Translating the Invisible Wind – Part Six

by Geoff Hall on May 27, 2010

Propaganda?
Let’s start by simply saying that Christian Artistry is the best form of resistance to the present cultural malaise and the spiritual antagonism of a rabid atheism.  It is a commitment to Resistance, to non-cooperation with evil, to affirming a christian artistry which refuses to be institutional propaganda.

Jacques Ellul, in his book ‘Propaganda’ writes this:

“Because Christians are flooded with various propagandas, they absolutely cannot see what they might do that would be effective and at the same time be an expression of their Christianity.”  (‘Propaganda’, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Press. p228.)

Such are the times which the artist lives in today.  We have lost the vision for an art informed by our faith, that isn’t determined by the power symbols of the institution.  Such are the times of our sojourn under the influence of the propaganda from the secularised institutions of art and politics.  We have long lost, through neglect, the human connection between artist and patron.  This is quite different from the artist (of any medium) who has formed a dependency on the institution to provide a means of producing their work.  Art-making decided by a bureaucracy tends towards the needs of the bureaucracy and not of the population at large outside of its doors, nor of the artist.

“Propaganda is a total system that one must accept or reject in its entirety.  If the church accepts it, two important consequences follow.  First of all, Christianity disseminated by such means is not Christianity.  We have already seen the effect of propaganda on ideology.  In fact, what happens as soon as the church avails itself of propaganda is a reduction of Christianity to the level of all ideologies or secular religions…[secondly]  What happens is that the Church will be able to move the masses and convert thousands of people to its ideology.  But this ideology will no longer be Christianity.  It will be just another doctrine [of life] though it will contain…some of the original principles and the Christian vocabulary.” (ibid. p230)

Ideology is the mindset of the broader way.  Its focus is on passive assent to Nationalism, Socialism, Democracy and such like; extended in this context to Christianity.  It is the power of the huddled masses, looking for security and stability from a system, directed at something created and not the Creator.  It does not fit well within the narrow way; of the increase of faith in the captive audience of the storyteller, of the One who engages heart and imagination and plants the seed of faith.  When the church propagates along ideological lines, Christ becomes an idol, an idol of the ideology.  We may preach Christ crucified, but the crucifixion happens in the confines of the Institution and has nothing to do with the Cosmic Redemption preached and written about by Paul – in Colossians and Ephesians – it is solely an institutionalised sacrifice for a quieter, more pious life, divorced from the tardiness of life in the flesh.  The cave of the Resurrection becomes merely a vacant space for the filing of the pious tomes written about the theological verity of the establishment.

“In such moments, (when acting through propaganda), Christianity ceases to be an overwhelming power and spiritual adventure and becomes institutionalised in all its expressions and compromised in all its actions.  It serves everybody as an ideology with the greatest of ease…” (ibid)

Art within the claw of such an institution conforms to the image of it and its aesthetic value is compromised to serve as propaganda.  The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.  The living Word of God is transformed into the letter that kills.  The Living Word, that is Christ, is transformed into an inanimate object, a logo fitting nicely on the letterhead of institutional decrees, epistles and various maintenance orders.  Art within the claw of such an institution comforts us with its sense of permanence, order and stability, not to mention efficiency.  It is always great when an organisation can capture its essence in a visually symbolic statement.  The Image of God as brand always dehumanises rather than affirms our humanity. Lost are the roots of our creation from such mucky stuff as clay.  Lost are the roots of our purposeful stewardship of Creation.  This is replaced by our claim to ownership, possession being 9/10ths of the problem.

However, if you clamour for a different faith and art of the ‘spiritual adventure’, read on.

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