Tag: Engaging Culture

Q Conference 2010: Chicago

The Q Conference will be held in Chicago this year. The line-up looks great. I’ve highlighted some favorites. The Austin Q was stimulating, creative, and significant. I expect more of the same for Q 2010. Check out the line-up:

2010 Chicago Confirmed Presentations:

Putting a New Face on Photography | Jeremy Cowart, Celebrity Photographer
The Both/And of the Gospel | Timothy Keller, Pastor of First Redeemer Manhattan
Conversations on Being a Heretic | Scot McKnight Interviews Brian McLaren, Author
Responding to Our Fatherhood Crisis | Roland Warren, National Fatherhood Initiative
The Death of Christian America | David Aikman, Historian and Journalist
The Next Christians | Gabe Lyons, Q Founder
The Future of Education | Sajan George, School System Turnaround Specialist
Evolution of a Voice | Bryan Coley, Screenwriter
Being Provoked to Engage | Jo Saxton, Leadership Consultant
Muslim and Christian? | Buddy Hoffman, Pastor of Grace Fellowship Atlanta
The Church and the City | Charles Jenkins, Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Chicago
Recovering Ancient Practices | Phyllis Tickle, Author
Observing the Sabbath | Matthew Sleeth, Environmentalist
Don’t Eat the Food | Sean Womack, Brand Consultant
People of the Second Chance | Mike Foster, Founder of Ethur
Resetting a Creative Economy | Richard Florida, Sociologist
Collaborating in Community | Charles Lee, Ideation Strategist
Social Activism | Antonio Carlos Costa, Activist, Rio De Janeiro
Land of a Thousand Hills | Jonathan Golden, Social Entrepreneur
The Bible in Society | Q Panel
Greenlighting Reconciliation | Laura Waters Hinson, Filmmaker
Human Centered Design | David Blanchard, IDEO
Overcoming the Science and Faith Divide | Alister McGrath, Theologian and Author
Missionaries to America | Todd Hunter, Bishop, Anglican Church

Transforming Culture: Art as a Gift, Calling & Obedience

Plenary #1 – Andy Crouch, Art as Gift, Calling & Obedience

Andy is perhaps best known as a columnist for Christianity Today; however he has started other magazines, written extensively on matters of faith and culture. His message was one of the best I’ve heard on the subject—compelling, intriguing, and engaging. Buy it and listen to it at least twice.

I. God is a Culture-maker. Andy began with some reflections on Gen 2:4-17. He main point in this part was that God is both a Creator and a Culture-maker. Although this was the weakest part of his address, he offered several insightful observations.

  • When God created ex nihilo, he also created ex creatio, out of creation. As the first act of culture-making he made a garden.
  • God placed “useless” elements in the garden–gold, bdellium, onyx–that were superfluous, not elements designed primarily for their usefulness but rather for their beauty, i.e. we build out of granite, not gold. Note the biblical celebration of that gold, “And the gold of that land is good.”

Defined culture with Ken Myers’ definition, which he remarkably stated was the “best” definition: “Culture is what we make of the world.” This witty definition connotes both the material and intellectual dimensions of culture, culture that is produced and culture that thought. Andy proceeded to place Art within the framework of culture noting that Jesus took, broke, and blessed culture on night he was betrayed—bread and wine, not wheat and grapes.

II. The Uselessness of Art. “The way we make art is the truest diagnostic test of our underlying beliefs about culture.” “Art” is “those aspects of culture that can not be reduced to utility.” Why have wallpaper when wallboard will do, why craft a careful sentence when a stupid one will do, why buy a thin laptop when a think one will work just fine?” Art transcends utility and cannot be translated without losing meaning. Art is not useful; it is better than useful! So it is with Christian worship. “We stake our worship every Sunday on the belief that God does not require us to be useful to him nor does worship have to be useful to us.

III. Art is play and pain. We play not entirely like children but like children. “It’s not fully adult to play.” We fly through the 18th century rooms at the Art Museums to quickly arrive in the Impressionist rooms, but even the Impressionists confronted pain. Only the gospel can engage in art playfully and painfully without bowing to naivety or sadism. Pop culture falls short of real play and sincere pain.

Closing remarks: “I hope for nothing less that the recognition of Christ body among us, broken and beautiful, in play and pain. We are here to discover Christ taking, blessing, breaking and giving…here to be slightly more like Christ…to rekindle our capacity to be beautifully un-useful to God.”

Transforming Culture: Dangers of Artistic Activity

Plenary #4, David Taylor

Super-ordinate Truths. Important to distinguish between “Super-ordinate Truths” and “sub-ordinate truths.” Art is bad art when we get the super-ordinate truths wrong, truths that define the gospel. David did not say what the super-ordinate truths are, which is where we have some debate over artistic expression. He asserted that too often our debate over artistic expression is over matters of culture, not super-ordinate truths. We must guard our hards from the impurity of cultural superiority.

Six Dangers

  1. Bad art is cliche. Anyone can make bad art, but good art requires excellence.
  2. Super-saturation. The rate of artistic saturation is rendering us numb.
  3. Stubbornness. Estancandose Tercamente. “Getting stuck stubbornly.” or “the stubborn ossification of tradition.” The posture of “we’ve always done it this way, often closes God off of his redirecting our faith.
  4. Utilitarian subjugation of art. Art as a strict service to ministry, requiring a bible verse to make it art. Following this line of thinking or creating, eventually your tomatoes will have to be “Christian.”
  5. Art as Escape. Worship is often an emotional escape.
  6. Immaturity. Using art to manipulate or disparage others. abusus non tilit usum” Women and wine are being misused, but what is not being misused.” – Luther

Healthy, Flourishing Artists

  1. Relationally Ordered: we can not have order without relationship or relationship with order to avoid anarchy or isolation. We need ordered relationality between pastors and artists. Ordering things requires intelligence
  2. Contextually Relative: “Artistic excellent if it accomplishes the purpose for which it was created.” – Nick Wolterstorff Sometimes we dont need aesthetic excellence—pastors—kids and untrained adults should be allowed to dance before the congregation. Why? Because the reminds us of Jesus words about children.
  3. Organically Rhythmed : fa spectrum of festal muchness and cleansing simplicity is required. In other words, mix things up in worship and in artistic expression. This ryhthm will help us fight off super-saturation.

In the church, artists are part of our family, the great family of Jesus. Learn from them. Struggle with them. Embrace them. Fail humbly in community.