For the past few weeks, I have been attending a discussion group concerned with the arts and finding and engaging your creative calling. I have really enjoyed the dialogue and the conversation partners, and I am humbled when I realize that God is speaking to each one of us, and out of that people are responding in very imaginative and creative ways. Last night we had an interesting conversation on censorship, provocative art forms, and the responsibility of the artist. Eventually we touched on subject of pornography and the offensiveness of art.
I have an aside to this conversation so bear with me: Some might see this as conservative, others might see it as hypocritical, but I am on the side of censorship when it comes to pornography. I honestly think it is horrible and I have known many people, myself included, who have bought into the lies of what it has promised and it has devestated individuals, families, and communities. I have seen it hurt many people, again I include myself. It drastically alters and manipulates reality, and it degrades everyone involved, eventually making us less human in the process. I will go on record and say that I do make a distinction with art and I am comfortable with nude paintings, now you might find that an oxymoron, however I think that there can be an honest apprecation in that and I don’t believe that humans are degraded in the process.
Now that I have ranted on pornography, I want to return to the conversation that was held last night. Someone brought up the Christian artist Thomas Kinkade, also know as the “Painter of Light”, and basically said that there is a responsibility for us, especially Christian artists, to be true to the divine and human experience. Many people enjoy Kinkade, I don’t. In fact, I despise just about all of his paintings, and yet I also want to say that I am trying not to argue against anyone who does in fact enjoy his artwork. I think that the reason I don’t enjoy his art is because a part of me doesn’t see it as honest. It is fabricated in my opinion, and I would rather look at something that imparts some sense of what I have experienced in life. Steve said that if he were ever to hang a Kinkade painting in his house, that he would feel responsible to have other art work that “balanced” that painting out to be more true to himself and to others. I think that is very wise, and I believe it too. I would say that art has the responsibility to be honest, to give insight into the human condition, the human experience, and that includes all the hope and pain of it all. I still don’t like Kinkade, but I can see maybe why others do a little bit better. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters, and Starry Night is probably one of my favorite pieces. Yet I also have to say that Van Gogh does not incapsulate it all, and I can appreciate Picasso’s horrific Guernica, knowing that both artists in a sense balance each other out.
So how does this all relate to pornography and bumper stickers you ask?
I think that when we give messages to each other, whether that be in art, media, conversation, or public discourse, we all have the responsibility to be as honest as possible and to uphold the truth that we are all human and there is a certain dignity that we all carry because of that, even when we do inhumane things. From the Christian perspective, this dignity is due because we are all images of God. Pornography, art, and bumper stickers all carry messages; and they all have the potential to be offensive. We can argue all day long on what is offensive, and I think that there are times when you can be offensive and also be true and respect the dignity of others persons in the process, we can debate that another time. Last night, I brought up that I am equally offended at bumper stickers as much as I am pornography. A couple of people balked at what I had said, but my reasoning goes as such: pornography and bumper stickers do the same thing, they convey a message and interrupt lives and leave no room for interaction and feedback. There are no dialogue partners in either message, what you see is what you get and there is nothing to contribute. What pornography lacks in describing true intimacy and friendship and love, bumper stickers lack in humility and shared truth. There is a certain arrogance on both parts, and both exclude possibilities of people giving and receiving. Ultimately, they are void of a full approach to being honest.