Art Matters

No artist I, not even a little, not by a long shot, but I do know art matters.

A mother had spent much effort teaching her two year old daughter the disconnect between the Easter Bunny and Easter.  No she did not go iconoclastic against the patron saint of the rights of spring.  She just emphasized that the Easter Bunny was outside of the church not inside.

What was she greeted with Easter Sunday at the Festival of the Resurrection?  You know if you use the CPH children’s bulletins.  There’s the empty tomb; there’s the rock rolled away from the opening, and what’s in front of that rock? A rabbit.

“Big deal,” some will say.  I wonder; would they be equally nonplused if in a Christmas children bulletin the Big Red One was depicted?  I think not, yet more of a connection can be made between Saint Nicholas and Christmas than Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail and Easter.

Art matters.  That’s why when I first opened The Lutheran Study Bible I was chagrined [from the French chagrin, sad) to find on page 3 the Ten Commandments depicted with five on one tablet and five on the other.  Yes, I know the Commandments are not numbered.  Yes, I know that much more was written on the tablets then the Commandments.  But there is theology in how you depict them.  The Reformed have always put five on each side.  That’s how you will usually see them, when you still do, in courthouses and classrooms.  Lutherans, who make a big distinction between the two tables, historically depict them three and seven.

Art matters.  That’s why when further flipping through the above book I was incensed again, and not in a liturgical way, when I came upon page 1571.  Here the holy family is depicted with halos on Mary and Joseph and “radiance” shooting from the Bambino.  Traditionally Catholic art depicts halos around all three.  Lutheran art puts the halo usually only on Jesus.  There is theology here.  Mary and Joseph are not hallowed in the same sense as the God-Man.  I suppose that could be the distinction trying to be made by giving them halos and Jesus lines radiating from his face.  He looks more distressed than holy to me.

“Nitpicking,” you say?  I say, “Yes I am.”  Do you know why nits have to be picked?  Once that was the only way to get the tiny eggs of lice (nits) out of someone’s hair.  If you didn’t get them out, you quickly became lousy all over again.  So let’s pick the nits of secular, protestant, and papistic theology out of our hair or at least out of our art lest we find ourselves lousy from the errors that hatch from such nits!


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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