It is often said, and I believe to be true, that a picture can speak a thousand words; anyone who has ever read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – will know the great lengths he went to in his attempt to describe the lush textures and the feel of the world he was trying to create in the minds of his readers. We look at how movies like The Passion of the Christ, reduced those who were happy cinemagoers upon entry into shocked; and emotionally wrenched souls upon exit.
Consider the work of Tatianna Romanova – Grant; in the icon of the Nativity of our Lord; how it seeks to place Mary within her cosmological significance at the birth of Christ; or Jan Isham’s The Mother of GOD, which sought to portray Christ’s love for his mother; as an infant. Turn your eye to Jacopo Tintoretto in his painting the Baptism of Christ; done in the 16th century; his style or fast brushstrokes, give a rawness to his work. The explosive nature of light captured in the background, his images are full of life, movement and energy; we are placed on the opposite of the bank from the crowds, who seem to be drawn from all sorts; some fascinated by the events of Christ’s baptism others distracted. The light of the Holy Spirit’s descent streams towards Christ; and Him we see in shadow, but with a fiery halo around His head. The presence of so many other figures, reminds us, that Christ’s baptism is not for himself but for us; we are invited to not simply watch but to imitate Christ.
Pictures, and art, in all their forms are powerful things; and GOD does call Christians to the practice of artistic expression. The artists mentioned above have produced exquisite works of devotion; not primarily engaged in polemic or apologetic; however, as every despot who has ever feared the powers of artists has shown; art communicated messages powerfully. Peter Hitchens himself speaks of his tumbling into Christianity, as being preceded by being tripped up, by a work of Christian art – I believe based on Dante’s Inferno.
The power of art – is that it communicates a message; without dialogue, and so often a person can be left with an impression on their soul – even without registering its stamp. It can open up our perspective; smash wide open our assumptions, and draw us down a path; that we hitherto would not have gone. I guess as an artist though; you knew that already.
It is to you my brothers and sisters in Christ – who are following the vocation; of so many before you into the arts; that I make my appeal; a war is being fought against the Christian faith in media, and culture; by militants of every kind: communist, Islamist, nationalist; the people of GOD are besieged on all sides; our beliefs, ridiculed, our values mocked, and identity stripped of its dignity; and whilst apologists like myself can and do our bit; the powers of the artist have a means to reach into a world in a way we cannot reach as apologists.
Your art – has the power to undermine the narratives of any of the groups mentioned above, as they rail against the Church; and I want to call you to do exactly that. To use your art to expose the double standards of these groups, to shine a light on their evils, to bust upon their lies, to undermine their assumptions; not simply as a contrarian; but in a thoughtful critique from a distinctly Christian perspective. Consider the example of ‘Liberty’s Lament’ by Jennifer Oakley-Delaplante. Christians must fashion a sustained critique along Christian lines of all of our opponents mentioned above. We apologists can certainly help you learn both lines of attack and defence, which you could then turn into art; memes, cartoons, plays, and movies! You are integral to helping to form a Christian culture and identity. You could bring your skills to play – in the cultural battlefield: drawing attention to the persecuted Church; rage against abortion; and the wider culture of death; tear at the double standards of Christophobic critics; posit the positive message of Christianity; that of the family; of the dignity of both genders, the beauty of the Church catholic; or capture afresh with new vision great achievements of the Christian past, and the contributions Christians have made to civilisation.
Your art need only be ‘beautiful’ and even your enemies will be drawn to it; and enemies you have – as a Christian; enemies who are seeking to undermine the people of GOD; his holy Church. Oh, Christian soul; do you not see; your paintbrush is a dagger – to stab at the heart of Babylon; your camera; a machine gun, to mow down the lies of the devil. Your theatre company is a bomb; ready to explode the chains of those enslaved to ideologies opposed to Christ. Your pen is a sword to cut away the unity of enemies of Christ and pit them against one another for the good of the Church. Use your song to spread Christian polemics and apologetics! This is a call to war; to enter into the cultural war we are fighting as faithful soldiers of Christ; to offer your souls and bodies a living sacrifice to Christ our saviour; to enter into the fray – and to liberate the captive’s mind, or to undermine their collective will in society. Will you hear the call of the trumpet; will you rush to the sound of the battle? Use your art as a weapon – a weapon of ideology – for the triumph of the Church; and the advancement of the kingdom!
Connect with apologists; and solid preachers, to learn the faith; and then express that faith in your art! We need you in this battle to evangelise the culture, and it cannot be won without you – GOD called you to art not just to beautify the world in colour or rhyme but to make it holy, and to free it from the principalities and powers of this world. I implore you as fellow Christians to rise to the full dignity of your noble calling – and help the Church; the people of GOD; evangelise the world’s culture; we must work as a body to achieve this; one people under GOD fighting for His kingdom on earth.