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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Friday, 4 December 2009

Art and Christianity meme

I'm pleased to have been tagged by Jon at Between on this meme.
The instructions are to list an artwork, drama, piece of music, novel, and poem that you think each express something of the essence of Christianity and for each one explain why. Then tag five other people. So here goes. I ought perhaps to say at the start that I don't think any of the interpretations I give were actually intended by the artists, except maybe the poem.

Artwork: The Fighting Temeraire A strange choice, maybe it's more about the church than about the essence of Christianity. I heard Nicholas Holtam speak on this painting and what he said has stayed with me since that day in 2002. This is a picture about change - the old warship being towed away to be broken up, a hero coming to a sad end. It reflects Turner's own disquiet about the dawning industrialisation process, thus the tug is a steamship towing a sailing vessel. It is a picture also of brokenness, which is in the essence of Christianity, both in the brokenness of Christ on the cross, and in our brokenness. For me this shows also both for the Church and as an element of our faith, that there is not always a happy ending, but there is always beauty. However there are some signs of hope - there is a sunset (or is it a sunrise?) indicating that life goes on, and something new will come in the morning. So, the inevitability of change, brokenness, beauty and new hope.

Drama: Dr Who Another weird one perhaps, but I think Dr Who is a quintessential Christ figure; he demonstrates enormous wisdom, compassion, self-sacrifice and courage, and he has enormous power at his fingertips though he does not always choose to use it.At a stretch we might say his re-incarnations (not sure if that's the right word, but you knew the thing where one actor leaves and another one starts there is the traditional transmogrification scene) illustrate the beautiful way in which the gospel can be birthed in every culture through time and across the world. Also of course (especially in recent series) the Doctor is paradoxically sexy but asexual, like Jesus. Dr Who also doesn't always have a happy ending but does always have hope. It also has a Sunday school - The Sarah Jane Adventures, and a deliverance ministry panel - Torchwood.

Music: there are a million and one songs that try to express something of the essence of Christianity, but the music I have chosen (the link is just a few minutes, you can buy a CD with an hour or so of it) concentrates not on being holy but on the transformation of something broken ugly and dirty into something beautiful harmonious (that's Tom Waits who joins in) and uplifting. This music is a big reason why I give cash to the homeless. Of course the title is the gospel ...

Poem: The Dream of the Rood. As I said, I think this is the only one deliberately trying to be fully Christian. If I was  pretentious (OK, more pretentious than I am) I'd link to the original Old English text. I was given this poem to read by an old lady called Ruth Hook, whose late husband Ross had been a bishop at Lambeth. I used to take her communion when I was a young curate, and she was in a lot of pain most of the time. To help me understand how she dealt with that pain, and effectively also her impending death, she asked me to read this and it made me cry. She used to use her pain as a prayer, as the rood did. Pain is something of the essence of Christianity. Blimey this is getting a bit depressing ...

So lastly let's cheer up with the novel: I've cheated slightly again, mostly because once more there are a million and one books that set out to express the essence of Christianity, so stuff like Tolkien or Lewis would be too obvious. I'm going to go for a Children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit. I didn't read it as a child so can't comment on whether this interpretation works on the original audience (then again I read all of the Narnia books as a child BC without getting even an inkling (if you'll excuse the pun) of the intended message). Nevertheless this book for me captures the essence of Christian faith because it is about the power of love to make us real - to give us the identity we are meant to have in God, because he loves us and longs to be in relationship with us. It also cleverly subverts the modern obsession with outward appearance.

So that's my lot.
I hereby tag Jody, David K, Rachel, KT and Michael W


1 comment:

  1. Great choices, Tim. I love 'Jesus blood never failed me yet'. Thought the parallel between the Dr's regenerations and the Gospel being birthed in each generation was an interesting concept. Appreciated the reflections on 'The Fighting Temeraire and will enjoy checking out the others. Appreciate your using some of your day off to do this.


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