I spoke about the duel between reason and faith last week. While that’s been in the back of my head, I’ve been contemplating other related issues. On Christmas Eve, my fiancé and I saw Les Miserables. Then we went to a Christmas Eve service. While in no way do I think those at the Christmas Eve service showed a lack of earnestness or genuine spirituality, Les Miserables showed me more about Christianity and redemption through a skilled and quality production. That struck me as tragic. When I go to church, any Christian church, I go looking for Truth and to feed my hungry mind. Watching the nearly impoverished bishop give Valjean those two silver candlesticks after he stole the silver, in the name of Christ, was as strong as watching The Passion.
Any act of art is a mini act of Creation. Even in its twisted, fallen form, there is something that resonates as true. I rally with St. Augustine’s cry that “all truth is God’s truth”, but I’m also reminded of Jesus’ teachings. They were Parables, and these are stories that strike deep down in hearts. His most direct admonishments were directed at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. This method of apologetics strikes home in a post-modern world. Believers with a modernist approach to apologetics clash with non-believers who are comfortable in their postmodernism, which is why arguments, even well-spoken ones, lead to little progress. Fundamentally, they aren’t the most effective way to change one person, or several, or a multitude.
I think that is why Jesus makes so much sense on so many levels and why I am convinced of His Divinity. Even the simplest minds can understand Him and live effectively as Christians, and the most intelligent minds can be challenged and pushed toward understanding about self and the world. I think Christians who don’t attempt to understand Jesus’ teachings are the ones who commit atrocities toward people groups. Think of the KKK, of the Puritans of the time of the Salem witch trials, of the Crusaders, of the slave-owners, of the Protestant-Catholic conflicts. Regardless of your view of historical events, there’s far too much negativity that shouldn’t even be there. That’s why, as a religious group, we are immortalized in history as those who seek to destroy, rather than to build up.
I don’t believe Christianity is an oppressive religion. It seeks to free and enlighten. But its teachers and followers are often corrupt or ignorant. The lack of enlightenment, the ignoring of Jesus’ Words…that is what leads to oppression and darkness.
Recently, I watched the clip of Mark Driscoll’s condemnation of Avatar.I saw the Avatar discussion… and I watched the video. I wouldn’t say that it was “demonic” anymore than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was demonic. There were some serious anti-industrialization themes in that book, and I think that if you wanted to, you could make a similar argument for it as well. People have been saying these kinds of things about various works of art for years. Thoreau didn’t bring down the destruction of humanity with his transcendentalist literature.
Think about it…Thoreau’s writing, in particular his Civil Disobedience, spurred Gandhi to protest passively. MLK Jr. was inspired by Gandhi’s work. It was a trickle-down effect that helped to promote civil rights and social justice in America. Just because Thoreau believed you could find the Divine within and in nature doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have positive, redemptive effects on humanity.
I’m not saying that the themes in Avatar are Biblical. There are elements of Truth and elements of lies, just like in all things. Even Christian art can easily be full of lies or hypocrisy. I wouldn’t be as quick to call a work of art evil, though. It’s often difficult to see the fruits of art right away.
Like my friend over at The Creative Juicer said, “To say that man alone can reach ‘enlightenment’ is foolishness, but to say that only Christians can become ‘enlightened’ is also foolishness.” If it were true that only Christians could become ‘enlightened’, then it would be impossible for any non-Christian to understand anything true about this world, which simply isn’t true.
Here is the clip, if you are interested in watching it.