Archive for the ‘v2i10’ Category

What Ever Happened to Handel?

February 25, 2008

Something happened to me over Christmas break. It happened shortly after I returned from a performance of selections from Handel’s “Messiah.” As I reflected on the performance at home, a question crystallized in the murky depths of my thought: “What ever happened to Handel?”

Or more accurately, what happened to the Christ-centered artist? The development of modern music owes much to the church. Most of the great composers were Christians, and found their primary outlet for artistic expression through their religion. Even when we look at theater, we see that its Greek origin, though not Christian, was overtly religious. Early plays during the middle ages were often passion plays sponsored by the church. Great artists were often commissioned by the church, which resulted in some of the most awe-inspiring masterpieces of our time.

So, where am I going with all of this? I point this out simply to show how different things are now. For better or worse, the church was once the center of culture. The expression of artists’ most essential and passionate emotions were distinctly religious. Now artists seem to avoid religion like the plague. It is almost impossible to find works with complex and compelling Christian heroes. Even when a work does have a Christian hero, it’s as if the hero must also be one of three things to maintain the integrity of the work: naive, exceptionally “open-minded,” or be against the establishment of the church at large. On the other hand, so-called “Christian works” seem largely incapable of addressing relevant issues, and a far stretch from being considered high art.

So what happened to Handel’s “Messiah,” Michelangelo’s Statue of David, the soaring poetry of Milton, Herbert and Donne? I believe that the modern Christian artist focuses too much on the unbeliever instead of Christ. They are so focused on bringing in the unbeliever that they dumb down their art. Instead, they should be focused on Christ. Art should raise people up, stretch them beyond what they were able to understand, and through that give them a glimpse of our creator. Art, as an expression of our most essential emotions, is a religious experience.

It is time for the Christ-centered artist to find new life. It is time for them to learn how to be direct and honest without being preachy, to be passionate without being schmaltzy, to be uncompromising without being ignorant. We must learn to not let any message take precedence over aesthetics, or to let the art be more important that what we are using it to express. We must allow them to come together as an expression of who we are: creatures made in the image of God, creative and religious.

-Andrew Wright