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“The Dangers: What are the Dangers of Artmaking in the Church?” by W. David O. Taylor

August 7, 2010


It is important to remember that there are always pros and cons to everything, and this is no less true in regard to artistic practice in the church. Art can always be misused and misunderstood. In chapter seven of The Beauty of the Church, David Taylor brings his reader’s attention to some dangers associated with artmaking in the church, which must be addressed if the church is going to engage with the arts in any real and edifying way.

Taylor identifies six main dangers of artmaking in the church:

  1. Bad art: Bad art, he says, is “cliché, melodramatic, cheap, rushed, plastic, superficialized, elitist, garish, lazy, cold, self-indulgent, and impersonal.“ (150) While I think this is a helpful distinction to make, Taylor does not elaborate on how we might judge what is good and bad art (besides his list of what bad art is).  Bad art seems to be a real danger in the church, surely. While this is too big a topic to fully address at present, I wonder, might one possible way to overcome this danger be a cultivation (and definition) of good Christian taste?
  2. Supersaturation: As a culture, we are constantly overstimulated—visually, mentally, physically. When art becomes only a means of stimulation, and thus distraction, from the real world, it is in dangerous territory. We become unable to fully or properly engage with each other and the world around us. And because the church’s task is partly to help us do just that, using art in way that contributes to this oversaturation only proves to do harm.
  3. Estancandose tercamente, or “stubbornly stagnating”: Often we become so concerned with “tradition” or the way things have always been, that we cannot see room for good Christian growth and development. We neglect to see that those hymns that we always sing were only written very recently when placed in the context of the history of Christianity, so to make them necessary to the way Christ is worshipped universally is not only absurd, but extremely harmful. This isn’t to say that tradition is always deleterious to the arts in the church, but rather, that we should appropriately place those traditions in our broader understanding of the way the church functions and engages with culture. Taylor concludes: “What is dangerous is when we stubbornly close God off from refreshing, redirecting, or even replacing elements in our corporate practice of Christian faith.” (153)
  4. The utilitarian reduction of art: There has been the tendency to reduce the function of art to use as an instrument or vehicle for the church’s service of evangelism or otherwise. But as Taylor points out, “art is good for human service in general.” (153) It is part of the basis of being human, not just a tool for Christian service. We take away from the power of art to engage us when we reduce its function to that which is merely useful for Christian service. This seems, to me, to be one of Taylor’s most important and relevant points, given the history of the church’s use of the arts. But if we maintain a view of Creation which sees the world and our human participation and making in it as intrinsically good, then the arts become just one more way to glorify God, whether or not they serve any explicitly Christian purpose.
  5. Art as a form of distraction: Art can be used as an escape into three things: feelings, entertainment, and the art itself. For each of these forms of escape, Taylor addresses different types of Protestant Christianity that may be susceptible to such dangers (charismatic, seeker-friendly, and traditional churches, respectively). It seems to me that this point is connected to danger number 2 in the way that art interrupts the normal processes of daily life and Christian practice.
  6. Immaturity: Art can become divisive through both using and viewing it in an immature or attenuated way. It is true that sometimes art is used and interpreted in a wrong way, but this does not preclude its use in the church. “The possibility of abuse does not remove legitimacy of use.” (156) This danger in particular takes into account the importance of context in regard to the art’s use in the church. The context determines how we should treat art, and often immaturity results in the use of the arts in inappropriate or unhelpful ways given the certain context within which it was created.

In response to these dangers, Taylor suggests three qualities of healthy artistic growth in the church.

