Christianity no longer produces the world’s most beautiful and arresting art….This is a far more serious problem than most Christians think. Few Christians go into media or the arts today, or see it as a primary apostolate of mission field or battlefield. But it is. It’s the part of the battlefield where we lost the world, and it’s the place where we’ll have to win it back. The field is ripe for harvesting. Our world is rich, efficient, powerful, clever, knowledgeable—and ugly. We live in strip malls and hide beauty away in museums, instead of living in the museums and hiding away the ugliness.
(from Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft)
This morning I was stopped in my tracks when I came across this passage from Jesus Shock. Kreeft is absolutely right that Christianity no longer produces nor seems to value good art in the way it once did. It as if we have forgotten that beauty is an essential part of the Christian faith. We have lost sight of the fact that Christ is beautiful and in order to be more in his image we must also seek beauty. I have many friends who lament the period of iconoclasm that followed the Second Vatican Council. The council fathers themselves called for noble simplicity when it comes to art that serves the liturgy. What actually happened in many churches, however, was not striving for noble simplicity, but rather to remove the beautiful from our churches and replace it with the mundane and tacky.
Many who still defend these changes will argue that the change in Christian art was necessary in bridge the gap between the Church and the modern world. But why not work to bridge that gap instead by inviting those who live in the ugliness of our modern society into the sanctuaries of beauty that our churches once universally were and can be again? Our church buildings are meant to represent heaven. Whether they be grand and exquisite or simple and plain, beauty should be present there to remind us that God is beautiful and that we are made in his image and likeness. My prayer is that Christianity will regain its great artists so that the faithful can more easily meet God through the power of the arts.