More (but just a little) on art and sg

I’m pretty much inclined to let the things stand as they are on this topic. Those for whom religious music has meaning as an expression of particular orthodox doctrines or a fixed set of theological tenets will likely remain unconvinced by those who, like L’Engle (and, I guess I should say, me), tend to discover religious meaning in a range of forms and places, to be less interested in motives than effects.

(As an side, I hasten to add that much of L’Engle’s writing leaves me cold, especially in the way it tends to trail off into the high weeds of neo-Platonic vagary – for instance, “all Christian art (by which I mean all true art ….) is cosmos in chaos” – but I like her general refusal to be pinned down and her truculent resistance to the anti-intellectual reductionism so common in much of mainstream Christianity.)

For those who judge art in part (though not exclusively) by its ability to elicit certain responses create and certain effects (and now, obviously, I’m being vague, if not neo-Platonically so), there would never be a question of confusing Billy Joe Bob’s Sunday morning special – eternally earnest but musically inferior – for art of any kind. Put this another way: bad art may be bad religion (and to be honest, I’m not sure it’s a claim I’d defend to the death; I mostly like it for its pithiness and the way it is likely to throw joyful noisers off balance for a few seconds before they can think of a bible verse to cherry pick by way of rebuttal). But bad music isn’t necessarily art at all.

The rules of responsible argumentation dictate that at this point I define key terms (”good,” “bad,” … “art”), but I figure if George Bush can ignore whatever rules he finds inconvenient, who am I to demand more of myself? The answer I may never know …. Anyway, the original provocation can stand unamended more or less, because sometimes the more interesting discussion is the one that proceeds with less, rather than more, amplification from the provocateur … and too, clarifying would be harder work for the provocateur tonight that he’s up for.

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  1. SM wrote:

    The thing I never could understand about the whole “called to do it” thing is that if a pathetically ungifted singer is “called to music ministry,” does that mean someone should be called to listen to them?

    I haven’t gotten that call.

  2. Jim2 wrote:

    Yeah, that’s one reason why we run on to comment after snide comment. Like men and women (see Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs) we are not speaking the same language. If we can’t define or agree on what “good” “bad” “art” “Christian” “ministry” “monestry” “holy shoddy” or the difference between religion and religiosity, how can we know if we are sniping at the right targets? It’s very difficult to shoot our wounded when we’re not even sure who’s on our “side”.
    On a different note, a lot of Praise and Worship music would seem to fall under the “bad art” but “good religion” category,doncha think?

  3. arnold wrote:


    Is chanting (so-called Praise and Worship) even considered music? I think “Shucking and Jiving” would be a more realistic term.

  4. Tom wrote:

    Jim2, I would have to say that most of what passes under the banner “praise and worship” in the last decade or so is definitively “BAD religion” even if every great once in a while a song or two manages to rise to the level of just “mediocre art.”

  5. Tj wrote:

    Ok, now the truth comes out. Not only is Avery a brutally harsh critic (whom I’d love to see try to sing), but is also a Bush-basher. Great.

  6. ITF wrote:

    Bush-basher? Yeah, but nobody’s perfect!

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