“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a saying of the American and British community. It justifies the rights of the person who does not agree with another one’s view of something visual. In our society art refers to pictures, dance, music, sculpture, and more. Dyrness discuss the inclusion and exclusion of the arts in some of the Christian churches. He says the negative views of religious art in the Christian community relate to the second commandment: the art of worshipping images of God. Dyrness comments on Exodus 20, “The second commandment is often cited in support of the supposed biblical reticence about imagery. But this clearly has to do with false worship and not with the attempt to portray religious truth in the form of images. The line is drawn between God and idols, not between God and images. Human creators in the Bible are actually commanded by God to make objects that encourage the proper worship of God in the tabernacle and temple, temple so this activity could not have been prescribed in the second commandment.” (Kindle, 83-84) As a child, I did not want to wear a cross because I believed it was an image of something I and no one else alive witnessed, so how do we know what the cross looked like. As an adult, I dislike the pictures depicting the images of Christ because it has encouraged people to believe that Christ really looks like that, they see this image on a toast, tree, etc. As an artist, there should come some responsibility in the religious world or maybe any world. We hold politicians and preachers for the words they say which encourage their followers to believe as truths, why not the artist.
Dyrness says, “Christians have often embraced popular culture. One thinks of revival choruses and tracts and the role of music in the black church.” (Kindle 13) My church does not display the normal image of Jesus standing on the water near the baptism pool but display many African/African America art reflecting the Black Church. What do I mean by Black Church? The worship experience in a black church: women in the church wearing the wide rim flowered hats, women shouting, women praise dancing, Preacher behind the podium, choir praising in the choir stand, etc.
The art of dance by some Christian churches were held sinful similar to musical instruments being used in the Church house. The only dancing allowed in the church was the holiness dance (slain with the spirit). Dyrness believes “Christians have not until recently involved themselves in popular culture… In fact, it is tempting to say that until Christians and the church get serious about supporting the arts, they ought to temper their criticism about the kind of art that is produced.” (Kindle, 17) I am not sure what Dyrness’ church world look liked but he published this book in 2003. Our church embraced dance in the 80’s. My sisters organized the first praise dance group in our church. It was not an easy transition but it was a smooth one. The pastor supported them they just had to get the congregation on board. Now in numerous churches, the praise dance groups are accepted. I must admit that some praise dance groups moves are questionable.
The art of ministry has been folded into our worship for years. Worship is not only songs of priase with praise teams and choirs but includes dance, at times flags waving, step teams, mime, musical instruments, and African art in the foyer and hallway of the sanctuary. I am aware that some churches are not accepting the inclusion of the arts in their worship except for Jesus standing on the water behind the baptism pool. The art of worship experiences can be a historical document as the art chiseled into the caves documenting what transpired.
The modern churches promote a different worship format. Technology is extensively used in worship, some use lighting similarly used in concerts. The traditional choirs are now music teams leading worship. It’s loud and long. Its purpose is to reach the unchurched and it’s working. There is no podium or pulpit filled with preachers and deacons. It’s an open stage with a pastor speaking to the people. Dyrness points out that “Critiquing contemporary culture has been a favorite pastime for Christians since the Reformation.” (Kindle, 20)
Dryness quotes, Gerhard Richter , a contemporary German artist: “ Art is not a substitute for religion: it is a religion. The Church is no longer adequate as a means of affording the experience of the transcendental, and of making religion real — and so art has been transformed from a means into the sole provider of religion .” (Kindle, 22) “Simone Weil has argued that there are three ways people are drawn to God: through affliction, religious practices, and by the experience of beauty …Among white races, she argues, ‘ The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us .’” (Kindle, 22) As people transform based on their relationship with God, their expressions of worship reflects their relationship with God. Churches of traditional value are challenged with little increase in membership due to their inability to accept art as worship.