Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vapid Emotionalism and Egocentrism

Christians should not allow themselves to develop sloppy aesthetic judgment by accepting low-quality religious kitsch just because they agree with the message. When I was growing up, the typical religious art exhibited a saccharine Victorian sentimentalism.

What makes this sentimentalized art and music so insipid? It equates Christianity with sugar and spice and everything nice. The poet Paul Claudel pilloried the sweet-and-light style by asking, "If the salt hath lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? With sugar!"

When generations of children are nourished on these sugary images, they lose a sense of Jesus' true character. In the words of Dorothy Sayers, "We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah"....

Today's parallel to Victorianism would include praise music that mirrors the vapid emotionalism and egocentrism of pop culture. I once visited a church where I was startled to hear the congregation sing lines like "You are all my desire," and "I want to feel the warmth of your embrace." The lyrics made no mention of God or Jesus. No reference to salvation or justification or any other theological theme. Nothing to suggest that the song was anything but a love song to someone's girlfriend. The lyrics were such an extreme example of the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend genre that I wondered how any man could sing it with a straight face--though as I looked around the room, I saw several men with their eyes closed, arms raised.

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo, 270-1

My two cents: The music itself is part of the problem, not merely the lyrics. I also think the problem goes deeper than making Christianity sugary sweet. It is a problem of distorted loves. Many church-goers are incapable of loving God rightly in their present spiritual condition.


ThirstyMan said...

And in line with your post, though not entirely related, here are some thoughts from Tozer

MC Persiko said...

These are the lyrics of someone longing for God (see Psalm 63:1, for example.) However, easy familiarity is assumed in our culture. We fail to come to God without recognizing that he made the way open through the violent death of His son Jesus on the cross.