The Ugliness Next Door
One option before Christians is to withdraw and isolate ourselves from the culture. At least, as best as we can. This has traditionally meant such steps as removing a tv, not having a computer or having a very limited one, almost never going to movies, and ignoring the fine arts altogether. Tv’s all bad, computers breed bad eyes and foul minds, movies arouse emotions, especially bad ones, and the fine arts are boring, er, ineffectual. This is a caricature, of course. There is much trash on tv, computers, the movies, and the fine arts are boring. But does the simple presence of ugliness in a forum require us, or call us, to reject it out-of-hand?
Let’s think through this with a cinematic example. Watching people die on movie screens is ugly to me. It strikes me as slightly odd that I draw enjoyment from watching people die. I’m not saying that this is wrong, but merely that I find it slightly unsettling that my friends and I think watching people die on screen is entertainment. But I can live with a slight unsettledness. One reason I can do so is that movies can, despite depicting the terribleness of death, tell powerful and virtuous stories. Think of “Saving Private Ryan.” That’s a very graphic and violent movie. It’s ugly in that shows men killing other men as collective will meets collective will in a bloody collision. The ugliness is palpable and moving. I had tears in my eyes upon first seeing it and still am affected by the film. This is partly because I know that the film speaks truly about war. Despite the fact that its story is violent, the film is worthwhile as it shows the value of sacrifice and courage.
Though it is terrible to watch men fall by the bullet, it is also terrible to live in ignorance of their sacrifice. In this world, truth, good, and beauty often hide beneath, or lie beside, the foul and filth only sin can produce.