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M. Leary

Bruce Benson - How Not To Be An Artistic Whore

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Here is a transcribed lecture by a professor of philosophy at Wheaton that uses Asher Lev as a really interesting discussion about Christian artists. Thought you may all be interested. If anything, it would be nice to chat about Asher Lev.

I am still split on his conundrum.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I read this transcript over the weekend, so I am still thinking on it. I am not certain about how much I agree with the assessment of the idea taken from the book as a major theme, however, I do agree with most of the concluding statments.


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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"Using art to make the world holy is just as plausible a purpose for art as that of purposelessness.

But making the world


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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You don't think that he identified the right theme? Or you think he ended up overemphasizing that part of the book? If anything, the quote above was worth listening to the lecture. This guy also has a piece coming out soon in Mars Hill Review on Christian artists and the Christian community that is probably a bit more nuanced.

I am still chewing on this and trying not to let the emotional response I had to the book taint my desire to hear what was said and taint my response.

That wasn't the part of the conclusion I was referring to. I did not find Asher purposefully trying to "make the world holy" through his art. He may have been trying to offer the Hassidic community and the secular community an inside look at each other but not for the purpose of holiness. I really see this as a searching novel about places in community and society as expressed through the struggle of an man committed to his art and to his faith.

The part of the conclusion that I appreciated was "..., I should add that I am uncomfortable with the notion of being true to

Edited by asher

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Okay, you and I are on the same page. The discussion afterwards went a strange direction, because the question he proposed we discussed was so odd.

But my question is, and always has been, regarding the role of the Christian artist in a public space.

I will just lay out the thoughts behind my question from the get go. "Art" is always a local phenomenon that has cultural implications. An artist will produce a work that gets placed in a gallery that produces meaning for the local community it resides in. This meaning can leak out through magazines and exhibitions, but it starts right there in the public sphere of the artist. And while an artist can create a work that is meaningful and never let anyone else see it, it won't "mean" the same way as it would "mean" if it were in a gallery. "Meaning" is a function of space, and in the case of art, its space is public.

So. We talk a lot about the church as an alternative society, even as a "hidden" society, and the church is for us the focus of theology and activity. That is our church in a nutshell (Life on the Vine, which is informed by Lindbeck, Hauerwas, Yoder, Radical Orthodoxy, Emergent to some extent, blah blah blah.) So the artist in this context exists for the community. The artist functions to produce meaning for the local Christian community both in worship and experience. At Life on the Vine this means that all the artists get together and follow the church calendar (as the sermons do) and produce art that accords to the season. And we produce meaning for the community that accords to the life of the church.

But, here is the rub. Can the artist produce work for the "public" at the same time he is producing work for the "alternative society." And if so, what does this look like. Not theoretically, but practically. If the church is going to have artists, we are either going to find a way to pay them OR find a way that they can be "artists" in the public (read: paid) sense and still function in the Christian community as producers of meaning.

Phew...that is my question, and Asher Lev seems to be dealing with that a theoretical level at least.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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