Wednesday, October 21, 2009

They missed the music and the art!

Foreign Policy magazine has an interesting article on religion that you can read online at this link. It explores some of the myths and realities about the religion and its place in modern life. Don't be thrown off by the opening headline "God is dead." It's there mostly for shock value, and the article goes on to say that religion is here to stay. I would say that the article, on balance, argues that religion has been a positive force throughout history.

What I noticed, however, was the notable absence of any mention of music or art. So much of our literary, artistic, and musical heritage stems either directly or indirectly from the church. My personal experience has been primarily in the culture and traditions of liturgical Christianity, of course, but I'm also aware of the beauty and meaning of great art in the traditions of Islam, Buddhism, etc. Think of how different art museums might look or how different our music might sound without the vast influence of the church. What would Bach have done for a living, after all?!

If you're going to debate the role and influence of religion, you need to look beyond politics and science, because faith is an all-encompassing construct of life. It's a paradigm through which we view all aspects of our existence. In one of the classes I teach right now, I have a Muslim student who excuses himself for daily prayer, and the sound of his mellifluous chant has become a fixture of the environment already. When thinkers and writers overlook that daily, lived experience and its many expressions (including music), they miss so much of the point. Read the article because it's interesting, but don't forget the music!


  1. For the Arts to survive, they need financial resources. The church has often, and continues to be, one of those for the excellent reason that the Arts can add emotional understanding to our relationship to the eternal. Let's hope this is always true.

  2. Unfortunately, when times get tough, it is the Arts that many people want to cut. Cutting the Arts doesn't make us richer, it only makes us poorer.