The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
When the Kings Come Marching In
Gideon Strauss recently posted some nice quotes from Richard Mouw's book on Isaiah 60. This book greatly effected my view of culture: most notably that the cultural stuff on this earth (at least some of it) will furnish the New Earth and New Jerusalem (see Rev. 21:24, 26). If only the church could see more clearly that the culture we do now has eternal significance - not merely for a (proported) Post-Milennial age of grace (as nice as this might be), but forever! Maybe Christian folks wouldn't be so obsessed with flying out of here.

Picture of the (New) Old House

Monday, April 28, 2003
The Native Tourist is busy buying a new house. So if there are fewer posts in the next week or two, that is why. Here is a link to the listing. We are planning on adding another bedroom and bath. Pictures to follow soon.

Best of all, it is a block from the Coffee Cottage, in beautiful downtown Newberg!

Friday, April 25, 2003
Republicans as Environmentalists (?)
Another article from Christianculture.com by Timothy Terrell. He includes this really insightful quote from Cal Beisner:

Humility applied to environmental stewardship should lead us, in the light of the vast complexity of human society and the earth’s ecosystems, to hesitate considerably at the notion that we know enough about them to manage them (as opposed to enforcing the rules of justice)— particularly that we are confident enough of our knowledge to assert our management preferences in place of the free choices of those who disagree with us.

If you are wondering, why I post as much as I do on environmentalism, it is because I see environmentalists - especially radical environmentalists - as the enemies of culture. As Joni Mitchell said, they want to go "back to the garden", and thereby they refuse to submit to God's plan for the building of cities - garden-cities!

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Power for Cultural Renewal
Andrew Sandlin article (via Christianculture.com) on "Resurrection Liturgy and Christian Culture":

A world-transforming Christian culture is the effect of the resurrected Christ (Mt. 28:18-20). As Richard Gaffin has noted, Christ Himself was transformed in the resurrection (1 Cor.15:43), and His transformative resurrection power lives in Christians (Rom. 8:11) as they work to bring all of life under His authority. They are inspired to do this in a powerfully communal context when the liturgy is resurrection-drenched.

Could it be that we lose this aspect of celebrating Christ's resurrection because we follow the liturgical calendar, rather than seeing every Sunday as Ressurection Day - the new Sabbath - a celebration of the New Creation. of which the resurrected Christ is the firstfruits?

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
War and the Loss of Culture
By now you have no doubt heard of the theft/looting of the archaeology museums in Iraq. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the losses may not be as bad as had been originally feared. (The greatest antiquities from Iraq were pilfered long ago by the British and the Prussians and safely displayed in London and Berlin.)

War has had its devistating effects on the history of cultural development and transmission. The Ptolomaic library in Alexandria was destroyed on several occations, in part by war. It allegedly had 123 plays by Sophocles, only seven of which remain. This is not to gloss over what happened in Iraq. Or to diminish the human loss.

Friday, April 18, 2003
Art for Good Friday

As regular readers of The Native Tourist know, I am not in favor of depictions of God or Christ in art. I agree with the reformed standards which forbid such a practice.

That is why I took notice of the above ceramic sculpture from an exhibition on the Stations of the Cross by Ginger Geyer. Unlike most of the other pieces in this exhibit, Geyer chose not to depict Jesus in her work, which makes it all the more powerful. She plays on the irony of Christ - the carpenter - being nailed to a block of wood. The work is allusive, as Calvin Seerveld would say.

Here is a quote from the artist's statement:

"One thing Jesus had in common with the guy who nailed him to the cross was tools. As a carpenter, Jesus was well acquainted with hammers and saws and nails. Like every good artisan, he probably had favorite ones that felt like an extension of his arm. A good tool fits the hand just so; it enables the job to be done artfully, effortlessly. No doubt having such tools used against him was yet another form of betrayal."

Cultural artifacts (nails, hewn wood) were used to crucify our Lord, who in turn would redeem us and culture as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Don't Blame It on Libertarianism
The most recent Mars Hill Audio tape had a very interesting interview with James Howard Kunstler on America's dreary cities and the origins of urban sprawl. Ken Myers asked Kunstler if he thought the ubiquitous strip mall was the result of our libertarian spirit. He said absolutely not: (To paraphrase Kunstler) Its hard to imagine a situtation more regulated - even to the point of micromanagement - than the strip mall. The problem, he observed, is the way building codes are shaped in order to favor the automobile.

He also had some very insightful takes on the difference between the European positive attitude toward cities, and the US hatred of cities (other than the really nice ones like New York and San Francisco).

You can also check out Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month - if you dare.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Lifestyles of the Kitsch & Famous
Even Saddam had culture. Note: I did not say good culture!

