In our adult Sunday school class, we are watching a series of lectures by R. C. Sproul on the Christian and the arts. I'm summarizing them and writing my responses. Here is an index to these posts. Today's post is a response to Sproul's suggestion that we use the “objective” classical standards—proportion, harmony, simplicity, and complexity—to judge art, and to the simplistic interpretation that this means “make only beautiful art.”
Make Ugly Art
In response to Sproul's proposal that we utilize the four Classical standards for order as a means to judge art, a lively discussion erupted after the lecture. There was a general feeling that Christians should only make and enjoy art that is “beautiful” in a very narrow, simplistic sense. I think only two points need to be mentioned here. They are two objections to this idea.
First: my “Flaming Fundamentalist for Peace” friend (an Ekphrasian, jazz pianist, computer science professor, Occupier, and self-described Libertarian Socialist) pointed out that art should be subversive. Art should be at the forefront of protesting injustices, advocating for social and political change, pointing out problems, and motivating for improvement. He spoke positively of Pussy Riot, claiming that what they did was morally courageous, as they were intentionally putting themselves at risk to protest against their lack of freedom.
Second: I pointed out that art made and enjoyed by Christians does not need to avoid ugly, bad, disturbing, or violent content. What matters is not whether such content exists, but how it is deployed. What matters is whether the evil is being shown as evil, or whether it is there just to make a sensation or increase sales. To sum up: IS THE ART REVELING IN UGLINESS, OR REVEALING IT? As Christian artists and consumers, we should make and support art that shows sin for the ugly thing it is, not art that pretends nobody sins.