Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: Aesthetics Betrayed

There are many things that inspire man. Religion is of course the primary inspiration for any rational, reasonable thinking man, but in the world of Modernity, where both rational and reasonable are rare, it can be difficult to find anything that inspires. In a healthy Christian culture the most inspirational forces next to faith are art, architecture, and music. While one can argue quite correctly that music and architecture are both arts, I separate the three only for the purpose of examining each in its own sphere and how the three are abused by anti-cultural forces.

Art, architecture, and music can lift the heart and raise the eyes of humanity up to God through their mesmerizing power. For example, the beautiful paintings gracing the walls and ceilings of the great cathedrals of Europe encourage us in faith, while the majestic architecture that flawlessly incorporates statuary and patterns make one stand in awe of the creativity of humanity while simultaneously being reminded of the source of such skill- our Creator. 

Music carries a special inspirational quality all its own. It causes us to muse on things of import. For example, we are moved to contemplate the importance of a holy life, thereby to look forward to the blessed vision of Our Lord after death when listening to the somber, yet exquisite music of Mozart's Requiem. The old hymns of the church encourage humanity to its true end- service to God. 

Sadly many Protestants misunderstand the reason for those very same beautiful works of art that grace the historic churches of Western Europe and consider Mozart and old hymns as relics of a bygone era. The cathedrals are looked upon, not as versions of the Gospel in stone and glass, but merely as excesses of a misguided church. Quite the contrary is true. They are not there simply as a matter of excess, or as a symptom of some misguided idolatry, but were created in an era when few had access to the written words of Sacred Scripture, and fewer still could even read. These great paintings and sculptures served to teach biblical lessons through “word pictures”, and moved the eyes of men from the temporal concerns of the fields they toiled in, to the heavens from whence God would once again descend in glory.

Unfortunately, art has ceased to be a focus or consideration of the Christian mind. Seminaries are more concerned with information than aesthetics, as if aesthetics had no grounding in Sacred Scripture, or indeed God. And yet some dare ask why we no longer create churches or cathedrals as we once did. The Modernist Christians have become mere utilitarians, and thus given art over to the secular world to exploit for its own purposes when it is a gift of God meant for his glorification. Churches are unfortunately purchased or chosen for ease of use, and not to serve as witnesses of the Gospel in stone and glass. 

To be sure the church is fully engaged in music, but what atrocious noises can be heard assaulting the senses of those within her walls as they prove once again to have given Modernity the final word on what constitutes music! Contemporary "Christian" music is largely the exact same disordered arrangements one hears on any popular radio station. At times one is hard pressed to even discern whether the lyrics projected on screens high above the stage where a crucifix used to be are praising our Lord or simply a pop musical tribute to a woman the lyricist yearns for. Even the altars have been stripped out of the sanctuaries, replaced with stages where choirs perform for the audience, and pastors take center stage as celebrities of the contemporary Christian subculture. 

The walls are often bare, the lighting harsh, and the entire production- what is often called a “worship service”- amounts to little more than a participatory concert with every bit the choreography of a Lady Gaga performance. 

In this milieu of milk-toast and, in some cases, neo-pagan worship, is it any surprise the church is impotent to reach a depraved world? How can she reach the depraved while embracing the symptoms of that depravity, albeit in musical, architectural, or artistic form? 

When art is employed in these churches it is often abstract, distorted, and flatly hideous. Take for example the newer Catholic churches. They are built to mimic the architectural styles of Modernity, and thus look like business offices rather than places of worship. The statuary is an exercise in Modern Art, complete with bizarre, deformed depictions of men and women of faith who would be appalled were they to see themselves interpreted so. These revolutionaries are not content to just deform these men and women of faith, but proceed to do the same to depictions of our Lord. He is often presented as a twisted, mangled creature barely resembling a human hanging on a stick, or in bizarre angular ways, making him appear more like a space age advertisement for motor oil, or perhaps a hood ornament, rather than the Messiah, God in the flesh, our King. 

This complete disregard for beauty, order and balance are, in my opinion, an example not only of hubris, but in some cases, of a desire to willfully commit sacrilege- to flaunt a rejection of tradition and all that it entails, even of traditional respect for our Lord. And these monuments to human depravity are to be respected as a “house of the Lord”? Absolutely not! They are a testimony to the rebellion of Satan, which these Christians participate in, albeit implicitly.

Have we forgotten we were called out of the world- that is, out of Modernity and its current popular fads? We have deluded ourselves into thinking that if we simply render ourselves “culturally relevant” we will win souls. The exact opposite has been the case. 

Why? 

In becoming “culturally relevant” we have rejected tradition and true culture in favor of the anti-culture of the Marxist worldview. Why become a Christian with all that may entail (which in many of these churches is very, very little), when I can have all that the church is steeped in without any of the obligation or guilt? “Cultural relevance” is another term for “Cultural Marxism”. It is being conformed to the world, rather than being called out of it as a uniquely cultured people of a unique kingdom, with an appreciation for divine aesthetics.

