From my earliest days of training in music education I was told that you have to be prepared to fight for the arts in the midst of budget cuts. Little did I know at that time that I would be a Christians Arts educator during such a severe economic crises. New Orleans Baptist Seminary contributes a good deal of time and resources to an event each January called Crescent City Praise. Why do we do that each year?
1) The most basic argument and general argument is that history clearly shows us that the world’s greatest societies produced great art. We also know that art declined at the sunset of some of the great societies (e.g., Roman). On the flip side, art tends to be lackluster in less impressive societies (e.g., architecture in Europe between early Middle Ages and the emergence of the Christian West [Gothic Cathedral]). Some exceptions do exist through gifted artists that are trapped in doomed societies (e.g., Arvo Part from Estonia, former Soviet Union). However, in the case of Part it was the West that truly discovered and celebrated his music. He was oppressed by Soviet Occupation, and this incredible artist emerged by seeking God through art in the midst of his circumstances
2) As noted by Ravi Zacharias, the arts are one of the primary entry points for shaping one’s worldview. Although I walk the streets and hallways of a campus where most folks would prefer to get their worldview from the pages of books, most importantly the Bible, the primary entry point for most folks are the arts. In fact, we may be returning to a preliterate society where most people get information through live performance/presentation rather than reflective reading. I’m not saying this is good. I am simply stating a reality. I am also not suggesting that we should allow people to stay where they enter. But the arts can be an important entry point.
3) As noted in my previous blog, there is a sense in which celebratory worship is the end result of our acquisition of book knowledge. For further explanation see “Apologetic Inquiry Leads One Into Worship.”
Finally, as we consider how we might invest our time and resources in 2012, I would suggest that investing in Christian Apologetic Art and Worship Art is not a waste. In fact I am finding that a desire to recommit myself to personal worship time is at the core of my goals for any given year. And when we come together as a worshipping community in a city that has all the marks of a declining society, we contribute a powerful statement to the community at large: We recognize that God is sovereign regardless of how many shootings occur in our historic city this year; we declare through song that our Lord is the ultimate agent of healing for all types of wounds; we celebrate the most important healing, that of our souls through the blood of Christ in our desperately sinful condition; We send a worshipping community out to ever let the song of our Lord be on their lips and to penetrate a dark world with courageous acts of love.
I hope you can join us at the seminary for this year’s Crescent City Praise on January 28, 7 PM or January 29, 7 PM at FBC Kenner.