The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, February 27, 2003
Goodbye Mr. Rogers
I suppose by now everyone knows that Mr. Rogers has died. I'm not sure if it is for good or for ill, but I am in some small way undoubtedly shaped by his show, which I watched regularly in my mid-childhood along with other PBS late afternoon staples What's New and the Gentle Giant (Seseme Street came on the scene after my time). When I was a student at Carnegie Mellon, I can remember passing the WPGH building many times and thinking, that's where the Neighborhood is. Come to think of it, the Land of Makebelieve looked surprising like the Shadyside/Oakland neighborhoods near CMU. I don't know what to make of the fact that Rogers was a Presbyterian minister.

Friday, February 21, 2003
Promising Movie Opening Today
Today the movie Gods & Generals opens. I can only hope that it fills its advance billing -- both as artistic and historically accurate portrayal of the Civil War and its apparent intent to show the men involved on both sides of the war to be men of faith. This was what I thought was powerfully captured in The Patriot, althought the violence was way over the top (and in my mind, totally excessive. To see the Mel Gibson character battle his own problem with sinful anger as a Christian, and see him grieve as he saw his own weakness visited on his son, was a rare thing in film.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Thinking about Godspell
"In our times the feeling for decorum is often lost. A good example I think is
Godspell. Here we see boundaries neglected, a mistake against the norm of decorum. To
treat such a high theme as the Passion as if it were a musical, a light and entertaining
genre by definition, is wrong on all sides. The form does not do justice to the subject, and
the subject is dealt with in an irreverent way. It is a painful experience to sit through it. It
is comparable to the above example of the average Christmas card. No wonder that
Christianity loses its force."

Quote from H.R. Rookmaaker's Art Needs No Justification. Was Rookmaaker being a stubborn Dutchman, or was he onto something in his analysis of Godspell?

I remember seeing the musical at the Promenade Theatre in NYC circa 1974. I was pretty enthused and impressed when I first saw it, but then well-performed, live music has that effect on me -- and the music, choreography, acting, etc. was really, really good. But now I'm not so sure the play really honored the real gospel. I had a similar experience seeing the Gospel of Colonus as well.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
The New Interest in the Arts: Good or Bad?
I was snooping around on the internet and came across this new/vintage church's website where I read this as part of the church's self-description (i.e. 'vision statement'):

"We believe that God created us in His image and that God's creativity should be reflected in the church. We will be passionate about expressing our faith and communicating the Scriptures through creative means. Art, music, poetry, photography, dance, acting will all be encouraged and in the fabric of the church's worship expression (Genesis 1, Exodus 31:3-4). Creativity and the arts won't be something the church does, but something ingrained in who we are."

[note: what does Gen. 1 and Ex. 31:3-4 have to do with dance, acting, poetry, etc.? Was the tabernacle about "worship expression"?]

I have seen this kind of thing in the vision statements of number of so-called PostMod churches. I have a real love/hate relationship with this sentiment (actually, "hate" may be a bit strong). I love the interest in the arts/aesthetics; but, I am concerned about making the arts featured or even the center of worship. Abraham Kuyper in this Stone lectures argued that the divorce of the arts from worship is sign of maturity -- a sign of real redemptive-historical devopment. This in turn made the arts free to develop in avenues never before explored (for example, the flowering of painting in 17th-century Holland). Word-centered worship in fact promoted art-making rather than supressed artistic production.

What we need are more Christians who make, enjoy and patronize the arts out in the community; not churches which feel that the way to legitimize art is to make meeting houses become art galleries and worship services into theatrical productions.

Thursday, February 13, 2003
Overturning the Jesus Market
I can remember reading the Wittenburg Door back in the 70s and chuckling at the goofy "Christian" stuff they had in the monthly Green Weeny awards. Church-Kitch was kinda funny back then. But it isn't so funny now. Yet Christian trinkets are being hawked now more than ever and there seem to be no shortage of brothers and sisters willing to buy them. I heard about this article in the Weekly Standard on a recent Breakpoint email. I can't help wondering if Jesus came to America, if he wouldn't end up going to the local Family Bookstore and overturn the nicknack displays -- not because of the commercialism, but because of sheer tastlessness of what is being sold in his name.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Saying Goodbye to Postmodernism
I just saw these two articles on the Relevant Magazine site: Is Postmodernism Passe and Stick a Fork in It: Postmodernism.

I can only hope that these two articles mark a new trend in the North American evangelical church. For too long the contemporary church has been obsessed with being post-modern itself -- that somehow, because the society around us is different, we need to be different as well (i.e. reinvented). The result is a fluid, programatic, experiencially oriented church rather than a church rooted in and celebrating the absolute, unchanging truths of scripture. As society embraces the notion of differing truths, we need to assert more than ever THE Truth -- even if it makes us look like a bunch of outerspace aliens.

So purhaps we can soon say goodbye to Leonard Sweet, Gen X churches, the Ooze and even . . . Relevant Magazine? And get back to being salt that tastes salty.

Monday, February 10, 2003
The Rise and Fall of ...
From an LA TImes piece on cracks in Kinkade's business empire:

"Nonetheless, there are a few signs that the Kinkade fetish may be heading the way of Beanie Babies. On Ebay one recent day I counted no fewer than 6,600 Kinkade items on which auctions had recently closed at asking prices ranging from $14,000 down to a couple of pennies. For the vast majority of those asking more than a couple of hundred bucks, there were no bids, or none that met the sellers' minimum prices."

Friday, February 07, 2003
Do You Feel Tortured by Modern Art?
You're not alone.

The Missing Ingredient?
Purhaps our Christian cultural endeavors are lacking because we are not filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:18). Having correct doctrine, worldview and priorities are important, but they aren't enough -- so argues Monte Wilson.

While you're at the Center for Cultural Leadership site, you might want to check our John H. Armstrong's short piece on the cultural mandate, which is a really nice, brief introduction to the topic.

Monday, February 03, 2003
Dana Gioia is now the head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Could this be end of subsidized elephant dung?

Panel Discussion
Is it right that national governments can block the export of artworks? I can understand this when the objects have a clear relationship to the local culture (such as the Parthenon sculptures). But Britain's refusal to allow the export of this Raphael painting to Getty Museum seems pretty greedy. (The National Gallery has only seven Raphaels in its collection.)

Still Humming
Yesterday marked the six-month anniversary of The Native Tourist. If you are new to my blog and wonder about the name, you can look here.