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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sleeping Beauty part 3 OR "Wanna Go Out Tonight?"

A few years back I had a chance to stay in the grand city of Prague in the Czech Republic. I fell in love with the city. Beautiful architecture. People walking the streets and enjoying the culture. Painters on the Charles Bridge. Couples holding hands and soaking in the romance of the city. You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate a city like Prague. You just have to be human.

My friend Tony and I thought it would be a good idea to see a play or a musical while there. We stopped in at a tourist center to gather information about showtimes and venues. There were plenty to choose from and . . .

. . . they were all in churches.

As a matter of fact, most of the museums, displays, concerts, galleries, performances, and historical art was found in or connected to a church building.

This is the way it used to be and—as is in the case of Prague—still is in some places in Europe. Once upon a time, if you wanted to take in good art you went to church. The church was actively involved in shaping culture. The church understood that if it stood still and did not invest itself in the arts that culture would shape the church rather than the other way around. And the church understood that influencing culture is a good thing.

However, in recent history the Christian church and the arts have not exactly been bosom buddies. Sure, there are movements within church culture to reclaim the arts and there is some degree of a resurgence of the arts in the church but nothing has paralleled the degree to which our ancestors invested themselves in the beautification of the world. We have made huge strides forward but our interaction with churched culture coupled with the opinions non-churched people have about the church and the pace of artistic culture outside the church tell us that we have a long way to go. We are just getting started.