Art

‘Cultural Engagement’, a Bad Fix for Christian Isolationism

‘Cultural Engagement’, a Bad Fix for Christian Isolationism

It’s hard now to sort through too much Christian media without hearing moving and grandiloquent talk  about “cultural engagement.” It’s the trendy thing now, and it seems like the Christian para-academic establishment prepped the ground for an overdue reaction against the isolationism and confrontationalism of now-octogenarian culture warriors. But the talk often seems inversely proportional to the engagement itself. One framework: affirm the good, critique/subvert the bad, discuss redemptive possibilities.[1] (We here tend to omit the latter two.) Talk about talking about culture, and the Evangelical Church is your best conversation partner; talk about a spectacular Game of Thrones battle…

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We’re All Creatives Now?

We’re All Creatives Now?

I can’t remember the first time I heard someone refer to another person as “a creative” but I’m pretty sure it was within the past five years. Since then, the noun has broadened considerably. It used to be only fashion designers, novelists and musicians who were “creatives”. Now advertising executives refer to themselves this way. It’s clearly an elastic term, the connotations of which are almost all flattering. The adjective itself is everywhere you look, too (I’ve certainly used it in relation to ministry). And I’d wager this is largely a good thing. Creativity is often the fruit of grace,…

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Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

1. While we try to stay away from plugging anything too exuberantly, and Lord knows TV/movie recs can make one less likely to watch, not more, still – writer/director Whit Stillman is coming out with a new show on Amazon, Cosmopolitans, which sounds like a not-so-veiled reference to his acclaimed feature debut about young WASP life in NYC. Vanity Fair this week got a preview of the pilot, and TV snobs will be heartened to know that Stillman cited Everybody Loves Raymond and Desperate Housewives as favorites. Cautiously optimistic, Stillman said that even if the show doesn’t get picked up, he’s happy to have just a pilot: “I really feel that…

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Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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Terry Teachout on Pop Culture and the Need for a Balance Between High and Low

Terry Teachout on Pop Culture and the Need for a Balance Between High and Low

This one comes to us from the fascinating mind of Jeremiah Lawson, aka Wenatchee the Hatchet:

The Library of America recently rolled out the first installment in a set of Elmore Leonard novels that are now part of their line-up. To mark the occasion, critic and columnist Terry Teachout has revisited his skepticism about Elmore Leonard being regarded as a member of a literary pantheon. This isn’t to suggest that Teachout isn’t a fan of Leonard’s work. This is the same man who published a fine biography on Duke Ellington last year. Instead, he is concerned that our efforts to exegete…

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The Selfie on the Mount

The Selfie on the Mount

Instagram enhances Facebook’s most essential quality.

Facebook allows you to keep in touch with old “friends,” but keeping in touch means subjecting yourself to climate-change rants from that girl who failed biology in high school, college football highlight videos from that guy who never went to college, and (if you’re friends with me) shameless plugging of Mockingbird blog posts. But we subject ourselves to this cacophony for one reason and one reason only: So we can see their pictures.

Their pictures allow us to establish our place in the hierarchy. Her kids are cuter than mine, but mine are way cuter than his….

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The Drunken Downfall (and Death) of Thomas Kinkade

The Drunken Downfall (and Death) of Thomas Kinkade

To be honest, I didn’t even know Thomas Kinkade was dead. That was until I read this fascinating piece on Kinkade, America’s favorite sentimental “Painter of Light,” from The Daily Beast by Zac Bissonnette: “The Drunken Downfall of Evangelical America’s Favorite Painter.” I also had no idea Kinkade was (a) an Evangelical Christian and (b) an alcoholic. The story is at once alarming, yet not surprising, and ultimately really sad. Thus, I can’t help but explore it here.

