Listened to: Fidelio, Beethoven’s only opera (unfortunately; would he had written more!).
How should Christians filter works of art through their spiritual lenses? There’s a fine line between over-analyzing art vs. simply taking it at face value without employing critical thinking as to the implications of the worldview represented.
On the one hand, some critics force works of art/literature/film into Christian boxes of meaning, such as searching for cross-shapes in photographs, trying to read Raoul in “Phantom of the Opera” as a Christ-figure, making The Matrix or Star Wars into allegories with a one-to-one correspondence to the passion narrative in the Gospel According to Matthew, etc. On the other hand, it would not do us or our students much good to say, “Isn’t Catcher in the Rye such a lovely story? Such nice people. OK, good, moving on to the next book….” Rather, we need to shine the light of the Gospel softly on what we encounter, observing the moral/ethical implications of the work.
Below is an interesting piece that highlights this issue. It is an example of an analysis that I believe stays right in the middle where it should be. A friend of mine recently adapted and directed a production of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. The production emphasized the themes she discusses through the acting style. For example, the most important line, by posture, timing, silence, lighting, was Lizzy’s “Until this moment I never knew myself”—thus pointing up the need for self-examination. Here is what the director wrote in the program:
If you have come to our show expecting a good, old-fashioned romance, I do hope you’ll leave us quite satisfied. But if you go home, having enjoyed it only as good romance—and nothing else—then I will have failed both you and Jane Austen.
Pride & Prejudice is a story filled with the 19th century marriage market: men and women, courting, teasing, proposing, and marrying; a mother with five daughters, vying for marriages that will settle her girls for life—and yet, as the title suggests, it is not primarily about romance itself. It is rather about the changing process that romantic love can enact upon a character; about two young persons, who though seemingly incompatible, by their very interactions with one another create compatibility betwixt themselves. The wonderful romance of this story is a direct outcome of the conflict and life-changing clash of worlds between a certain Elizabeth Bennet of Longbourne and the wealthy Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.
This story explores many themes, such as the practical necessity for a middle-class woman to marry, and the consequences of loveless marriages. Clerical positions in Jane Austen’s time were often given to people by wealthy land owners within a parish, and they were considered highly desirable situations for men without inheritance. Mr. Collins is an example of an appointed, yet hardly appropriate clergyman. This is perhaps a remark on the way the clergy could be set up without necessarily being suitable, or even godly. Other themes include the need for parental discipline, the excesses of gullibility, and the unreliability of first impressions.
All these and more await you in our play. It is my prayer that this moral story of pride and humility, criticism and self-examination may cause you to search your own life for the personal weaknesses that plague us all.
For the glory of God,