Monday, February 12, 2007

The Need for Beautiful Surroundings

Kind of a quirky title, eh? Well, I'm trying to get at an idea that I'll develop over the next few days. It's probably a familiar one, but I think it warrants continued contemplation. It is this: as Christians, those who appreciate the goodness of God in this world, we need to seek out beautiful things in order that we ourselves would become more beautiful.

I'm not talking about cosmetics or haircuts or ab exercises. I'm talking about beauty as it relates to the life of the mind. We live in an age dominated by pop culture. Pop culture is itself dominated by shallow, cheap and foolish things. Too often, its wares are represented not by a pristine painting but by spray painted graffitti. The past two generations have grown up in a culture that celebrates not the art establishment but the art dis-establishment, the counter-culture, in which anything goes and everything sneers. This is a regrettable shift, and it gives the Christian, charged with the stewardship of God's beauty in the world, the responsibility to seek out that which is beautiful and enjoy it.

I am not calling for a whole-scale rejection of contemporary culture. I am arguing that we Christians need to reject contemporary notions of beauty and exchange them for historical notions of beauty. We have allowed ourselves to accept the idea that Christians are a low-class people who only appreciate the shallow and silly. We ought to avoid snobbery at all costs, but we ought also to identify and appreciate that which is historically beautiful. We'll discuss specific examples later in the week, but for now it's enough to say that where there is edifying and elegant literature, music, media, and activity, we ought to go after it, and become part of society that does not sneer at beauty but prizes it.

Some who know me well will find this idea rather surprising coming from the lips of one who has made a rap cd. I have not at this point rejected my love for rap, but I have seen in recent days how I have unwittingly allowed my personal tastes to be wholly shaped by pop culture. I don't like this. I don't want to be unwittingly shaped by anything, especially when it's secular society that is doing the unconscious shaping. It would do many of us Christians well, I think, to take our minds back for ourselves, to pry the dirty hands of the world off our souls, and to pursue for ourselves and our people the beauty which is everywhere around us. In the process, we will find what we seek. No, more than this, we will become what we seek.


Blogger Dad said...

Good points Owen. Edith Schaeffer wrote a book, a long time ago, entilted: The Hidden Art of Homemaking: creative ideas for enriching everyday life. If I remember correctly she sought to encourage the same thing you are speaking of in your blog.

Looking forward to further comments.

Al (Not Owen's dad and not the other "Al".)

9:35 AM  

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