Talking about the work of self-titled ‘Christian artist’ Thomas Kinkade, who tried to capture an image of a world before the fall, in contrast to the more startling image of Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, Daniel A. Siedell eloquently lays before us the scope and reach true art can have…
…That Kinkade and his followers believe this to be “Christian art” is an affront to art, which time and again offers us grace, or at least brings us to the place where we realize that grace is our only hope. Art can do this because it often cuts through our self-deception to show us the reality of our souls. And this occurs because painters, poets, musicians, and writers probe the depths of human suffering and brokenness, and in that black pit, a flickering light can often be found. Some artists might give us only the black pit. But that is at times enough. We need art to remind us that we are not okay. We don’t just need a boost, a change of scenery or a weekend getaway. We need to be killed so that we can be raised again. Art can and should at times kill us, destroy our pretensions to virtue, goodness, and our desire to enlist art in our self-improvement schemes. And because being confronted with the hopelessness of our depravity is unbearable and our recognition that we cannot justify ourselves so utterly contrary to our fallen nature, we must have art to confront us. For it is only then, when brought to the very end of ourselves, that we can receive grace.
In light of discussions I’ve had recently on The Hunger Games, ‘serious films’ and how we treat most visual media as escapism, this is a really important point to be making – we are not okay, and pretending that we are can only be dangerous. For the Christian, it is pure contradiction! The arts, in all their forms, whether literature, music, poetry or film are tools to be used with thought and care, because they have the potential, as Siedell says so clearly, to ‘cut[s] through our self-deception to show us the reality of our souls.’
Sounds bleak? Well, I guess that’s the point. So should all art and literature and film be morbid and depressing? If the world were consistent, we certainly would (and probably will) see more of this, but for the Christian, there’s hope. There is a Word, an Image, there is one who is the Light of the world, and death couldn’t hold him. That changes everything. Jesus comes, shines light on the state we’re in, but also brings the offer of free grace and love, the beauty of which far surpasses anything we could conjure up on our own.
You can read all of Daniel Siedell’s article and more of his comments and thoughts on art at his blog.