  1. It is relationally ordered: Art in the church (and outside the church, for that matter) must be created out of relationship. The artist is not an isolated individual, but creates in relation to other people and society. If art is going to be made in the church, then, artist and pastor must work responsibly and responsively together. This is not to say that the artist’s creativity is constrained to the vision of the pastor. The result of this relationship will result in “order that is relationally vibrant” and work that communicates “God ordained wisdom.” (158)
  2. It is contextually relative: “A work is artistically excellent,” Taylor says, “if it accomplishes the purposes for which it was created. In our case, the merit of an artistic work in the church is determined by its context.” (158, my emphasis) This is one of Taylor’s most important points as I see it, as he is not discussing dangers in artistic practice from a general standpoint, but rather, is elucidating the dangers of artmaking in the church. Our view of artmaking in the church, then, must take the purposes of the church into account. While the arts can be viewed as ends in themselves, they necessarily exist in a community and context of meaning. As a second point, Taylor suggests that artistic excellence is “contextually relative”, that is, it is “relative to the context in which it is done and why it is done.” I find this specific point more confusing in relation to one of the dangers Taylor addressed earlier—the making of bad art. If artistic excellence is relative to context, then how can we determine what is good and bad art? Are context and taste posed against each other here? My initial thought is that they needn’t be diametrically opposed, but I’m left wondering how we might determine good or bad art when it is so dependent on context.
  3. It is organically rhythmed: In art, as in life, we need balance. Taylor identifies what he calls the “artistic rhythms of festal muchness and cleansing simplicity.”(159) Taylor discusses practical ways in which churches might display or use art that balance the rhythm of extravagance and simplicity. While he makes no specific connection to the liturgical church calendar, it seems as if this is one way that we can produce art that corresponds to the different seasons of a Christian’s life, resulting in a balance by which we are nurtured and fed through the arts in the church.

Taylor touches on so many important issues regarding art in the church, and there is certainly room for more extended discussion related to certain points. Overall, the essay is insightful and helpful in regard to how we might go about thinking about the practice of Christian artistry. In the end, we see that artmaking in the church involves a give and take; it involves a mutual understanding and respect for artist, pastor, and churchgoer; and it involves an understanding of the various ways in which the arts can function, and should function, in certain contexts.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2010 8:17 am

    Thanks for the helpful and detailed Summary, Jenn. Do you think David Taylor has identified all the major categories of dangers? (I’m not saying he hasn’t – it’s just a question).

    I think it would be an interesting exercise to take this chapter one step further and try to think through examples of each danger and positive application of art in the church in practice. I am aware that this could put us on controversial group and by identifying real-life examples without being in dialogue with the churches of groups of believers in question we may not actually be loving. I wonder if though there is a way of going about this so as to be encouraging and provide some further practical guidance?

    Also, a friend passed a link to me this morning for the word “U2Charist” (also spelled eU2charist or U2 Eucharist): “is a communion service, or Eucharist, accompanied by U2 songs in lieu of traditional hymns and sometimes as part or all of the service music. The music can be played from a CD or, in less common cases, performed by a live band.

    The U2charist was initially started in the U.S. Episcopal Church but has been adapted by several other denominations.” (from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U2charist)

    I wonder how we think about this movement in light of David Taylor’s chapter? Is this use of U2 a use of art? what kind of use?

    Also, Sara’s been looking at some interesting examples of participatory art lately – and i’d love to hear her take on this chapter as well!

  2. August 9, 2010 11:54 pm

    Jenn, thanks for the excellent summary. You make me sound smart, perhaps smarter than in actual fact.

    Let me offer two responses to your entry. One, with my chapter I had to choose whether to go macroscopic or microscopic. I could either take the helicopter ride and try to cover as much landscape as possible or I could pick a few dangers and mine them deeply. It was a choice between general investigation and specific investigation. I chose the former. I felt that in the long run it would be more useful to readers if they got a sense of the whole. The weakness is that they would be left with little concrete help. I made my peace with that possibility, even if it meant a negative reception of the chapter. In the long run other books will be written to address concrete issues. Some books already have been written to address those concerns. The overall project of my book remained singular: to help pastors and artists to see the big picture.

    Two, with regard to your question under the “contextually relative” section, I’ll say this. If I remember correctly, the example I gave around the issue not of artistic excellence but of aesthetic excellence, was of kids dancing during the corporate worship. I do not believe that the only criterion that matters in the context of corporate worship is that of aesthetic excellence. To believe that is to want the church to behave and to be something that it is not. The church is not a gallery nor a performance hall. It is the church. *As such* we must let it remain a Christ-loved, Spirit-established gathering of “saints and sinners,” of pilgrims on the way. I believe, moreover, that there are ways that we can instantiate this truth, rather than simply allude to it yet behave in ways that contradict it. I believe also that this is easier said than done, and to do it well requires a great deal of wisdom.

