Posts Tagged With: art

King Christ and The Lizard King – Interpreting the Artistic Power of The Doors pt2

After my first post about The Doors, I received some interesting feedback from an intelligent, well-educated Christian who said she would not have “wasted the ink” writing about Jim Morrison in light of his wickedness. This was no hipster kiddie shooting off her mouth – this lady was there in the late 60’s and followed The Doors in person. I respect her feelings and viewpoint, yet I wonder if as Christians we were to avoid mention or interpretation of people based on their lifestyles, how would we ever speak biblical truth into a lost and dying world? We must speak with clarity and conviction about sin, never making peace with the world, but we also must address the culture in a way that glorifies Christ as King and Sovereign… and how shall we do that if we do not understand and interpret what the culture is doing?

Jim Morrison and The Doors are a key icon of the cultural revolution in the west which has taken place over the past 50+ years. The allure of their artistic power captured the world from 1967-1971, but has also captured millions and millions of young people in each generation since then. Because I love Jesus more than anything, and because He commands me to make disciples of all the nations, I therefore live to make Him known – and in the world of the arts, Jesus is unfortunately quite unknown, not-praised, not-loved and cherished and obeyed and adored as He should be. Think of the irony and craziness! The KING of the universe, the great and greatest artist of them all, and the western world has largely dismissed Him as irrelevant, even a nuisance who gets in the way of true artistic freedom. Christians, hear me – we must be able to interpret the arts and speak biblical truth into this lost community of our neighbors.

Face to Face with Hijacked Beauty

How do we articulate the interpretation of ungodly beauty – or is any beauty ungodly?

We cannot tell people that there is no talent or lovliness in the works of The Doors, (or, for that matter, Jackson Pollack, Led Zepplin, or 1,000 other artists who didn’t love Christ): that would be absurd and would belie the God-given beauty detectors with which we were all born.

People who know and appreciate art and who know good music will laugh us off if we do not have a coherent, biblical answer to these questions. If we believe that the Bible is the best lens through which to interpret our cosmos, then we should fearlessly acknowledge the beauties in the arts.

Yet the question remains for me: if a work of art was not meant to glorify God (in the mind and heart of the artist), is it then forbidden to Christians? The Bible does not give us a clear prescriptive ideal in how to walk this out – we are instead bound by biblical principals of wisdom, love, holiness, etc.

Christ is King, and none other

In the final analysis of the matter, there are far too many people who go beyond recognizing the talents of the Lizard King and place a dead poet in the place of Christ Jesus. Jim Morrison contributed very little to the building up of western civilization, and did much to tear it down in his youthful ignorance. If he died without trusting Christ Jesus, which sadly is most likely the case, then his art will be swallowed up in judgment – and even old Jim will bow to Jesus on that final Day, confessing that all beauty is Copyright Jesus Christ, circa eternity.

For Christians, we acknowledge truly alluring beauties despite their fountain. We also glory in the ultimate reality that all good and all art is breathed into life by that First Mover and Cause, the Lord and King of the Cosmos, Jesus…

So if your conscience allows, go and listen to “Indian Summer”* by The Doors, and give thanks to God who graces even dark people with bright beauties.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

*My wife and I danced to this song at our wedding

Categories: The Arts, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Beauty and Darkness Kiss – Interpreting the Artistic Power of The Doors pt1

Let’s interpret the beauty in the art of The Doors. Much of the artistic expression in this world grieves me because it is dead even while it lives, so to speak… disoriented and misshapen. In my opinion, the epitome of what I would call “stillborn glory;” art which is brilliant yet dead – is the poetry and music of The Doors. What I mean is that when an artist expresses himself so as to exalt anything as more valuable in itself than the Creator, the artist becomes blind and spiritually ugly, yet ironically their art can and often does still point us to the glory of God.

In this case, I know there are many who would not think much of The Doors – whether musically or aesthetically, the art would seem odd, dissonant, and jarring. Even if you would consider it to be average or nothing special, there are many who see it differently. I would point you to the numerous Doors fanatics out there still today, 41 years after the end of Jim Morrison’s life – they are serious fanatics many times. I am regularly disturbed and grieved by the exaltation of Morrison, as I have come across people who compare him to Jesus, when in fact the two could not be more different. Obviously there is something here which is powerfully attractive. The depth of thought and care which went into Morrison’s writing and expression is in itself impressive, and remarkably unusual. From a young age he read esoteric literature and developed his own interpretation of the cosmos, one which became magnified to truly worldwide, generation-spanning proportions.

This is worth understanding.

If we might set aside momentarily the manifestations of spiritual darkness which clung to the lives of Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore, we will hear a stunningly passionate musical art which for me has been at times quite moving. If you have read my other posts at all, you will know that I am easily fascinated, easily impressed, and profoundly moved by beauty and wonder.

Watch this video – first part is a poem written by Jim Morrison hearkening back to the blues bands he would watch live while living in Alexandria, Virginia in his late teens. The second part is one of the band’s most famous songs – performed in Copenhagen in 1968 on a sound stage without an audience, (an important part of this performance, since without an audience Morrison was much more focused on the music itself, in my opinion.)

