The Arts and Religion: Some links

500 years ago today, Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel were displayed for the first time. Appreciations here and here. As one of the world’s greatest and most popular works of art, the Sistine Chapel is inundated by visitors and Vatican policy focuses more on crowd control than on appreciation. I wonder if it’s even possible, given the press of people and time limitations, to experience Michelangelo’s work spiritually rather than as a tourist checking off another item on the list.

In a very different vein, Jesus the Artist. Pete Enns writes about the artistry of the parables, and the artistry of God:

Like any work of art, stories “create” new ways of seeing the world—and it is, after all, a new world that Jesus means to create.

Let me put this another way: Jesus himself communicated the deep mysteries of a new way of being through the use of such things as vivid imagery, symbolism, metaphors, and other devices common to artistic expression. In fact, the incarnation, God in human flesh, is not a debate or argument about the nature of God that appeals primarily to the intellect. It is a vivid—and true—demonstration, a portrait, of a radically new and mysterious way of thinking about God, the world, and our place in it.

If this is how God chooses to communicate at the incarnation—the very climax and epicenter of his story—we should not be surprised to see God painting vivid portraits elsewhere in Scripture. This is especially true of Genesis and creation. Something so fundamental to God’s story may need to be told in a way that transcends the limitations of purely intellectual engagement. Genesis may be written more to show us—by grabbing us with its images than laying out a timeline of cause and effect events—that God is the central figure on the biblical drama.

And in a short, confused, and confusing essay, Camille Paglia decries the secularism of contemporary art. Identifying herself as an atheist, she begins with memories of the images at St. Anthony of Padua church in Endicott, NY, describes Andy Warhol’s famous images of Marilyn Monroe as an iconostasis, and complains that “the current malaise in the fine arts is partly due to the rote secularism of the Western professional class, who inhabit a sophisticated but increasingly soulless high-tech world.”

Camille, you can’t have it both ways.