Friday, July 25, 2008

Art in the home

Back to that PBS special, one thing many have noticed about ancient Israel is that prior to a certain point, you don't find too many artifacts. Now part of that is the fact that they were often overrun by Midianites and Philistines, and part of it is the fact that due to being overrun all the time, they were poor and had to do things like thresh grain in a winepress. It's hard to produce much good art when (as Judges notes) not a man even had a spear. (more on that one later maybe)

On the other hand, part of it is probably the Decalogue's injunction against graven images, and in that light, we really ought to consider our priorities. Certainly a look at the book of Malachi would suggest to us that our first priority in statuary and "panels of cedar" ought to be our churches, not our homes.

That noted, consider again Proverbs 31 and the example of Lydia in Acts; the wife of noble character makes tapestries--wall hangings--for herself, and I'd be surprised if Lydia's home was not well appointed. (if it wasn't, she had to hire a special architect in those days to make it ugly...Romans and Greeks didn't work that way) Certainly whatever they did, Scripture does not condemn them.

And so I am left exactly where I was left with art in the church; considering what it means. Not a bad place to be, methinks. One good place to start for many churches might be something that (sorry Sarah!) most any guy skilled with wood could create; a cross that really demonstrates the reality of the crucifixion. I saw one such cross at St. Klement's in Mayen, Germany (near Koblentz); large, bare, unfinished beams.

Not beautiful, except in demonstrating what He went through for us.


pentamom said...

Okay, you just make me realize how little I appreciate something that stares me in the face every Sunday.

In our church, which pretty much follows the austere Presbyterian model, there is a wooden cross, not completely rustic, but made of something like roughly cut 3" beams, stained fairly dark, mounted front and center -- and it was made by a gentleman who was part of the church before our time there.

I may have mentioned this before, but when visiting my brother at Christmas a couple of years back, we attended his church, and I saw a wooden cross there that I found disturbing. It's hard to describe, but it was nicely stained and polished, and merged right into the woodwork as though it were part of the building. It struck me that they had domesticated the cross and made it subservient to the architectural design of the church. It was, IMO, far worse than not having a cross at all, and even worse than many ornate sorts of crosses that I've seen, which at least stand out as dominant, rather than "tamed." Their lion was, so to speak, quite safe.

Gino said...

i find that a crucifix does more to illuminate the reality of just why we are there for worship.

crosses, though generic, have their place as well.

but i really wish the protestants would more readily embrace the cricifix as well.
they dont like it, and i dont really fully understand why, except that maybe they think it looks too catholic.
but its a great image and reminder on which to focus one's thoughts.

when my kids were fidgety during mass, i would point to the crucifix,and remind them: if He could do that for three hours on your behalf, then you can sit still and listen for one hour.

Uncle Ben said...

Gino, the Protestant answer to 'why the cross instead of the crucifix?' is that Christ is no longer on the cross, he is risen. The bare cross symbolizes Death being unable to hold him, or better, Jesus conquers Death.

I'll also go out on a limb and say that perhaps the empty cross ties in with Jesus' words, "deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me." That cross in the church reminds me that Christ has promised persecution and hatred if I follow him.

Gabrielle Eden said...

Good answer Ben. And bike, I meant to say, it's a good idea, making a good representation of what Christ has done for us.

Bike Bubba said...

Ben and Gino illustrate beautifully (thanks lads!) the importance of meaning in art. There are simple and complex ways of doing this.