Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, September 25, 2004  

America the unBeautiful

I have been reflecting on the sad fact that the Bible has been lost to the general culture of America (and the Western world). It is not only the messages in the Bible whose loss I mourn, but the utter beauty in much of the Bible which no longer comes to anyone's mind because they have never heard or read them.

Another sad fact is that to many American Christians, the pure and often perfect beauty which is in verses and chapters fails to register with them.

There seems to be a kind of militant philistinism among Americans that is disheartening.

Americans have always been charcterized as crass and commercial, but that's not exactly fair. Our Founders understood the value of art, literature, and architecture. Many cities and towns are peppered with various artifacts and revivals of neo-classical, Craftsman, Victorian and Colonial styles. Millions of people extol the beauty of San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Williamsburg (which is a museum town actually).

Currently we often hear praises for the Art Deco or Nouveaux periods, along with reverence for paintings from the Hudson River School.

As for poets, we have Longfellow, Whitman, Dickenson, Frost, and Eliot (if we include him as an expatriot).

As for music and movies, we essentially invented the popular idioms and excelled in them.

Yet, we do not love beauty. Recent movies which are the most beautiful ever made go unappreciated for the most part. "Girl with a Pearl Earring", and "The Road to Perdition" are profound stories and exquisite cinemaphotography, yet both did not do well at the box office. Kurosawa's late films impressed few. "Ran", and "Dreams" are astonishing. And very few people in the large audiences for "The Passion of the Christ" seemed to enjoy just how extraordinarily beautiful it was as a cinematic achievement.

I consider TPOTC to be the greatest movie ever made not only because of its awesome story and substance, but for its aesthetic magnificence and sensitivity.

I believe our decline in awareness and appreciation for the beautiful began with the loss of the Bible in our schools. Inculcation of its genius becme diminished, and left to the churches which focused exclusively on message and dogma excluding casual absorption of its beauty as literture and wisdom bound in amazing and original language.

Of course the depradations of an elite avant garde in the Arts helped to diminish public beauty and its good by destroying the very foundations of aesthetics and intelligibility, but even in the popular arts which remain unscathed by necessity such as music and movies, Beauty seems absent in general.

For example, you will more often hear what passes for warm wisdom in a movie a piece of advice such as "follow your heart, and you can't go wrong" sooner than you will ever hear, "cleave to the Lord, bare your soul to his ministrations, and seek his will, for in that course lies your safety and joy."

There are many things which we stopped teaching in schools (and that includes Catholic and other religious schools) such as rote memorization of poetry, music and art appreciation. I grew up with pictures of the Mona Lisa and such hanging up in classrooms. I also heard programs like Peter and the Wolf or symphonies played on a record player.

But I believe that removal of the Bible from our daily, cultural, and educational life has done the most damage. The Bible, its inculcation and our absorption of it, affects every other aspect of our personal and social lives. Without that foundation we lose our grasp on purpose, responsibility, respect, and enjoyment. Europe has already gone down that path. There is nothing that a European truly loves, and therefore, nothing worth fighting or dying for. Whereas we have been separting freedom from God, and becoming devoted instead to license.

The difference in the West is becoming that we worship licentiousness, and the European loves social order.

Loss of the Bible means loss of soulfulness.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:50 PM |