    My point is this, and it is a dual point which I’ll try to state as carefully as possible:

    First, the church must be a place where things that are not always aesthetically excellent are given admission into its life. This might seem like a provocative point. I don’t think it. I don’t think the early church Fathers or Reformers would disagree. In my chapter I argue that other excellencies must be acknowledged as equally good for the well-being of the church. The reason why, on occasion at least, children might be given a chance to dance before God in the presence of the congregation is that children–especially those who haven’t been trained at junior Julliard academies–have something important to contribute to the church. It can be any number of things that they contribute. For example, it may be a way for a church to say that children have a role to play in the discipleship of this church and this is a good way for us to embody that truth. It may be a way for a church to declare that rough edges and wobbly performances have a place within the larger scheme of its ecclesial life. This isn’t necessarily to make rough edges and wobbly performances a normative aspect of ecclesial life: that all parts should be rough and wobbly. It might simply be a way for a church to define itself in *deed* and not only in *word*. Other churches may not want to define themselves in this way. That’s fine. But to sum up this part, there are two kinds of churches: those that get embarrassed when something does not go according to (the seamlessly smooth) plan and those churches who chuckle it off as just another day on a fallen planet. I am not advocating slovenly, thoughtless worship. I am not advocating an antinomian view of church life. But I am advocating a broad concept for the idea of excellence. And I am also challenging perfectionistic attitudes and mentalities.

    Second, if I allowed the kids to dance one Sunday morning, for whatever reason, that does not mean that I have shut off my aesthetic excellence brain. As a pastor I have hopefully educated the congregation well enough that they will know the difference between the kids’ dance and the dance that professional modern dancers perform in the service of the liturgy–whether in complement to Scripture-reading or to the preaching or to the Lord’s Supper or any aspect. If the congregation has been educated properly, they will not confuse the two artistic performances. They will understand that one is rough and wobbly and that the other is quite possibly sublime. They will hopefully understand this in the same way that I put up on the walls of my house art by my nieces and nephews as well as art by professional painters, photographers, calligraphers, etc. I will not be confused by the artistic merit of the two kinds of art. I will simply understand that they perform two distinct functions in the context of our home. I am proud of both. Both enlarge my life. Both inspire me to become more than I am yet today. And that, hopefully, is what might also happen in the context of a church’s life that allows the kids (on occasion) and the professional dancers (as the occasion allows) to serve the congregation through the language of dance.

    Ok, that’s a long answer. I hope it clarifies and doesn’t confuse further. Feel free to ask me to clarify if need be.

    • Jenn permalink*
      August 18, 2010 2:03 pm

      David, First, let me apologize for not responding to your comment before now. I can only blame laziness, forgetfulness, and Gmail for crowding up my inbox and making me neglect Transpositions comment-replies! 🙂

      I can see how writing this kind of chapter would be difficult and I think you did an excellent job of giving such a wide overview (and the concrete examples you DID choose were quite helpful!)

      Also, thanks so much for your extended response to my question about being “contextually relative.” That does clear things up quite a bit, and I really like what you say about broadening our concept of the idea of excellence. I hesitate to say much more about artistic versus aesthetic excellence, as Jim and Dayton have raised some incredibly interesting points in the comments following. Suffice it to say, however, that I think the point is aptly raised and the church could benefit hugely by recognizing how important context is to the making and use of artwork within its domain.

  3. August 10, 2010 3:13 pm

    I do not believe that the only criterion that matters in the context of corporate worship is that of aesthetic excellence.

    I agree, but this raises a question for me that I have batted around for a long time:

    Are non-music art forms evaluated with a different aesthetic standard in the church than musicians are? Are dancers and visual artists and poets held to more relaxed standards than singers and guitar players and piano players?

    I believe they are, but I’d love to hear the responses of folks here.

  4. August 11, 2010 1:42 am

    Dayton, I posted a response to your question on my blog. Great question, though. And great discussion here all around. I’ve felt very encouraged by it.

  5. Jim permalink*
    August 11, 2010 9:54 am

    David and Dayton, thanks for these questions and comments concerning aesthetic excellence in the Church. I’m glad that we have already made the distinction between artistic and aesthetic excellence (artistic excellence meaning that the work serves well whatever purpose it is made for or used for, and aesthetic excellence meaning that the work serves well the purpose of aesthetic contemplation). David’s example of children dancing is interesting in relation to aesthetic excellent. Whether one is a parent or not it is difficult to call children dancing aesthetically poor simply because they are just so darn cute! Maybe if I really detested children (though I don’t), I would be able to say that their performance was ugly, but I think that, in general, we judge a children’s performance differently from an adults performance because they are children and not adults. Aesthetic excellence is, as you say David, contextually relative. So a children’s dance performance is not really an example of aesthetic poverty, of the ugly. Nevertheless, as you suggest David, it seems (perhaps more for theological reasons) that there needs to be a place for the ugly with the church walls.

