• Art & Culture •
August 2, 2005
Every civilizational form assumes some role for tradition. No cultural moment emerges from a vacuum, for every generation responds in some way to the tradition it has inherited. Without an appreciation for the role of tradition and the inheritance of moral wisdom, the achievement of civilization becomes dubious if not dead.
July 19, 2005
Have we now reached a stage of social evolution that is “beyond honesty?” That fascinating question is raised by author Ralph Keyes in his book, The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. “I think it’s fair to say that honesty is on the ropes,” Keyes observes. “Deception has become commonplace at all levels of contemporary life.”
July 18, 2005
June 24, 2005
Carolyn Mahaney and her daughter Nicole Mahaney Whitacre have written an important new book, Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood [Crossway Books]. The book belongs in the hands of every young woman. Here’s a sample of what you will find:
Our culture puts forth a false standard of beauty and a false message about beauty. But ultimately, it’s the sin of our hearts that motivates us to believe them. These lies appeal to the things our hearts desire. We desperately want success, recognition, significance, importance, and approval.
For mothers and daughters, Scripture reveals the falsehood and the futility of the quest for physical beauty. ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain’ (Prov. 31:30). This word charm actually means ‘bodily form.’ It is perfect form and beauty that our culture esteems and pursues with fervor, yet God exposes this pursuit as sinful. Nowhere in the Bible are women instructed to wish for, ask for, or strive for physical beauty. Neither does the Bible portray physical beauty as a blessing for those who have it.
Now, Carolyn [wife of C. J. Mahaney] and Nicole, along with the other two Mahaney daughters, Kristen Mahaney Chesemore and Janelle Mahaney Bradshaw, have started a weblog, Girl Talk — Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and other Fun Stuff. Girls only, of course. Pass the word along.
June 14, 2005
June 3, 2005
Complaints about an explicit piece of art displayed as part of a tax-supported exhibition roiled Broward County, Florida in recent days. The art piece, known as “Yahoo!,” is a painting that graphically depicts President George W. Bush being sodomized. The painting also featured images of an oil barrel and a man in a Muslim headdress. The artist, Alfred Phillips, told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that his painting has something to do with “a political statement about the United States being abused by oil companies.”
The painting was featured as part of “Controversy,” an exhibit located at the Broward Art Guild, a non-profit organization. The exhibition was funded in part by a grant from the Broward County Department of Cultural Affairs. Once a complaint had been received, the Guild’s director received a call from Mary Becht, director of the county department. Subsequently, the painting was moved to another, less visible, location within the Broward Art Guild’s facility.
Inevitably, the relocation of the painting and the call from the county administrator led to cries of oppression and censorship. Broward County Vice Mayor Ben Graber defended the exhibit, pointing to the fact that the gallery had posted a notice warning of controversial displays. “If there’s a warning at the door, the county should not be involved,” he said. “I respect freedom of speech regardless of the issue. It’s obviously a political message. I can’t see why one should be allowed and not the other. Everyone should have the opportunity.” County officials promised an “internal discussion” about the Mary Becht’s decision to contact the Broward Art Guild about the painting. In any event, Vice Mayor Graber’s comments are worth closer attention.
Why would Broward County put tax dollars behind such an exhibition in the first place? According to the Sun-Sentinel, other pieces displayed in the program include a painting that depicts President Bush dressed as the Statue of Liberty while holding a tablet marked by a swastika, and a piece that portrayed Pope Benedict XVI surrounded by a backdrop of swastikas. Clearly, swastikas are “in” among protest artists.
Leo Tolstoy once remarked that art “is a human activity which has as its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.” By any standard of aesthetic virtue, the “Controversy” exhibit fails in all counts. In the name of political protest, these “artists” aim for the lowest and basest elements of the human imagination. Much of the modern art world is simply devoid of artistic standards, and political correctness is often more powerful than aesthetic considerations. The artist is now to be an agent of political protest and ideological liberation. A painting depicting politicized sodomy is sure to find admirers in the morally confused world of postmodern art.
This particular controversy does have an ironic angle, however. The complaint to the County Department of Cultural Affairs came, not from the general public, but from one of the other artists whose work is featured in the exhibition. Michael Friedman, the artist who complained, is the man who painted the work featuring the Pope and the swastikas.
“Something snapped inside” when he saw the Phillips painting, Friedman recalled. “Sodomy in a public forum is not, from my perspective, considered art,” he said. “I think somebody has to draw the line somewhere. I like political satire. However, that kind of image . . . I don’t think is artistic.” So, the artist who depicted the Pope with swastikas complained about the artist who painted the President being sodomized. Confused?
Welcome to the world of postmodern art. Representation and realism are out, while pornography and vulgarism are in. The Broward County controversy is only one small front in the war over artistic standards. At present, cultural Philistines seem to control the debate–and most of the galleries. Friedman is right about one thing–”somebody has to draw the line somewhere.”
June 2, 2005
May 26, 2005
The rise of the blogosphere continues to change the face of American culture. According to observers, the internet is now home to millions of web-logs (more commonly known as “blogs”), and something like eleven million Americans claim to have started blogs themselves. All this adds up to a major shift in our national culture and a massive threat to the dominance of what is now nostalgically called “mainstream media” (or “MSM”). Now, art critic Terry Teachout offers this observation: “The simplest description of this change is also the starkest one: the common culture of widely shared values and knowledge that once helped to unite Americans of all creeds, colors, and classes no longer exists.”
May 25, 2005
When Bill Moyers asked his youngest son why he had seen Star Wars at least a dozen times, he responded: “For the same reason you have been reading the Old Testament all your life.” As Moyers explained, “He was in a new world of myth.” That new world of myth has been a topic of debate and interest ever since 1977, when Star Wars first warped itself into our national consciousness. With the release of “The Revenge of the Sith” the mythological impact is again a matter of spirited discussion.
May 10, 2005
April 26, 2005
The shape of the evangelical challenge in postmodern America comes down to this–we must be continually on the alert to defend the faith, for the Christian faith now faces unprecedented attacks. The rise of a postmodern culture has produced an intellectual context in which the very concept of truth is held under suspicion, and claims to revealed truth are simply ruled out of order.
April 19, 2005
For several years, I have been warning audiences that America now faces a generation of young people unwilling to grow up, assume adult responsibility, marry, and start raising families. I have addressed this issue in various articles, public lectures, and church settings. My observations have been drawn from constant contact with young adults, including college students, and are backed up by a wealth of demographic and statistical information. Nevertheless, my warnings have often been met with incredulity, suspicion, and even outrage.