(Before I move on, I should preface this essay by noting that Kinkade died on Good Friday two years ago, so I was probably distracted…

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Another Week Ends: Walser’s Wounds, Diet Supremacists, Homeless Christ, Hart’s Lament, Flat Circus, Mad Men, Parenthood, and The Secret Sisters

Another Week Ends: Walser’s Wounds, Diet Supremacists, Homeless Christ, Hart’s Lament, Flat Circus, Mad Men, Parenthood, and The Secret Sisters

1. Much of value comes across one’s desk during Holy Week, and this year was no exception. But the sources are seldom the expected ones. What stopped me in my tracks this week was an interview The European conducted with prominent German intellectual Martin Walser on “Kafka, Faith and Atheism” (and Karl Barth), which was picked up by The Huffington Post in 2012. Don’t gloss over! Despite the somewhat confusing allusion to Martin Luther–a generous read of which would surmise he’s referring either to the -ism that followed the man, or the way the Reformer’s understanding of vocation was culturally…

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Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

The time has come to post four rather astounding quotes from the 1993 interview that Larry McCaffery conducted with David Foster Wallace. It first appeared in Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the second paragraph will be familiar to those who attended last week’s conference:

I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves….

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Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: “Oh, And That’s Right…He Dug It.”

Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: “Oh, And That’s Right…He Dug It.”

I was recently introduced to this rare bit of hipness by my friend and fellow seminarian, Susan Sevier.

An early attempt at cultural relevance, Pastor John Rydgren’s circa-1967 Silhouette radio shows are so much fun.  Rydgren was serving as the head of the TV, Radio and Film Department for the American Lutheran Church at the time he produced this series.  With his hip, rhythmic baritone jive, Rydgren was seeking to connect people with the Gospel message in fresh and down-to-earth ways, and he was doing so in the midst of the cultural upheavals that characterized the Summer of Love.

Talk about dramatic parables!  Can…

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NYC Preview: Searching for Myself at the MoMA

From art historian, curator, and King’s College professor Dan Siedell:

Can’t wait for the Spring Mockingbird Conference? Let’s get an early start—at the Museum of Modern Art. Meet me on the front steps of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on W. 53rd and Fifth Avenue (1 West 53) at 2:00pm on Thursday, April 3.  We’ll walk next door to MoMA and spend a couple hours in front of some of the most important paintings in the modern tradition, paintings that challenge our expectations. In 1899 the young painter Henri Matisse purchased a little painting of Paul Cézanne’s at great financial sacrifice. In an interview in 1925, long after he had achieved international acclaim, Matisse confessed:

cezanne.applesIf you only knew the moral strength, the encouragement that his remarkable example gave me all my life! In moments of doubt, when I was searching for myself, frightened sometimes by my discoveries, I thought: “If Cézanne is right, I am right.” And I knew that Cézanne had made no mistake.

We’ll look at paintings by Matisse and Cézanne as well as many others (including an exhibition of Paul Gauguin’s work) and explore the fragility of identity through our experience of these awkward and wobbly pictures. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about his long struggle to understand Cézanne’s paintings, which fascinated and perplexed him,

I remember the puzzlement and insecurity of one’s first confrontation with his work…And then for a long time nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes….

As we walk through the galleries at MoMA, we’ll keep Matisse’s doubt and fear and Rilke’s “right eyes” before us. And we’ll explore how these strange looking pictures address us as vulnerable sufferers, in constant search for ourselves, and help us to learn to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5: 7).

Admission is $25.

The conference will be at St. George’s Episcopal Church in NYC April 3-5, 2014. For the full schedule, go here; to register, here.

A Monument to Loss

A Monument to Loss

This insightful and personal reflection on Edvard Munch’s work, as well as the plans for a new museum commemorating it, comes from our friend Daniel A. Siedell.

One of my most cherished memories from last year was a trip to New York City to see Edvard Munch’s The Scream on view at the Museum of Modern Art. The painting had made news in May 2012 because it was purchased by New York collector and businessman Leon Black for $120 million, at the time the most ever paid at auction for a work of art.

But The Scream has been an American pop…

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