    Nicholas Wolterstorff has an interesting discussion of this issue under the heading “Aesthetic Excellence in What Is Not Produced for Aesthetic Delight” (169-172) in Art in Action. He seems to disagree, and he argues instead that there is NOT a place for aesthetically poor works of art in the church. His position is a result of his ‘qualified instumentalist’ theory of artistic value. The theory breaks down like this. For, say, a hymn to be artistically excellent it must (1) serve its purposes effectively and (2) also “prove good and satisfying to use for this purpose.” #2 is where aesthetic excellence contributes to the artistic excellence of a work. Thus Wolterstorff can write: “There is no such thing as a good artifact — a good shovel, a good wheelbarrow, a good house — which is aesthetically poor. Or to put it more cautiously, and more accurately: If an artifact occupies a significant place in our perceptual field, then, it is a better artifact if it is an aesthetically better artifact. Perhaps the ugly concrete-block flats in lower-class housing developments serve rather effectively the housing needs of those who live in them. Yet they are not good houses — not as good as they could be. Something is missing, something of the joy that rightfully belongs in human life, somehting of the satisfaction that aesthetically good housing would produce in those who dwell there.”(170)

    So, it would seem that Wolterstorff would want to hold artistry in the church to a fairly high standard of aesthetic excellence. In general, I agree with Wolterstorff’s instrumentalist view on the value of art, but I would still want to reserve a place in church for the aesthtically poor, for the ugly. The reason for this is that I wonder if some of the purposes that art serves in the church requires it to be ugly in order to serve that purpose well. For example, might it not be more appropriate for a passion play in a church to contain an element of ugliness to remind us of that terrible night. This is, of course, an ugliness that is ultimately swallowed up in beauty. But perhaps that is the final aim of aesthetic excellence in the church: to remind us that the diverse ways in which our lives do not seem so excellent will one day be redeemed.

  6. August 11, 2010 2:57 pm

    “In general, I agree with Wolterstorff’s instrumentalist view on the value of art, but I would still want to reserve a place in church for the aesthetically poor, for the ugly. The reason for this is that I wonder if some of the purposes that art serves in the church requires it to be ugly in order to serve that purpose well.For example, might it not be more appropriate for a passion play in a church to contain an element of ugliness to remind us of that terrible night. This is, of course, an ugliness that is ultimately swallowed up in beauty.”

    I think you may be slightly mixing up two different things somewhere between your first and last paragraphs Jim — aesthetic acts/objects that are poorly stewarded in their execution, and then unpleasant aesthetic realities that are nevertheless normative. I think that the “aesthetically poor,” and the “ugly” are two different things entirely.

    Back in 2001 I started making little sculptures about death and dying. They were well made objects, and their subject matter involved sarcophagi, mummified, eviscerated figures, figures strung up on hooks, bloody bandages, etc. I just made them. But my brain had no idea what to do with them. I had no way of framing them. I didn’t get them.

    I wrote Cal Seerveld with a question to that effect. Basically asking how I could understand these objects. Here’s a little excerpt of his reply that I think speaks to your last paragraph Jim (if I can read his handwriting… ugh):

    “Nuances exist in God’s world. They are object-functional (jargon) realities, qualities like “marvelous” or “novel” or “splendid,” that is, various modes of what is imaginativable. Nuance can also characterize subject-functioning (jargon) realities, properties of human action, the element of a deed’s being “grotesque” or “funny” or “puzzling,” which are all variant modes of being imaginative or allusive…

    My idea is that “beautiful” designates a most elemental feature of aesthetic reality, and that “amazing,” “grotesque,” “tragic,” and “fantastic” designate more complex features of aesthetic reality. (“Sublime” is the historical attempt by various aestheticians to break the reductionistic stranglehold of “Beautiful” as the reach of aesthetic normativity.) Both the elemental and the more complex varieties of imaginativity can be normatively enacted and discovered.”

    I’d concede that there is a justifiably relaxed perspective we ought to take when children use their bodies and imaginations to make art and move and bang on drums. It is, somehow, beautifully normative to see a child flail. But “when I was a child, I spoke as a child…” I think that this exception hardly undermines the rule when it comes to what our aesthetic standards for grown-ups ought to be in the church.

    I have a stock response related to this. A handful of times over the last five years a pastor has approached me with questions about setting up some kind of creativity station for congregants to utilize during specific times of the worship service. You know… paper, markers, paint, colored pencils, modeling clay. Their idea generally involves people improvising in some way, and then hanging their “art” somewhere for the other parishioners to see.

