Finding Our Way: Christ, Art and Modernity

For the next couple of weeks I’m filling in teaching Sunday school for a friend of mine.  He allowed me to choose my topic, and I’m going to take a look at a topic I’ve pegged as Christ, Art and Modernity.  I am working on the idea that here in the twenty-first century we are having a particular problem related to social and personal confusion, and I am referring to movies and novels as proof of this problem.

So I think I will make a few posts on movies and novels, noting how they reveal the depth of our confusion and disorientation in a modern world.  But first, let me explain how I think this happens.

First of all, we are lost of family connections.  The great majority of Americans no longer live in the same community as their families.  And so we have lost a sense of connection to something meaningful beyond ourselves.  Now let me be clear and state that I think this is, in many ways, a good thing.  Otherwise, doctors could only come from that pool of people born in cities wherein one could find a decent medical school.  While I would love to live near my parents and my wife’s parents, to do so would greatly limit my family’s world in such a way as to be unrealistic.  Nevertheless the change in location has created a problem for our society and while it is not the Gospel (not by a long shot), it remains a phenomenon worthy of our consideration.

Secondly, we no longer work with our hands.  It may be easy to brush that off, but farming and woodwork and even plumbing and mechanical work give us a sense of gratification and reward that help build up our human confidence.  Now Christians can look at this and say that it is good that we not pride ourselves in our ability to rebuild an engine or rewire our homes.  And we would be right to do so, but let us not ignore how helpless so many modern people feel as we are no longer capable of caring for ourselves, but are instead dependent fully on corporate farming and hourly workers who gladly milk us for a plumbing job that our grandfathers and country cousins could do blindfolded. 

Finally, however, I think that for some reasons the part the particular sins of the twentieth-century (and they are legion, make no mistake) have left us feeling completely overwhelmed.  To quote the late Richard John Neuhaus, “it is not all our fault, but it is our fault, too…”  There are things done and left undone, both by us and by our forebears, and the weight of these deeds hangs heavy upon us.  And now here we sit in 2009 completely befuddled and disoreinted about who we are and where we are going.  We need to come to our senses and find our way in a dark time, and we can only do so by coming to the Cross

In the following posts, I will look at movies and novels that demonstrate this sense of confusion and malaise, then close by examining what we out to do about it.


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