Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
M. Leary

The Future of Arts and Faith...

Recommended Posts

I often log onto Arts and Faith and get the feeling that I have been away from my house for a long time and someone has rearranged all the furniture. Some have recently criticized this sort of nostalgia for previous generations of this board, but I am starting to wonder whether there isn't something necessary and important about such reminiscing. I credit my entire understanding and appreciation for film (which is relatively miniscule) to the fora behind Arts and Faith. But then I often wonder if the site as it is now would afford this same experience to a newcomer. I have seen many people here take leaps and bounds in participating in the Great Conversation as a result of dialogue in the Chiaroscuro/Promontory/AndF arc, but that spark for innovation and exploration seems to have ebbed with this success, the time and attention that used to be cumulatively put into the board now directed elsewhere. Which ultimately, I think, is a wonderfully positive result of the board. But does that mean that Chiaroscuro/Promontory/AandF has served its purpose? Are we now Post-A&F? This is not to say at all that the discussion of a "few" are responsible for the quality of the board, whether positive or negative, but simply that the effort of the past has established a plateau that we having been cruising on for a while.

I am generalizing here of course, but that best defines my impression. And there certainly have been some good threads lately, but most of them are taken up by rehashing old issues. A lot of records skipping at the end of tracks. Even though they often contribute to the lack of focus in many film threads, maybe it is good that there are so many other venues for conversation here in terms of music and the arts.

So my whole question is this: Where is Arts and Faith going? What is it doing? What are we talking about? If the film component is only part of this overall vision, then is it different from its previous incarnations in Promontory and Doug's site? Why did Ken get banned? What's with all these adds and stuff? Since I am not quite sure anymore what the board is all about anymore, then what are my rhetorical limitations as a poster? How can I contribute to the cumulative wisdom that is Arts and Faith, or at least has been?

All these questions rattle around in my head while I am posting, and perhaps your responses to this post will reveal me for the nutball that I am. But I simply offer this as a starting point for discussion in case there is any interest...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a great thread topic, but I don't know how to respond to it. I'm not sure of my own place here, other than as a lurker-turned-poster-turned-more-frequent-poster. I've been posting for several years here, through a few incarnations of the board, but the I don't count myself among the "old timers," even though I remember posting on the Novogate board (there was at least one earlier incarnation, right?).

Along the way, I've longed to have more input into the site, but then have been taken aback by the vehemence of the objectors to A&F's evolution. They feel much more strongly than I do that something has been lost, but they also will often agree that whatever is now "missing" is actually still part of the ongoing discussion, albeit maybe not to the extent it once was.

Alan gets blamed for some of this, but his leadership of the board hasn't aggrieved me, and I'm not sure things on the board would be much different here if he handed off his duties tomorrow. These arguments often stem from personality conflicts and approaches to film criticism, but whenever that distinction is raised, I can't help but feel that the emphasis placed on the latter, as fascinating as it can be, is, in some ways, a cover for the former.

But what do I know?

As Hillary Clinton might say, "Let's talk. Let's chat."

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd hazard a guess that the changes are inexorable. The minute that you make a forum public, you really have little ability to control or shape the resulting discourse. If you attempt to exert too much control, you come off as dictatorial and chase people away. If you exert too little control (as happened with the "new" forums at Hollywood Jesus because of disconnects between moderators and technical staff) the forums can be entirely subverted to other agendas.

So if the goal with a forum is to establish a mission and keep it entirely on track with that purpose, you'd best keep it a members-only, by-invitation-only thing.

Since that wasn't done with A&F -- guess what? The barn doors are long open, and they can't be shut now. Objectors might as well start over elsewhere, or somehow convince everyone to torch the barn.

Or -- and this would be my suggestion -- we all might just learn to take solace in what God has wrought through the history of A&F and the lives of the people it has changed: the folks MLeary talks about who have "taken leaps and bounds in participating in the Great Conversation as a result of dialogue in the Chiaroscuro/Promontory/AndF arc." Is A&F God's thing, or man's? And if it's God's thing, hadn't we also best thank Him for the stewardship of admittedly imperfect human beings like Alan? And shouldn't we give God the latitude to do with His things what He wants, as we continue to do what we can to guide and shape the course of events as best we can?

There are great conversations going on in every nook and cranny of A&F. Very few of them interest me, particularly. Big deal. A&F doesn't have to meet all my needs. And maybe God just wants me to be doing something else.

In situtations like these, I dwell a lot on the rancorous dispute that dove Paul and Silas apart -- and the realization that twice as much ministry was done as a result. Neither Paul nor Silas were particularly happy, but God had better ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting this, M.

