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The Not So Strange Non-Place

  • November 29, -0001
More evidence (as if we needed it) of the secular world's determined effort to be done with a role for religion in human life can be found in a fine symposium on religion in the arts in the May/June 2009 issue of Books & Culture. Four representatives from the Christian art community - artists and scholars on the arts - respond to the Art Institute of Chicago's James Elkins, who, in his book, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, explains that that "strange place" is really no place at all. Among institutional artists, critics, museums, and galleries in the modernist and postmodernist tradition, religion, and particularly Christianity, is simply not a presence to be reckoned with, either thematically or with respect to individual artists. That part of human history is over, you see, like the Bush years, never to return again. With this as the guiding assumption, it's understandable - not so strange, really - that secular artists and critics cannot bring themselves to regard Christian faith as a serious contributor to the contemporary creation of and conversation about art. Oh, there's plenty of Christian art being created, and some of it is very good. But the keepers of the flame in the world of the arts do not acknowledge it as serious, which, when you think of it, reflects the attitude of probably 90% of the members of the Christian community, much to the chagrin of unappreciated and struggling Christiian artists. For the really sad and disturbing element in this whole story is that, for the vast majority of contemporary Christians, Christianity has no place in the arts, which most Christians regard as a waste of time. Until the Christian community wakes up to the importance of the arts, Mr. Elkins' insistence that religion's present non-place in the arts is not likely to change, is likely to remain true.

T. M. Moore

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