Artistic Renditions

A few months ago, a major international art festival was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Yes, I said St. Petersburg, not Leningrad. The name has been officially changed back to the way it was before Communism took over. And the art festival didn't focus on Marxist art glorifying the Workers' Paradise. It focused on Christian art. Hundreds of Christian painters, musicians, dancers, and dramatists gathered from all over the world to display their work and encourage one another. What a contrast there is today between East and West. Ironically, there has been an almost complete reversal in the way the two cultures treat their artists. In the former Soviet Union, artists were shackled. They were required to toe the Marxist line--to extol the virtues of the proletariat and the Communist state. If they refused, they were persecuted, just as Christians were, or anyone else who claimed a truth apart from Communism. They were cast into concentration camps or forced into mental hospitals, where they were tortured with toxic injections. But today, the fall of Communism has produced a remarkable turn-around. The artists who were once suppressed are now being honored. Even the government is ready to play a role. The art festival in St. Petersburg was initiated and hosted by city officials, with the full co-operation of the Russian government. It was even held in the former Communist Party Headquarters, which has been standing empty since the revolution. Now look with me at America, where the art establishment turns up its nose at art that is explicitly Christian. Art that expresses high moral virtues is deemed unfashionable. And the art funded by the government through the National Endowment for the Arts is sometimes outright pornographic and blasphemous. The result is a suppression of religious art that is nearly as effective as outright persecution. All across the world today there is a renaissance of religious art. Christian arts groups that organized the festival in St. Petersburg have been invited to Singapore, Brazil, and Eastern Europe. But in America, galleries and museums haven't shown the slightest interest in the resurgence of religious art. So if we want to see religious art supported in the United States, it is the Church that will have to do it. Beginning in our congregations, we can encourage and support men and women who have a sensitivity to the visual arts. The Church needs to teach and disciple artists, grounding them in a biblical world view. Christians in general we need to educate them in a taste for the arts. Did you think the Bible has nothing to say about art? Read Exodus 28, where Moses says God is the source of the craftsman's skill and the artist's ability. If God gives these gifts, they are not to be despised. They are to be used to convey deep religious truths--to celebrate the knowledge of God and the beauty of His creation. If you and I, as God's people, view art from a biblical perspective, and encourage others to, who knows? Maybe some day America will even catch up with the Russians--and hold its own festival of Christian art.


Chuck Colson


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