I'm glad this came from you. I don't know you very well, but in my eyes at least you have a fairly unique status here, and your words carry special weight, at least for me.

You speak as a comparative old-timer/insider (A&F elite?) in this discussion, yet over the years as tensions have waxed and waned and the board has at times been stressed along various fault lines, I've never seen you either instigating or getting inveigled in such difficulties, or getting stranded on either side of the fault lines. You seem to be on good terms with everyone.

I can't tell you how much I admire and respect that. I wish I could say the same myself. Since I can't, I don't want to weigh in too heavily with my own opinions. But I want to support the questions you're asking. And to say I think this board would be a better place if we were all to try to be like Mike. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've never seen you either instigating or getting inveigled in such difficulties, or getting stranded on either side of the fault lines.

I've been careful to save all of the profanity-laced tirades that Leary has sent me in PMs about all of the rest of you, just because I'm a good friend to him. And it might come in handy someday for blackmail.

Should we split these messages off to the Michael Leary Fan Club thread?

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Should we split these messages off to the Michael Leary Fan Club thread?

Nah. Let's just create a separate site, like this one.

As an old-timer -- and to ape Christian -- I'm not really sure of my place here anymore, either, although it's because I've gone the other direction from him: from a relatively frequent poster who actually discusses merits of films to, um, a guy who commits some drive-by snarkiness and not much else. I don't think that's a product of the changes in the board at all; I think it's more of a product of me realizing I have much less interest in discussing art than creating it. (Certainly I'm not saying that arts criticism doesn't have a use, as it clearly does. I'm just saying that, for whatever reason, I've lost the will to do it myself.)

Anyway, I intentionally ignore just about every thread that looks like Rocky v. Mr. T. -- while I understand discussions like that can be healthy, real-life conflict (and though it's online, that's what this is) severely stresses me out. So I don't really know what Ken's issue is with Alan (and vice-versa), what's the problem with the advertisements, why Dale hates New Jersey so much, etc.

I think I'll just continue to live in my underground bunker.

Dale

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love this place.

Andy, Thom, Ellen on music. Doug, on worlds of cinema unknown to me. Jeffrey on ANY exhilerating new discovery. SDG and PTC on, oh, anything. All of you on meaningful art, especially cinema.

I am frustrated by the frustration.

I mourn every defensive or hostile response, every impugned motive.

I wish this were a weekly meeting in an Oxford pub! Words hastily typed onto a screen cannot convey the body language and tone of voice that would be so helpful in navigating differing points of view.

Please renew your commitment to this conversation. When I started here, I knew only 5% of what I know now about cinema, and I'm still only at 5% of what I want to know.

So, let's greet the faults of others with grace, but let's cheerfully and readily admit our own. It's our only way to serve together, especially in a group of people who have mostly never met.

And for what it's worth, I think our best efforts will be spent on the 5-10 important films that emerge each year and on the great films of years past. My own hunger is for a deep discussion of fewer works, rather than shallow discussion about many. These conversations are invaluable, and the legacy from this place will be impressive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have, at times and in earnest, tried to be like Mike. It is a path I am not only ill equipped and inappropriately suited for but I cannot keep up with his intellect and growth. I will now refrain from creating the “MLeary praise thread,” however, I must agree with SDG; such comments would not have been as well put or received from many other than Mike. With that said, I think it raises the necessity of discussion.

I get a nostalgic pain in my heart when I think about the past boards that eventually became the current A&F. I was much more involved years ago curtailing my activity because I became weary of where I saw it going. For some reason I just couldn’t pull myself away completely. This is a sort of virtual, childhood home of filmic thought for me, specifically in regard to criticism and theory.

I think we must acknowledge the separation, which is created by growth; I have no problem with that. I also have no problem with the fact that one can get weary discussing the same arguments that plague such thought, i.e., American Movies vs. International films, nudity vs. clothed, profanity vs. clean language, pop culture vs. other culture, sexual imagery vs. veiled illusions to sex, God in Film and Christ figure imagery, etc. Rehashing such arguments can get tiresome to a person who has established a point of view and discussed his/her conviction, ad neuseam. I must say, I have a great deal of respect, admiration, and appreciation for those willing to keep the door open to new arrivals continuing to offer the patience and willingness to continue such conversations. I thank those of you who were willing to be that person to me.

Maybe the A&F has become a birthing station. If God can and will do what God wants with his creation, maybe this is what he has done. There needs to be a first, second, and third step before one can get closer to the top of the staircase. Although this staircase tends to be the kind that spirals around the parameter of a tower where one can never really see if there is indeed a landing at the top.

