“But even denying God, to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept that fact. Basically there can be no categories such as ‘religious’ art and ‘secular’ art because all true art is incarnational, and therefore ‘religious.'”
-Madeline L’Engle in Walking On Water
I am currently taking a course on Aesthetics. For some reason, rather than jumping into Plato or Tolstoy, we have begun with a quasi-devotional style book about Madeline L’Engle’s thoughts on art and faith. What I find interesting, and a bit frustrating, is that time and again when she makes reference to “true art” it is immediate followed by “(Christian art).” The class itself is set up in seminar fashion, each night we read and each day we come together and discuss (for other reasons, I find this to be an infuriating use of class time).
A theme that has come up again and again, perhaps because of the words L’Engle uses, is that all art is Christian art. By that, I believe, L’Engle, my fellow students and my professor are convinced that those who partake in the creative process are doing so to in some way emulate God. Reference is made to atheists as Christians-in-denial. I try in the course of discussion not to take this personally, but I cannot help but find this to be offensive. It is representative of a strong sense of arrogance on the part of my Christian counterparts that I have heard again and again: “there is no such thing as an atheist, just someone who doesn’t want to admit God exists.”
There is much more to the human experience than can be summed up in an episode of the Veggie Tales. This indication that every painting and piece of music is a plea from the artist to understand the transcendent father-figure of the universe demeans the value of creativity. A painting is no longer just visually stunning, it is so because it is an emulation of God’s creative work. A piece of music is no longer awe inspiring in itself, it is so because it is a desperate cry from the musician to understand God. A movie no longer tells a narrative of human experience, it does so in light of the narrative of Scripture.