, you began to exile artists whose existence, up to that point, helped to fuse the invisible reality with concrete reality. An artist knows that what you can see and observe is only the beginning of our journey to discover the world. But you wanted proof, instead of mystery; justification instead of beauty. Therefore you pushed artists to the margins of worship, while the secular world you helped to create championed us, and gave us, ironically, a priestly role. Instead of having quality artists at the core of your worship, we were forced to operate as extras; as in “if-we-can-afford-it-good-but-otherwise-please-volunteer”, Extras. Meanwhile, in the institutions called museums, concert halls and academia, we are asked to be gods. You gave away artistic expression to the secular culture. And yet do you not know that Our Father in Heaven owns all of the earth? You might have given back the power of creativity to Egypt, and acquiesced to Babylon, but the true and living God still owns all the powerful institutions, and the hearts of critics and curators. Artists still have an instinct for worship, but they must do so now in sterile, minimalist boxes called galleries to the “unknown gods” of our time. Rather than giving devotion, they had to become a celebrity merchant, selling their goods; instead of giving of themselves to the Giver of gifts, they have become purveyors of a commodity. Artists have insight into the invisible qualities of the Reality; but you have forced them to serve only the visible, utilitarian and the pragmatic. Wow. Strong stuff but worth careful thought.