I have become rather disappointed in the boards as of late. It is as though they are largely used as a gateway to blogs, a promotional tool for pitching goods, and a hyperlink site for consumption. I hold but one or two exceptions. None of this is directed toward Alan. I think he does his best and, for some unknown reason, he was willing to take the role of directing this UFO. That is a big job.

Anyway, I have gained a lot from discussions over the years. The most prominent thing that I have realized through it all is that I enjoy the process of creating and the thought that goes into creating more than I enjoy some of the highly subjective (presented as absolute) discussion that has taken place in many threads.

So the questions still remain: Where is A&F headed? Where are we to go?

[Edit]

Thanks, Tim, for always being an encouraging voice here.

Edited by Thom(asher)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

M., what do you see as key differences between what you're asking and the "Does this website matter?" thread?

But then I often wonder if the site as it is now would afford this same experience to a newcomer. I have seen many people here take leaps and bounds in participating in the Great Conversation as a result of dialogue in the Chiaroscuro/Promontory/AndF arc, but that spark for innovation and exploration seems to have ebbed with this success, the time and attention that used to be cumulatively put into the board now directed elsewhere. Which ultimately, I think, is a wonderfully positive result of the board. But does that mean that Chiaroscuro/Promontory/AandF has served its purpose? Are we now Post-A&F?

I'm a guy that's gone from just liking "movies" to a deeper appreciation for cinema as craft, and art, and for seeing better how this all relates to God's creation and creatures, mainly through the influence of these fora. But I don't think these kind of testimonials is what you're looking for.

Perhaps the answer to your question is best answered, "Chiaroscuro/Promontory/A&F has served its purpose for some who have moved their time and attention elsewhere." I don't think it means that Chiaroscuro..A&F has served its purpose [period-The End].

But perhaps I'm not sure what you mean by "that spark of innovation and exploration". All I know is that I'm exploring more films than I would have ever imagined (mostly foreign, and old, ones) to my own, and hopefully my church's and my neighbor's, enrichment. Its this growth in seeing God's movement in more than just a church-based spiritual ghetto that I pray allows me to be ready in season and out of season to abide in Him more fully, and in that abiding help to establish his present Kingdom (a mopping up operation, if I may so allude).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My own hunger is for a deep discussion of fewer works, rather than shallow discussion about many.

And that's why I haven't yet started a thread on "Smokin' Aces." ;-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wish this were a weekly meeting in an Oxford pub!

This would be awesome. I'd be there . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also think that Christian has pretty much answered the question about whether new(er) users would find it as useful, although I would encourage newbies to post in this topic with the same weight -- even more -- as us old-timers.

I am a relative newbie---maybe I've been around a year or so? And I love it enough that I became a member. I don't know of any other place online or offline where this depth and breadth of discussion is happening. I hunger for it. A&F is the first place I go whenever I see a new movie or hear an album I love or want to talk about a TV show. I have no clue what it was like before, but I've been involved in numerous online communities since I got my first dial-up connection in 1994, and there are always dust-ups and discussions that can get overheated. I tend to just step away from those conversations and move along. None of us are forced to participate in fractious threads - I truly don't think that has anything to do with management or change or anything like that. We each have the choice to step back, defuse, agree to disagree, cool off, whatever. To blame problems on anything other than our own free will is to not look at them honestly. I can't remember if it's Brennan Manning or Dallas Willard who says this - "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be loving?" Well, obviously I'd rather be right! But kidding aside, by the highly subjective nature of what we're discussing there is rarely a "right" so hopefully there is lots of "loving." As passionately as we often hold our opinions, they really are just that.

Again, I love it here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So my whole question is this: Where is Arts and Faith going? What is it doing?

I don't have a longterm history here, so I don't claim to understand the evolution of the various A&F fora. I do know that I was around in the mid-'80s when the Internet was pretty much the exclusive domain of shadowy government types and telecom folks. I was the former -- a now-outed CIA operative. Okay, I was the latter. But the discussion was good, if tilted toward the geeky side of normal. I participated in various newsgroups with names like rec.music.christian and rec.music.dylan. Then in the mid-90s every kid got an AOL account, and suddenly the discussions were full of bon mots such as "Michael W. Smith R00LZ, D00D" and "Michael W. Smith Sux, LOL!!!" So I gave up, for more than ten years.