Scripture speaks of the arts to be sure. God instructed Moses to engage specific artisans in the creation of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Presence. These artists beautified the tent using their skills (Exodus 31). Their skills were gifts from God. Our Creator says, In the hearts of all who are skillful I have put the skill.” (Exodus 31:16) What is clear from His statement here is that all artistic skill- be it music, sculpting, painting, architecture, etc.- these skills have their root and foundation in the Divine. It is worth examining here the role of God as artist. 

In creating the world in which we live, the cosmos, we find the highest expression of beauty and order. Consider the delicate balance between the extremes of heat and cold, rain and snow, and darkness and light. In their order and in their distinct beauty we find the perfection of aesthetics. Everything, down to the molecular level, screams of balance, order and beauty. The universe is not the product of a cold, random chance happening, but bespeaks will, discernment, care, love and an appreciation for all that is truly beautiful. It is only when we factor in man in all his self centered depravity that the created world is made to appear ugly and disordered. Man without the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life seeks to not simply master the created world, but to be the lord of creation, and in that pursuit belches smoke into the skies, rendering the sun in the sky a murky haze of light, or pumps his refuse from factory and home into the waters that once provided his sustenance and gave life to a multitude of aquatic animals now heading for extinction. Yes, it is always man in his depravity that renders balance, order and beauty null and void. This is no less the case with art, architecture and music.

What the Modernist refuses to acknowledge is that every skill and talent we possess comes from God, and thus finds its created purpose when,and only when, it is used to glorify God. If art, music, and architecture are used to glorify God, they will in turn inspire and encourage humanity to fulfill its created purpose as well- glorifying God and being transformed to the expressed image of Christ. The Modernist rebels against this notion with all the fervor of a Crusader fighting the Muslim invaders of Europe. Steeped in the principles of Cultural Marxism the average Modernist views art simply as an expression of their own collective depraved desires, wants, needs and experiences. And while art may indeed be an expression the human experience, this is not the chief end of art. 

Cultural Marxism goes beyond this, however, to use art as an expression of their political agenda, reducing art to ugly propaganda. And so Modern Art emerges, not as an expression of order, balance and beauty, but as their antithesis. The truth is, Modern Artists are not really artists, but political activists creating weapons on canvas, in music, and in stone. They are revolutionaries promoting one Marxist concept after another under the very thin guise of art. It is not art, but its negative image. Just as Satan would have a kingdom of his own, a negative image of the Kingdom of God, so the Cultural Marxist establishes the negative image of true art, music and architecture, stripped of order, balance and beauty. One would be hard pressed not to laugh (if not fly into a rage) at the very suggestion that something as putrid and crude as Andres Serrano's 1987 piece titled Immersion can in any wise be placed in the same category as Caravaggio's The Supper at Emmaus or Titian's portrait Empress Isabel. Serrano's vulgar offering is not at all art, as it is in no way inspiring humanity to do anything but rebel against God, and in its very form is antithetical to order, balance and beauty. The response of those who, for some bizarre reason, find Serrano's piece somehow inspiring is more a reflection of the degree to which the individual has succumbed to the principles of Cultural Marxism than any substantive grasp of aesthetics, since they are negatively inspired. In this, even inspiration itself is inverted for the sake of Satanic rebellion.

True art will do more than inspire. It will reflect its source. First, it reflects the mind and heart of the person creating it. If the person is disordered, as I would suggest Modern Art advocates are, the end product will reflect disordered passions, rebellious attitudes, and the depraved part of man. Art can do no less without being brought to the touchstone of faith. Once brought to the touchstone of faith, no matter which form of artistic expression it might be, it will naturally manifest the characteristics of its Source- God Himself. It will express beauty, order, balance, love, faith, and a discernment for that which contributes to a healthy organic culture. That which does not express these things is objectively ugly, even if presented in otherwise appealing forms. There are three principles by which a Christian should judge any artistic expression.
  1. It must be truly artistic. That is, it must be an accurate or substantive representation of the object.
  2. It must be well crafted. This lends it a worth, a value due to its faithful expression of the qualities of the object.
  3. It must inspire humanity to pursue virtuous life, faith, morality, culture and order.
Modern art, modern music, and modern architecture are capable of none of these things and so fail this three point test. They are instead celebrations of all that is ugly, all that is common and immoral, all that militates against balance, order, beauty, culture, tradition, and the human spirit itself. Modern music repeatedly informs humanity that we are simply here to pursue sexual gratification without regard to God's law, modern art dulls the senses so that pornography, insults to Christ, and the message of Marxist revolution replace a discerning reflection. And modern architecture, with its lack of anything remotely beautifying serves to reinforce the Globalist view of the masses that you are a mere economic unit, a wheel in the machine, useless for anything but production and consumption. The combined product of the Modernist artisans are, bluntly stated, acts of terrorism and hatred against a healthy organic society and God Himself.


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