The Group Monthly Letter – June 2013 – Living on the Edge of Europe

by Geoff Hall on June 24, 2013

Dear Arts Mentoring Group,

Mentoring support for word, image and performance arts

 

“I’ve written this book with that word…because there’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink, a movement is gaining momentum, a moment in history is in the making: there is a growing sense among a growing number of people that when it comes to God, we’re at the end of one era and the start of another, an entire mode of understanding and talking about God is dying as something new is being birthed.”

Rob Bell, p3, ‘What we talk about when we talk about God’.

 

I was reading a piece in the NY Times about militant secularism being fought between the European Union and Religion, i.e. the institutional church. It is replete with inane and obsolete references to Christendom, hypocritical views of wanting to oust Christianity from a culturally dominant (historical) role because of the harm it did and such like. This Secularist force within Europe is of course selective in the atrocities it chooses to focus upon and that have plagued European history. The writer seems to neglect that 20th Century genocides created infinitely more victims than Christian nationalism ever did.

Now it is not that we balance the human costs and the winner is the one with the least tally of victtims, but when you are fighting on all sides, as Secularism is, it is easy to feel embattled and entrenched, even under threat, but as artists should we be concerned about the growing tide of Secular absurdities promulgated by ‘them’ and take their advice to retreat from any culturally formative activity?

 

Well the debate over the Slovakian currency will inform our thoughts and in view of its inclusion in the EU. It runs like this,

 

“It therefore came as a rude surprise when, late last year, the National Bank of Slovakia announced that the European Commission, the union’s executive arm, had ordered it to remove halos and crosses from special commemorative euro coins due to be minted this summer.”

Quoted in – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/world/europe/a-more-secular-europe-divided-by-the-cross.html

 

It seems that the EU believe that with falling church attendances that less and less people are sensing a connection, even an historical one, with the Church. So, is this where we all get glum and run for the hills?

 

The problem with this point of view is that both sides are fighting the wrong battle. As Rob Bell has outlined above, there is a whole cultural shift away from religion and how God is framed within it and also to what is happening now in the cities and homes of everyday Europeans (yes, I’m including us in that – with apologies to UKIP!!)

 

My feeling is that as artists, we cannot be deflected by such claims from our cultural calling, nor can we be excluded by this secularisation. Jacques Ellul in his book, ‘The Presence of the Kingdom’ gives us a glimpse of a way forward.

 

“For it is not by the method of direct attack, by the effort to make spectacular changes, by trying to reconstruct the world as a whole, that we can achieve anything, The only successful way to attack these features of our modern civilisation is to give them the slip, to learn how to live on the edge of this totalitarian society, not simply rejecting it, but passing it through the sieve of God’s judgement…when communities with a “style of life” of this kind have been established, possibly the first signs of a new civilisation may begin to appear.” p46.

 

The problem in Europe at present is institutional posturing, as if the battle was about ‘religion’ and of course the religious use of the bastions of Christendom in a post- Christendom society to lobby for influence. This is folly. If we actually think that it’s all about crosses and halos, then we are wrong. What we need to rediscover is this thing called community, infectious community; life together on the edge and not at the centre and this should shape and inform our work as artists; for this will be a moment of transformation.

 

The battle isn’t about whether religion should have a presence in totalitarian Europe, but how the presence of the Kingdom should subvert the will of a regime that doesn’t yet understand that like the Church, the Modernist State’s days are numbered. We need to show that a whole new way of living is possible and not exist in the thrall of European Propaganda. One is real, the other an illusion; a matter of what Baudrillard would probably call ‘simulation’ or the state of the hyperreal.

 

Bell is right; the old ways are passing, the old language is changing, but as artists we are at the forefront of what the new language can and will be about. For Postmodernity is about the demise of the ‘Modern’ Institutions and not of our way of life, of our spirituality. Take courage!

 

Peace and Love to you all,

Geoffx

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