Arts and Faith lured me back. My focus is primarily music, but I do poke around on the other fora. And the answer to your question, at least for me, is that Arts and Faith allows me to connect with people who have similar passions and a similar worldview. It allows me to broaden my horizons, both in terms of discovering new artists, as well as in encountering new ways of thinking about art from a Christian perspective. I can't tell you how much I value that. I'm saddened to think that it's not doing that for other people as well. Truly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alan,

I actually really, really like the idea of renaming the site The Eagle and Child. I would vote for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alan,

I actually really, really like the idea of renaming the site The Eagle and Child. I would vote for it.

You know -- it hit me the same way. Let's table it for a month or two and bring it back up then for general discussion. Stephen Colbert would approve. There's also the Lamb and Flag, too, of course.

When I read this post, my face lights up in a big silly grin.

And as a relative newbie, I'd like to reiterate how universally valuable I find the discussion here about movies (unfortunately, I haven't yet gotten so far into the discussion of music). And sometimes I wonder why the little wars have to start, considering that I can usually predict where the fault lines will fall before the argument actually gets going. By nature this kind of discussion will include a lot of sensitive people, and that's too often not taken into account the way it should be. Just my two cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, here we go....my 1st post. And I do so hesitantly.

I've been a secret lurker for over 2 years. I haven't followed closely enough to know all the controversies and idiosyncrasies of this community board but I did want to put my 2 cents in. You have a nice community here. Some really talented and eloquent writers with great insights into popular culture and its relevance to faith and spirituality. I

Edited by Thoreau

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also think that as some of us (well you all, anyway) have matured and grown, we necessarily become servants and not as much the served. We have to work harder to maintain our interest and remain fresh to enagage with those just entering this conversation. We have to be willing to repeat, reinforce--but also to reinvent and renew. More patience is required of us. If someone new asks something about Ordet, our response shouldn't be "Oh, go read the thread," but rather we should be willing to LISTEN, and to re-engage the subject anew for a new person, a new brother or sister in our fellowship. (I certainly address myself with these comments more than anyone else here.)

::thumbsupup:: As a relative newcomer, I know that I am greatful for those willing to move from served to servant and re-hash conversations that have gone on ad nauseum here before, but that for me are as brand new as post 1 was for you.

Alan,

I actually really, really like the idea of renaming the site The Eagle and Child. I would vote for it.

You know -- it hit me the same way. Let's table it for a month or two and bring it back up then for general discussion. Stephen Colbert would approve. There's also the Lamb and Flag, too, of course.

I prefer The Bird and Bastard, but you know...whatever. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If there are any changes to be made, it should be in encouraging new members to post. Fostering an environment that treats people fairly and respectfully, which usually means having a hands-off and patient admin, handling issues in a manner that doesn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Might having a link that allowed people to view new posts without seeing the posts in the look outside forum have some benefit? Just a thought.

Matt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Might having a link that allowed people to view new posts without seeing the posts in the look outside forum have some benefit? Just a thought.

A similar thought occurred to me. My primary tool when visiting the forum is the "view new posts" tool. It would be great to be able to customize that tool -- maybe even have two or three customized "view new" tools. So, for instance, when I'm time-limited, I could click my own filtered view that only checked certain categories, post types, and/or users, and when I'm more in the mood to browse, click on a (still customized but) broader filtered view.

If this were possible (and I imagine it is given the underlying technology), I think that would go a long way toward addressing a lot of the concerns expressed on this thread. In many ways, it would allow users a "community within a community" feel to the site.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Might having a link that allowed people to view new posts without seeing the posts in the look outside forum have some benefit? Just a thought.

Matt

Not a bad idea. I often don't want to go and read someone's blog, and if I do I know where I want to go to. What I come here for are the discussions. I have also wondered today whether the non-arts forums are a good thing or not.

I frequently get tempted into the science and technology forum because it's there and issues which strongly interest me come up there. But it's not what I'm here for really. There are plenty of other places where I can discuss science (and have more useful discussions quite frankly: While there are some scientists here - or science-minded people - we're a minority, and most of the posts, in my experience, are just like my contributions: here's an interesting bit of news). We're not about discussing science really, but arts and faith. I've contributed to other non-arts forums too when I arrive and something catches my attention - but I always feel that I've allowed myself to get distracted and I end up contributing a little less to the arts threads. Would it help to restore an allegedly lost focus if the only forums really were arts and faith only?