    I usually just say that if they want to be aesthetically consistent (“pastor nods his/her head eagerly”) they ought to also do the same thing with the music instruments. You know, if we’re going to make a joyful mess, how about letting us make a joyful noise. I’ve always wanted to try the violin…

    This is the part where the pastor squints his eyes a little and puts his lips together and lets out a thoughtful “hmmm.”

    We do generally have a standard (and the knowledge to recognize) some degree of what I’d call “essential proficiency” when adults pick up a music instrument to lead worship. And we demand it. I think that the fact that in many cases that same expectation of essential proficiency (or even a basic proficiency) for art or dance (or rhetoric in the pulpit) is missing, is not OK. It’s about being stewards of the aesthetic life of the church, and if we really want dance, and yet we don’t know the difference between good dance and bad dance, then we set about learning.

  7. Jim permalink*
    August 12, 2010 10:27 am

    Dayton, you may be right that I am mixing up two things (aesthetically poor and the ugly) that are not actually the same. I still think that these two things may be very similar, but to clarify let me say that I was adopting Wolterstorff’s definition of aesthetic excellence, which is “An aesthetically excellent object is one that effectively serves the purpose of contemplation for aesthetic delight.” By this definition, if an object is aesthetically poor then it does not serve the purpose of contemplation for aesthetic delight. In other words, aesthetically poor objects bring aesthetic despair (or whatever the opposite of delight is) in the act of contemplation. I thought that ‘ugly’ might be an appropriate word for ‘aesthetic despair’, but I recognize that ugliness may be a term applicable in more contexts than just aesthetic contemplation. Regardless of my use of ‘ugly,’ I was trying to say that there can be a place for the aesthetically poor in church, and it seemed to me that Wolterstorff did not want to allow for such a place.

    Thanks for the excerpt of the letter from Seerveld. It is very interesting and I am sure that I need to read more Seerveld. I am familiar with his concept of allusiveness, but not of imaginitivity. Do you know what that means?

    I am curious about your response to the pastor who wants to include a “creativity nook” in their sanctuary. I thought that the pastor might reply that he is actually being aesthetically consistent by not including music in the creativity nook because music is a form of art that forces its presentation upon others. In other words, music fills the space of the sanctuary and so it must be presentable (perhaps we hold things we present to others to a higher standard than things that we do not). Also, music coming from the “creativity nook” might compete with the ordered liturgy of the service, and part of the pastor’s job is to ensure some basic framework of order for worship. So, if I were the pastor I might cite those reasons for not including music in the “creativity nook.”

    I agree that there is a different standard for music that is used to lead the congregation in worship as opposed to say children or adults who, in response to worship, prayer, a bible reading etc. perform some sort of artistic action (draw, dance, sculpt, etc.) I think that there should be different standards in this case because these are different contexts. Now, a painting that is hung in the congregation for the purpose of leading a congregant in devotion or worship should, I think, be held to the same standard as music that leads the congregation in worship. These seem like similar contexts and so like a similar standards might be needed. But even in these cases I would want to be quite flexible and allow music or paintings that do not always meet this standard if I had a good reason to do so.

    I also have another question. Is it really that important for the church congregation (or anyone besides artists, historians, and critics) to know the difference between good and bad art (of some variety)? The wine connoisseur tells me that some wines are better than others, but the less expensive wine tastes fine to me.

  8. August 12, 2010 4:56 pm

    Jim –

    1. I probably need to re-read Wolterstorff before I go talking smack, huh? 🙂 I haven’t read anything of his in almost a decade, or I might have picked up more specifically on what you were referencing. I recall his basic thesis in Art in Action (I think), but I’ve come to define “Fine Art” (what he’d define as art created for the purpose of contemplation, I think) a little more institutionally, or at least have an intimate relationship with the institutional definition. Can you tell me if “delight” is his only standard of excellence for aesthetic objects? That, I think, I would disagree with. It sounds too wrapped up in the idea of pleasure. Or maybe he defines “delight” as that thing in this work by Maurizio Cattelan (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3010/2966122583_28fb6eb8ec.jpg) that makes me want to sob? I suppose I could imagine seeing a form such as these draped bodies (executed in white marble) being materially delightful, in spite of their sobering subject matter, but I’m too sold on the inseparability of form and content to do that. The marble itself becomes tragic. Beautiful, yes. Excellent, yes. Delightful? No. Help me understand what he means better if you can. I’m curious.