(There is apparently no truth to the rumor that the real codename for the Iraqi war is Operation Restore Taste!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Mist-ical Hymns
The other evening at church, we sang a hymn with this well known chorus:

"And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace"

Is anyone else bothered by the gnostic, anti-creational spirit of this hymn? I could not bring myself to sing these words.

We surely want to focus our hearts and minds on the beauty of Christ. But such a devotion should make us see the world more sharply: with greater vividness. This in turn should make us deeply love the splendors of creation and culture more and more, not less!

Monday, April 14, 2003
A Little Bit More on Gioia and State Welfare for Artists
Here is an open letter to Dana Gioia which appeared in the LA Times from prominant performance artist Rachel Rosenthal, which contains typical rhetoric about how artists need government handouts so that they can retain their "independence". It is the absence of accountability that is the problem, as I see it.

Friday, April 11, 2003
Rethinking the Value of Liberal Arts Education
Is a liberal arts education on the college level a good idea/investment? Andrew Sandlin and Gerry Wisz dare to answer this question in the negative!

Could it be that a solid Classical Christian education will provide a solid enough base for entering the professions?

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Even More on Art and the Civil Magistrate
My blog entry from April 7 (three days ago) raised some questions about the legitimacy of the National Endowment of the Arts and similar state and local state agencies which subsidize the making of art. This has started a discussion here and at Gideon Strauss' blog site. Gideon even managed to dredge up some quotes from Calvin Seerveld on the topic.

The state funding of the arts is bound to be controversial. Even in the cases where the civil government pays to decorate a building or create a monument (which I would generally support, with some trepidation), many questions can be made: Who makes the decision on which artist to hire? What criteria should be used for such a choice? What style? What is the message of the work in question? Should there be balanced points of view? The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC is an excellent case in point. The original work by Maya Lin is a masterpiece of subtlety and allusivity (to use Seerveld's term). But many people didn't like it. It was too "negative." So when the congressional cooks got into the broth-making business, they ended up adding a kitsch bronze statue of soldiers from the war, which is arguably an aesthetic poriah. Inevitably, when the government gets into the art commissioning business, the process becomes politicized. The more public the art is, the more of a tug of war will ensue.

My real beef is with the practice of government arts agencies giving open-ended grants to artists to do nothing more that just make art - not for a specific government-related project, but merely to help them "put food on the table" and pay for the expensive digs to live in (which is inevitably the case, since most avant gard artists live in big, expensive cities) while they (hopefully) build a body of artwork. They can't make enough from selling their art (sometmes their art isn't even sellable because they are conceptual artists), so they need a subsidy. To put a positive spin on this practice: we could see this as seed money. A little help to get young artists on their feet. But why should the government do this? In order to ensure a pool of artists to decorate court houses? To paint camauflage on tanks? It makes more sense for galleries to give out seed money in exchange for future representation, or private foundations or individuals (remember the Medici?). But not the civil government.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
What Christian Culture Looks Like - Part VII
Here is a wonderfully balanced and insightful little booklet on teaching art from a Christian perspective by Heather Bowditch. She argues for what amounts to a classical pedagogical art method where proper technique is modelled for the student. Just giving a child a brush and some paints or a drum and stick, and telling them to feel it, just doesn't cut it.

Monday, April 07, 2003
More on Dana Gioia at the NEA
I heard an interview with Gioia on NPR this morning on my way to work. Here are another bunch of inteviews from the Washington Post, the LA Times and the Hartford Courant . He is already talking like every other governement agency administator, talking about the need for more money, the vitality of his department (i.e. the need for more money in arts; how are kids supposed to develop if we don't have art programs in the schools, etc., etc.). As I pointed out earlier, what makes this all very interesting is that Gioia is a practicing Roman Catholic, and, as far as I can tell, somewhat conservative and traditionalist (=he may actually believe that there are actual objective aesthetic standards).

But hearing/reading Gioia raised some real issues. I still have to ask: Do we really need the government subsidizing the arts -- is this really a role mean for the civil government? Is is true that the arts won't flourish without government funding?

And, given the existence of the NEA, will Gioia be able to stop the giving of government tax money to bogus/sham/reprehensible projects and programs? Or will it be business as usual (with maybe a few conservative artists getting a piece of the pie along with the usual bunch of suspect suspects)?

Thursday, April 03, 2003
Feeling Kind of Edgy Today?
Ever since Google took over blogspot.com, there have been targeted ad-links at the top of every page. These ads can be seen as a temperature gauge of the contents of a blog. At one time they were selling Kindade paintings in the ad header at TNT.

Right now, at the top of my page there is this link:

"7 Loaves
Post-modern and emerging resources. Christian edged. Discounts 25-30%"

Emerging resources? Christian edged? The last thing we need is something "Christian edged".

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
While I was working on a project, I came across this interview with the late Francis Schaeffer: "The Battle for Our Culture: an interview with Francis Schaeffer". Funny, the older I get the wiser Dr. Schaeffer becomes. Hmmm.