Recent Online Reading

I’ve come across a few good reads online recently, all with an art or culture angle to them. The first few are from painter Makoto Fujimura, who has a great interview here and here. Fujimura’s works are pretty unbelievable, he uses gold and other precious objects to paint with, creating dense, layered, abstract expressionistic beautiful paintings. He also has a few good mp3 messages online, and was a founding elder of The Village Church.

Fujimura also has started IAM, the International Arts Movement, which is a collection of artists from all types of fields “to wrestle with the deep questions of art, faith and humanity in order to inspire the creative community to engage the culture that is and create the world that ought to be.” Oh yeah, he also has written a book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture. Busy guy.

Through IAM, I found The Curator, their online publication. There are some really great articles in here that critically engage the art our culture produces. Right now they have an interview with Pierce Pettis up.

In this same vein, I stumbled over The Gospel & Culture Project, developed by Dr. William Edgar, apologetics professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. There are some great reads here as well, especially the piece on Italian painter Morandi’s Still Lifes and in The Threat of Culture, on how we can positively view culture. There’s also a fascinating snippet of an upcoming documentary on physical perfection and religion. This 7 minute peek likens our manufacturing of mannequins to past culture’s creation of statues used in worship, like saints. Very interesting.

And not on any of these topics and in more shallow water, there’s a slightly old article from New York Times’ The Pour, on how big beer breweries act like their customers are stupid.

The Gospel and Death Metal

Arts and TheologySo I got my new issue of Paste in the mail yesterday and ran across a great article.  I was even able to use it in my worship-leading class I teach at ICS. You can read an online version of it here, it’s on page 18. It’s titled Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath and draws connections between death metal and old hymns, specifically their morbid focus on blood and death.

This is not just a funny juxtaposition, but I believe contemporary Christianity can learn a lot from the past hymns and current death metal.  Today during my chapel talk at my school, I was going through Psalm 51.  In this psalm, David takes some time dwelling on his sin- the first 5 or 6 verses are just filled with darkness and despair and grief over his current condition. For example, in verse 3 he writes, “my sin is ever before me.”

In the contemporary church when we talk about sin, we don’t often leave much room before going to forgiveness.  How often do we dwell on our sin, realize that it is “ever before us”? Probably not too often.  Instead of bringing up forgiveness as if the word was connected to death or sin, I think we would do well to dwell on our humanity- our fallen, dirty, disgusting humanity.

The main reason for this is not morbidity in itself, but it is to see how far down in the pit we really are- because of that, how far down our Savior had to reach to get us out of the pit, ultimately we see a Savior bigger than one who is applying band-aids.  He’s providing life to the dying- to those who are dead.

And dwelling on the cross in all its wretchedness gives us a picture of the length our Savior went to secure a people of his own.  We love the fluorescent-lighted, happy-grinning, thumbs-up giving Jesus, not the down-trodden, spat-upon, cross-bearing, bleeding Jesus. We (myself included) can easily turn Christ’s death on the cross into a joke.  By recognizing its bloody reality, we get the real picture of hope- the death of death in the death of Christ (probably the coolest name for a book ever).

So let’s learn from death metal, as we above all people get hope from something that seems hopeless- death and spilled blod. And go out there and do a hardcore version of “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”