My general reflections on A&F: I've been posting here since last summer, having lurked previously. Many discussions have been tremendously helpful - including some about second-rate films. But a few have been wrecked by really ill-natured arguments. I would spend more time here if all the discussions could stay on track and they didn't get into personal attacks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have become rather disappointed in the boards as of late. It is as though they are largely used as a gateway to blogs, a promotional tool for pitching goods, and a hyperlink site for consumption. I hold but one or two exceptions. None of this is directed toward Alan. I think he does his best and, for some unknown reason, he was willing to take the role of directing this UFO. That is a big job.

I agree.

Let me focus in on the comment about blogs, though. I'm wondering if links to blogs can be handled somewhat differently.

Right now, whenever I post something on my blog, a new post magically appears in the "A Look Outside" forum, linking to my new blog entry. In theory I don't have a problem with this. But sometimes I post entries on my blog that have nothing to do with art and/or faith. And although people are certainly welcome to read my blog, I don't know why they would necessarily want to in many instances. The "my kid is so much like a little lawyer/I wish she was less like a lawyer" blog entries are of great interest to me, and of possible interest to people who know me personally, but I can't imagine why most A&F people would particularly care. So ... is there some way to flag blog entries as "appropriate" or "inappropriate" for inclusion on A&F? My guess is that there isn't, but I thought it was worth asking.

In terms of using A&F as a "promotional tool for pitching goods," I want to be sensitive in this area. I, like many others here, write for various magazines and websites. Would I like you all to read what I write? Of course. Would I welcome your feedback? Of course. Do I mention this too frequently? I don't know. Maybe I do. But the danger is that this sends the intimidating and alienating message that the board is overrun with "professionals."

Here's the deal: I don't want to be a "professional." I'm an opinionated, prideful jerk who likes to spout off in print, and then to glory in the printed opinions. Hey, look at me. I understand why such an approach can be offputting. But if it makes you feel any better, think of it as a product of my own insecurities rather than an attempt to squelch discussion. I don't presume to speak for anyone else, but I don't want to use A&F as a promotional tool for pitching goods. But ... I'd love for you to buy my particular goods anyway, selfish, insecure jerk that I am. Make sense?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My sincerest thanks to Alan - and to all of the moderators - for putting in many long hours here, and for giving of yourselves so generously. Honest conversation is going to stretch and challenge all of us here - as it should. Your kindness and fair-mindedness has helped me get through some tough times here, and I'm sure that's true for many others aw well.

Absolutely. I'm deeply grateful to Alan and the others.

When I'd finally started posting I soon found myself on the receiving end of some robust comments from some long-standing A&Fers. Two things persuaded me to stay with it: my personal conviction that civilised discussion (ie communicating with a measure of grace and humility) is something that needs to be done very carefully in a forum like this where we are entirely dependent on text and occasional emoticons, and the personal encouragements of a couple of other more established posters. Maybe I shouldn't name names but I will put on record how valuable the encouragement of Ellen and Greg was at that stage. Theirs was the kind of welcome it behoves all of us to extend to newbies - even if we profoundly disagree with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BTW, I'm absolutely in favor of lively, spirited discussion - but I think that Tony's mention of "communicating with grace and humility" is the key to it. (Along with the ability to laugh at oneself!.)

Being easily offended is no virture!

regards,

-Lance

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've contributed to other non-arts forums too when I arrive and something catches my attention - but I always feel that I've allowed myself to get distracted and I end up contributing a little less to the arts threads. Would it help to restore an allegedly lost focus if the only forums really were arts and faith only?

I don't know that we've lost focus--as Alan mentioned, the Pan's Labyrinth thread (and Children of Men thread, albeit with some rockiness) are both very good conversations on the nature of fantasy, violence, and redemptive narrative in film. Both are very long, and occasionally heated. But I can't see a loss of focus in them.

I would be sad to see the non-arts fora disappear, even politics. Its in these discussions that relationships are developed--and critique the virtual community if you will, but I believe relationships are developed and friendships formed here.

Tangentially, I sometimes regret my username--clearly a pseudonym, it allows my posts a certain anonymity that I find valuable on the internet, but it also creates a barrier I think to developing those relationship I'm hawking a paragraph above. There's something about knowing someone's name that enables a bond to be formed, and is itself a small sign of vulnerability on the part of the named in allowing himself to be known and identified. I guess I appreciate knowing Alan's name, and Jeffrey's, and Peter's, and Rich's, and on down the line. But I also like not having "Ed A llie" show up in online searches.

Anyway, back to my point. Its in my opinion critical for building those touch points that drive the development of relationship that the other fora stay. Its discussions about coffee and how embarrassingly badly the Buckeyes played in Tempe that enable the disagreements that do lead to arguments to be smoothed over. Isn't it called social capital--we all need to invest to realize the dividends.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×