I picked this performance because you can plainly see the raw talent and effort of the artists. In other words, here is a dramatic display of one of the 20th century’s most influential acts… and I ask, why does this music endure and profoundly impact so many people? No simple answers now – think about this! It is not simply that people are sinners and The Doors were sinful so therefore people find a haven for their sinful desires. Equally, it is not true that these were good men with good intentions, and that we are drawn to be moral and generous by listening. There is something more which happens to us as we behold the power of art, something which for us Christians is crucial to understand and communicate to our culture. Let’s interpret the cosmic significance of beauty found amongst the ashes. Please do share any thoughts you have… and

Thanks for thinking,

-Justin

P.S. In a future conclusion to this post on The Doors, I will offer a clear biblical interpretation and answers to the questions I attempt to raise here. I believe that through the biblical worldview we can redeem and celebrate the God-honoring aspects of those works which in themselves did not intend to be God-honoring.

Yours [O God] is the day, Yours also is the night... Ps. 74:16a

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Grateful for the Art of Whitney Houston

1963-2012

As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I inevitably grew up listening to the peerless voice of Whitney Houston being played in my home, Walkman, and at any given supermarket around Buffalo. Before I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to dance with somebody who loved me. I believe it is safe to say there are very few if any other recorded voices in history which were as marvelous as Whitney’s.

When I consider the works of a particular artist, especially regarding musical arts, originality and uniqueness are just about at the top of my list of criterion for how I judge quality. In this sense, Whitney did not invent R+B or soul music, but she was queen of the mountain in her class, doing it better than the others. I did love her style, and in memory of her life and career, give thanks to God for the lovely gifts He gives to the society of men.

It is singers and artists like Whitney who set the bar so high that I am made to feel like I am being cheated by the many wannabes out there pretending to have talent. Maybe that’s why my iPod does not have an extremely wide variety of artists…

Interpretation of her life and death

The media will inevitably molest the last fiber out of her death, prodding and poking into the deepest speculations of her psychology and downfall. I, on the other hand, will simply recognize that Whitney’s life and death illustrates biblical truth on a public, spectacle-laden level.

1) She was given a gift which brought her intense fame and success – a gift which was meant to awaken a worshipful thankfulness to God from her and from us the audience. I’m not saying her music didn’t do that, but sadly her lifestyle seems to have more so followed the Romans 1 darkening of the heart rather than the Psalm 107 enlightening of gratitude.

2) She was a mortal, a sinner like anyone else, and needed the same redemption as the lowest, most obscure peasant in India. No amount of talent or fame can lift a person above their need for the saving atonement for sin which Jesus accomplished at His cross, and in His resurrection from the dead. In this I do not judge whether or not Whitney trusted her life to Jesus at some point, receiving the forgiveness of her sins, but rather I recognize that her private life spoke of an unfulfilled longing for something more which all the money and fame did not provide to her. As C.S. Lewis said,

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

3) We can and should appreciate her art and talent, but never in a way that glorifies her, the creature, as it was all a gift and signs meant to point us to the glorious Creator – the greatest lover of music. The full meaning of music and the ecstasy we feel in listening to it is found in completing the equation: Beauty + the perception of beauty = joy and goodness unto thankfulness and worship of the Lord of the cosmos. God loves a cheerful worshiper, and He gives talents to men and women to then bring us the deepest, most satisfying joy of all; the joy of knowing and loving Him, being a vessel of mercy in the house of our Creator forever.

In coming months, I plan on delving into the art and interpretation of the cosmic meaning of another famous singer who died similarly to Whitney… my boyhood anti-hero Jim Morrison of The Doors.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: The Arts, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pleasures of Creation

The cosmos is a work of art on the grand, divine scale. We, as human beings created in the image and likeness of God are hard-wired to create art and expression. We each have a soul which is born bubbling over with creativity, some more than others, but we all are created with the desire to make beauty. Which of you who can create a tremendous rhyme, a realistic, emotion-filled drawing, or a heart-wrenching film won’t then stand back in surprise at the beauty which your own mind and hands created? WHAT is that?

What is it that the creation of art is getting at, or pointing to? Isn’t it a capturing of a piece of the brilliance of the cosmos? Don’t we look at the universe, become inspired, and then breathe out our interpretation into the artistic medium? Isn’t it that the artist has been affected by God’s artwork, and in response will create some of his own? Haven’t you ever been captured by a scene in nature which is almost terrifying in the scale of its beauty? Have you listened to a piece of music which simply forces you to weep? WHY is that? It’s because of the design of the Creator – He made us to be emotionally affected by His beauties in creation, and to be inspired to create our own renditions.

The writer, the painter, the architect, the playwright, the sculptor, and all of the other beauty-makers among us… are acting out the divine program of creation and passion for pleasure! We are made to find pleasure! The Bible clearly details that not only does God delight in His own artwork, but He is pleased when we create as well – and indeed art is not the end in itself, but the relationship to which it points. God and cosmos, painter and canvas, writer and paper, and all of us looking back to God the great Artist in gratitude for His gift. Every bit of art is meant to draw our attention ultimately to the genius and glory of God.

I’ll leave you with a little home-spun poem for His glory and for our mutual joy as writer and reader. Let’s interpret the art of the cosmos…

untitled

Cerulean dusky, symphony,

symphony, sound of the night,

Bright eye flashes to scan through the sights…

Skin of the jungle, exhaling delights..!

Torch in the deserts, passionate light,

passionate lights as lovers alight

with passionate songs of somatic delight

and trapped inward singing of overflow’s might…

Which might in its time bring awful delight.

 

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

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