    2. Imaginativity. Imaginativable. I think “imaginativity” is a noun he invented to describe and refer to the characteristic or quotient (?) of a person using their imagination. I’m going to take a stab that “imaginativable” is a way of referring to a thing that could potentially be imagined. I’m crummy with actually naming esoteric parts of speech. I bet someone lurking here could take a better stab at it.

    3. First, I think you are right in identifying the fact that the moment a musician (or anyone) introduces a sound, it modifies the aural environment of a worship space in a way that affects everyone present (the architect of the space itself does this in a primary and most elemental way when it comes to acoustics). I also believe that when anyone makes an “object” (or dances) in the context of a worship service it modifies the visual character of the space in a way that affects everyone present (again, the architecture, as context, is primary in terms of our order of visual experience). So I consider anything a congregation might engage sensually in a corporate worship context, either aural or visual, as being “presented to others.” And they both, I’d argue, affect the “ordered liturgy” of a service.

    Usually, when I’ve been asked to chime in on the idea, the intention for those visual objects made in a “creativity nook” is to be “added” to the space in an immediate sense — pinning them up, or becoming part of a larger collaborative object. Yes, these objects may represent an individual’s quite personal “worshipful action” (the action painters and ABEX artists would say “Yes!”), but those objects, once they are “released” by the person that makes them, also take on that unavoidable autonomy that every object bears, and become a part of the collective visual experience of anyone that happens to look at them. In this sense, they are exactly like the music that frames and flows through, supports and enhances the liturgy, for better or for worse.

    I now start to hear an echo of Wolterstorff in the recesses of my mind. It may be that that pastor is thinking that those objects, no matter what they end up looking like, are performing the function for which they were created, namely, in that pastor’s intention (a justified one!), the experience of a different type of worshipful experience for that individual (just as the “poorly composed” snapshot on the fridge or my child’s scribbled drawing that do rightly and completely perform a memorializing function in the domestic context in spite of their probable formal naivete). However, a larger question looms as those artifacts are introduced into the corporate visual experience of the congregation: Do they assist the liturgy, and the visual/spacial context for the performance of that liturgy, in performing the function for which it was created? I assert that they may, but that their formal qualities take on an importance that the formal qualities of the objects on my fridge do not, and I have heard very few pastors ask that question, simply because most don’t have any formal training in art. The good pastor does ask that question about the music (whether they are aware of it or not), and that’s why they generally allow only (relatively) formally competent musicians to lead the congregation in worship through music.

    The problem is that, owing to a general visual illiteracy (or “grade school” visual literacy) among most people, very few people are conscious of how their “enactment” of worship is affected by the visual character of a worship space. At least they are not aware to the same degree to which they become acutely conscious of the tone-deaf violin player.

    So, no harm no foul, right? Ignorance is bliss? What they don’t know can’t hurt them?

    I think not.

    It is up to the visually trained within the church to lovingly help a congregation obediently steward the (very much shared, unless you choose to close your eyes) visual character of the worship space. God did, as we see in the very explicit instructions regarding the way in which the tabernacle was constructed, and God’s recruitment of who ought to be doing the visual ornamentation. As an artist, and as a fellow worshiper, I see it as my responsibility to serve the church by helping steward what the congregation’s eyes fall upon as they move through the liturgical drama of call-and-response, standing, sitting, eating, reciting, singing, listening, and, yes, looking.

    A final qualification. I am not saying it can’t be done in a way that does enhance the corporate worship of a congregation. Not by any means. Simply that it is more often done haphazardly, than with a careful consideration and understanding, and that we are compelled, as artists, pastors, and aestheticians, to steward it at least as carefully as we steward the music in the church.

    4. Good question about the wine. It’s one that I have thought about myself. Again, I think context is important for understanding the relative importance of such aesthetic choices. I drink wine out of a box at home. Guilt free. Two-buck-chuck from Trader Joe’s while reading on my couch at night? You bet. But if I am trying to help plan my daughter’s wedding, and want the best wine I can afford to go with a particular dish that we are serving at the reception, you better believe, whether I can tell the difference or not, I’m going to consult my friend the sommelier, and I’m going to listen to her. We can’t forget that when Jesus made wine for a bunch of drunk people, he still made great wine.

    5. Thanks Jim, and everyone, sincerely, for such invigorating dialogue.

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