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The problem with Art

February 22, 2005

This is the Magee church of Christ building designed by Sambo Mockbee which is located in Magee, Mississippi. On Fajita’s blog he raised the question of the role art in worship. I would like to explore that a bit.

Sambo had no association with RM churches. This small rural church for some reason hired him to design its new building. I wish I had a better picture. They like a lot of the RM churches that I deal with did not want people to be “distracted” by looking out windows. Sambo could not imagine a church with no natural light. So his solution was to create shields over the windows. They let some light in but keep out the distracting views. Sort of poetic. The baptistery is on the left with the skylight so that when you come up out of the water you get your only view (straight up).

The loss of art is an issue both in our churches and in our society. This is particularly true in rural settings. Many schools have also abandoned any type of Art other than Music education. We have generations which see little to no real value in Art. They know nothing of its ability to stir the soul.

A recent story from our church is that we started using a projector to project songs. After some time of doing this and I guess some complaining. The elders decided that we could only show “approved” pictures during services. That means that before the opening and after the closing prayer that pictures are acceptable. The person in charge of the media ministry has decided that well if pictures are wrong maybe color is, so we have black and white during services. In case your wondering, I chalk all this squarely in the “stupid” camp. It is as if God the great artist who created all that we see, and that which testifies to his existence (see Romans chapter 1) needs to be shut out. A picture of nature is wrong and a window to nature is wrong. Why? Because it might distract from our logical words. It might send someone’s mind down a path different from the one programmed for them.

Art is subjective. Boy did I struggle with that in college. Effort is not really relevant. What you like I might not like. All these issues make Art messy, There is not a right answer to it. That flies against our quest for scientific correct answers to all the questions.

Once again we need to be more concerned with being forgiven than with being correct. Art we do indeed need you back, teach us, train us, show us how being creative is connected to the image of our creator.

Posted by Hello

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2005 8:53 pm

    I sympathize with Sambo. How can we expect visitors to see God in our dark cavernous chambers? I even wonder about my kids, after I’ve told them we’re going to God’s house to worship. Do they think: “Is this the best God can afford?” “I thought God would have better taste.”

    Because their dad has his own questions:

    Doesn’t the Lord of Light deserve better than fluorescents?

    Doesn’t the Creator of Color merit better than monochrome?

    Would the Planter of Eden be allergic to a few indoor plants?

  2. February 23, 2005 10:42 am

    Keith, thanks for the comments. Sambo’s commentary was that these people let in a little light but not the whole thing. Its having our fingers stuck in our ears and saying “Na na na na na” so we can’t hear you. The tabernacle was a extremely elaborate and symbolic peice of architecture. Of course I am biased, but we really do say what we value by our architecture. That’s true of a community, a church or a nation.

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