Preach It

I have seen, in Catholic churches, minimalist Stations of the Cross that hardly can be recognized as depictions of the Passion. I have seen crosses that look as if a modernist Jesus were flying with wings outspread, like a theological pterodactyl. I have seen the Eucharist relegated to what looks like a broom closet. I have seen a baptismal font that bubbles. I have seen beautifully tiled floors, with intricate cruciform patterns, covered over with plush red carpet.

I have heard for decades effeminate “hymns” with the structure and melody of off-Broadway show tunes. I have read hymn texts altered so as to obliterate references to God with the personal pronoun “He.” This music would not be acceptable for a jingle to sell jelly doughnuts on television.

I have seen and heard enough


douglas said...

It's a terrifically tall challenge. The window on what is socially considered "beautiful" has moved so far in the last hundred years, that it's really going to take another 50 at least to get back to some reconsideration of what is beautiful.

Also, I don't think it's a simple as returning to traditional forms and themes. There are certainly things created in modern or contemporary styles that are beautiful by standards that would not be foreign to classicists- by virtue of proportion, structure, rhythm, and so forth. Often, I suspect, it's precisely because the designer had training in classical art and/or design, and brought those sensibilities with them into new materials and methods. So the issues with most of what we think of when we talk about 'soulless modernity' in something is likely not that there is something inherently wrong with the materials or methods of recent decades, but that we cut off much of the knowledge of classical beauty in the process of promoting modern design. When you do encounter something of modern design that seems beautiful in a classical sense, these are often described as having a kind of oriental restraint and simplicity to them- surely there is a relationship there- Asian classicism was never really ostracized the way western classicism was.

I went through architecture school at a time when we had very little working experience with or, really, even exposure to classical design principles, and I think that as a result the designs of my generation suffered greatly. I feel I'm very much still a student of beauty in that regard. Add to this the pace of production of most 'architecture' today and the extent to which you're resolving code compliance (don't get me started- I could go on all day about this), just doesn't allow for the kind of time and care to really work out designs that adhere to the kind of rules that will produce classical beauty. Curiously, perhaps one thing that may swing the tide is the use of computers and their ability to make complex systems workable and producible. A fair amount of design experimentation and production now is in many ways mimicking natural patterns and proportions, something computers can deal with quite well if used appropriately. So, perhaps there is hope for a re-discovery of beauty.

Tom said...

There are two problems I see. First, beauty is bourgeois and there is an active hostility to it. Second, it seems Jesus is problematic in modern Christianity and so de-emphasized.

(Should I say "modernist Christianity"? I'm not clear on terms, here, myself. Anyway, for those happy with practicing ancient Christianity in today's world, Jesus is the point. Those trying to create a modern Christianity seem to have problems with him.)

(A third problem is this is behind the WSJ's paywall, so I can't read the whole article. If I haven't addressed something in the article then, that's why.)

Grim said...

If Jesus is the problem, Tom, perhaps you should say 'modern "Christianity."'

Douglas, that's a very interesting perspective on the problem. Thank you.

Ymar Sakar said...

The problem isn't J of Nazareth or even the Pope, it's all the humans involved.

Even the Elect shall be deceived, not that deceiving humans is all that difficult.

Destroying fake news is first, not reading it. Then debating it, because those that can debate and win in ignorance, it's not about a human problem nor derived from a human solution.

Human superpowers have tried again and again to carve out or defeat Lucifer's Own and Islam. But they have failed time and time again. Judaism is incapable of converting those from Islam.

That's because there are several theological issues at work. It is also why the US government burned bibles and other works, while using the gloved hand treatment on the Koran. Somebody had a hint, that the only way to defeat Lucifer is on his level, the divine level, not the superpower on Earth level.

To fight a religion you need a religion, preferably one that wasn't made up. To fight an army, you need an army. To fight fire, you need fire. There's no point in fighting evil in Iraq with bombs, because you can't bomb Lucifer out of existence. Not even with the United States of America's mightiest secular weapons, it is as nothing to divine entities. They don't exist on the same dimension and are not harmed by the same things.

All the security and military specialists are deluded in their belief that their own powers or that of the government, is sufficient in fighting evil. Perhaps they don't even believe in the existence of evil as having an impact on physical hierarchies. Not even Petraeus is immune to the temptations of Lucifer. The same goes for the Kings worshipped by Americans or the Generals worshipped by the same.

Tom said...

Maybe so, Grim, but not yet, I think, not for all of them. The reason I put it as a problem is that they are struggling with questions about Jesus, which in itself doesn't take away one's Christianity. At least, that's my sense of things. On the other hand, I am no longer well-informed about these things, if I ever truly was.