The maudlin ecstasy with which Hollywood movie makers accept the awards which they are always giving each other is based on the notion that art is salvation, including political and economic salvation. Art supposedly redeems the human experience in every way.
In this case artists are saviors; all of these producers, directors, writers, actors, are our saviors. Not only do they save us from boredom, from an absence of the value which art supposedly proposes and helps us realize, but motivates us in the first place to change our world in wise ways. It finally provides the vision itself.
Implicit in this romantic notion that art is salvation is the conviction that life can and does imitate art.
This, by the way, is the only romantic notion tolerated by modernity. Modern liberalism will not tolerate the notion that religion, let alone authentic faith, is salvation. This is because religion proposes that God is the origin of our salvation. The notion that art is salvation, remember, implies that the artists are our saviors. It is essential to the liberal vision to establish the romantic notion that art is salvation as a cornerstone of secular culture and as part of an overall strategy which understands the incredible power wielded through art precisely because life does imitate it.
Liberals understand that if the so-called artists can be programmed (which ironically means they are not true artists at all), and if the notion that art is salvation can be implicitly installed in an otherwise very boring liberal culture as the only solution to that boredom, then they can shape and manipulate the culture substantially over very short periods of time. Many, if not most people my age, cannot believe that it has taken less than a life-time to turn this country into an insane cesspool; to finally make much of life absurd. We have paid an incredible price for the art-as-salvation strategy of the liberals, and we have not even been relieved of our boredom.
Now how do we know that life imitates art? Well, look around you. We are living in a time, and in a world, where art has never been more ubiquitous or its influence more obvious. The kids are saturated in movies, music, and television on demand. And it is perfectly clear, that every young mind and heart which has not otherwise been inspired and hardened respectively by an explicit tradition like Christianity, is a product of all of that TV, film, and music. Real mass murderers dress and look like the Joker. We observe young people who think that they are vampires or who are otherwise striving to live like vampires. They are so morally retarded by the relative scarcity of competing realist-Christian culture, and the lack of traditional training in the home and school, that they think a vampire image is the most interesting image they could live up to.
Normal, tradition-informed people, cannot understand the sheer vapidity and stupidity of it. Art has actually made the real world bizarre. It has taken away the interest of young people in being human. In other words, contemporary art, in its anti-Christian condition, does not know how to imitate humanity. It lacks an understanding of what is actually human and is consistently providing subhuman and superhuman images to imitate (just scan any list of contemporary movies), as if humanity simpliciter is boring and culturally dead. And, of course, from a secular point of view, man is dead. Humanity simpliciter has become too boring in a liberal age without the kind of tradition which induces real, sustainable passion for humanity itself.
But one need not concentrate on extreme examples in order to prove that human life, bereft of tradition, will imitate just about anything art does, no matter how dehumanizing. For decades now, following on the protection of pornography, as if it is art, television sitcoms, shadowed by film, have imaged casual sex as harmless if not positively healthy, even in the moral sense. At its worst, it is portrayed as humorous. And now, as you know, we have a whole generation of kids who take casual sex for granted. And some of them seem to have so successfully imitated the portrayal of sex as being no more significant than a hand shake, that they have, themselves, become technically subhuman. Others, their humanity plaguing them with more tenacity, have simply been suffering the moral consequences, but are so ignorant in their imitations that they do not even recognize them as consequences of imitating completely inauthentic art. They believe that there is something wrong with them, not with the art, as they find intimacy more complicated and painful than the characters in the Friends television series. These producers, writers, directors, actors, outside of grace, will be held responsible for everything they have portrayed; everything which they have given the kids to imitate. They will not be justified by the claim that it is “just” art.
When we turn to music, the examples of moral sickness and its imitation are just as blatant. The music itself is often explicitly Satanic. At the last American Music Awards ceremony, AC/DC sung Highway to Hell while the consistory, mostly outfitted in LED illuminated red horns, turned it into a Satanic worship service. Is this reaction too deadpan? I think not. This was an explicit celebration by morally retarded, exceptionally ignorant people, of a message of the joys of self-destruction. The kids are living this art. They are imitating it. I believe that there is a hotter place in Hell for “artists” than there is for politicians and overt atheists.
Again, life inevitably imitates art, just as some art inevitably imitates life. It does the latter in order to focus attention on what needs to be celebrated and what needs to be changed. Christian art starts with the imitation of life as it really is. It then presents a vision of what should be imitated to either sustain the celebration or initiate it as the response to redemption. In any event, one thing is clear; art in and of itself, is not salvation. Art may be a part of salvation history, for whole cultures and for individuals, and it may be the highway to Hell. It is not inherent to salvation.
Artists are not saviors. They can respond to our savior and become servants who produce redemptive art. But there does not seem to be any room in any orthodox form of Christianity for the confused notion that art in and of itself is salvation.
Part of a confrontational Christian cultural strategy in our time, must include directly denying and then defying the notion that art is salvation. The maudlin, narcissistic, self-serving culture of the artist in modern secular culture must be mocked and ridiculed. We must teach the children that this romantic notion that art, in and of itself, is salvation, is pop psychosis; that there is much more interest in life when we approach it in terms of a truly hard-headed, authentic conception of salvation. Salvation requires confession, discipline and obedience. It is code we live and die by which induces meaning, not the myth of narcissistic satisfaction.
History is violent because of the fact that incommensurate traditions are at war with one another and always will be until Christ returns. This simple, realist (anti-liberal) view of history, all by itself, reduces the art-as-salvation thesis to a pathetic fantasy.
We must start with the young males first. We must challenge them to STOP LIVING LIKE IGNORANT CHILDREN. We must challenge them to do what they really want to do way down deep. We must challenge them to BECOME MEN. They must stop living outside of a critical tradition like Christianity. They must take on a critical posture, a cynical assessment of the world’s art. They must be taught to take hold of their own minds and hearts with the help of God and stop imitating sick art.
After young males have turned their backs on the habit of imitating contemporary art they will bring the young women along with them because the latter will finally see the former as men.